Are You Kiddin’ Me?

By Lyle Hill

I answered the phone on its third ring and offered up my usual salutation. I should have looked at the caller ID before I did. Tolerated by only a few and feared by many, it was none other than Johnny “The Mooch” Rago.

“Hill,” the gravelly voice began, “how come I never hear from you?”

“I don’t know, Mooch. I’m staying pretty busy these days so I guess maybe it’s just one of those ‘out of sight, out of mind’ things. But we’re connected now, so what can I do for you?”

“Okay, I’ll get right to the reason I called. My nephew, who owns his own business, called me looking for some advice and I told him I would call you to get an answer to his problem.”

“Which nephew are we talking about here, Mooch?”

“I’m talking about Frankie. You remember Frankie and his brother Tommy. I love those kids.”

“Ah, your nephews Frankie ‘The Fence’ and Tommy ‘The Torch?’ Yeah, I remember them, Mooch, and I also remember how you took them in when their dad disappeared. So exactly what do you think I can do for you and the boys?”

“Well, Hill, I told them that you, like them, are an empty pruner and therefore you know your way around business things like accounting and taxes and stuff.”

“I think you mean entrepreneur there, Mooch, but what, specifically, do you want from me?”

“Okay, Hill. Frankie is freaking out because the IRS is talking to him about back taxes. He’s never had to deal with this matter before. You know, he never actually buys the stuff he sells so he doesn’t think it’s right to collect sales taxes from his customers. He’s very fair that way. But now this IRS guy is telling him he owes a lot of money in back taxes. So he called me looking for advice. So what should he do?”

“If he owes the taxes, he should pay them.”

“Are you kiddin’ me, Hill? You want him to pay the government?”

“I’m not a tax guy, Mooch, but what exactly is the IRS guy telling him?”

“The IRS guy keeps talking to him about some U.S. tax code that says the sale of stolen goods is as taxable as if the goods weren’t stolen. But it seems to me that if he pays any tax, sales or otherwise, on anything he admits was stolen, aren’t they going to then go after him for stealing the stuff in the first place? He’s pretty sure some whistle blower turned him in cause you know, I think the guy that turns a guy in gets a cut of what they collect or something like that. Does this seem fair to you, Hill?”

“Yes it does.”

“Are you kiddin’ me, Hill? You agree with this? I mean come on, I read recently where less than half the people in this country pay taxes and now they want my poor nephew to start paying taxes. The IRS people are actually talking about up to 10 years in prison for this tax mess. But if he comes clean on the tax thing, they will most likely go after him for the theft stuff. Why should he pay when all these other people don’t? This is crazy.”

“Listen, Mooch. Everybody is paying taxes. Maybe not income taxes, but they are paying taxes. When you buy anything … legitimately … there is a sales tax. There are taxes on gas, baseball tickets, hotel rooms and even if you are renting a place and not actually owning it, a portion of the rent payment is going to pay property taxes. So while half the country might not be paying any income taxes, they are paying taxes somewhere and somehow at every turn.”

“Are you taking the government’s side in this, Hill?”

“I guess I am. As I remember, there is a thing called 18 U.S. Code 2315 or something close to that which deals with the sale of stolen property and such. So it is the law Mooch, whether you and Frankie like it or not.”

“Are you kiddin’ me, Hill? You always make fun of the government. What’s going on here?”

“Mooch, I know the government is woefully and wastefully inefficient and corruption occurs at every turn. However, taxes pay for police and fire protection, the military, our highways, schools and all kinds of other things. I firmly believe in taking every legitimate deduction or maneuver to keep your taxes as low as possible, but there is no excuse for doing anything illegal or dishonest to avoid paying what is due to the government. Unfortunately, there are businesses and individuals who cross the line to keep from paying their taxes and that should be a bother to us all. We live in the greatest country on earth and while it could and should be better than it is, cheating the government is not an acceptable practice. By the way, as long as I have you on the phone, can I get the name and phone number of the IRS guy Frankie is dealing with?”

“Wow, Hill. I am in absolute shock. The thought of you actua … wait a minute, Hill. You’re not the guy that turned Frankie in are you?

“Are you kiddin’ me, Mooch?

Lyle R. Hill is president of®, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at

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