As you all should know by now, today is the day that S Corp 2004 tax filings are due.
Which leads me to Charles O. Rossotti, the first entrepreneur to be appointed commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (by Clinton), who has a new book out detailing all of the ways that he tried to shake up the notoriously entrenched bureaucracy. Rossotti's book party was in New York City at the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station on March 1. At the event, the affable Rossotti, who is now a senior advisor at the private-equity powerhouse the Carlyle Group , argued that Americans should forget about the "marriage tax" and the "death tax" and instead focus on what he calls the "honesty tax." According to Rossotti, the IRS was only able to collect about 17% of the $277 billion in unpaid taxes in 1999 (the midpoint of his tenure)--and the percentage is unlikely to change dramatically. Based on those figures, Rossotti calculates that every person who does pay taxes in the U.S.--"from the $30,000-a-year wage earner to the $1 million-a-year businessperson," he writes--is essentially covering for a bunch of free riders. As a result, all of our taxes are 15% higher than they should be. Rossotti argues that increasingly complex tax laws, plus the IRS's chronic underfunding by Congress and the White House, plus the sense among rich people, among others, that everyone is cheating so why shouldn't they cheat too, is only likely to worsen the tax system, leading to still more cheating and the further decay of the system and on and on. To break this cycle, he suggests several reforms, from simplifying the IRS's bizarre definition of a "qualifying child" to outlawing remaining tax shelters. His is a lively reform manual, despite the abstruse subject matter. So, first: submit your S Corp tax return (if applicable); then, give Rossotti's book, Many Unhappy Returns (HBS Press) a try.