You’ll Pay For That

Every year, around tax time, there are a spate of hard-luck stories about how unfair the American tax system is. One subject which always comes up is about Americans who work out of the country.

The American IRS is the greediest, graspingest, most inflexible, most confiscatorial system in the world. They make paying the vig to an underworld loan shark look easy and polite.

Many people think that those who work abroad are well-to-do. Many are free-lancers, barely getting by, and the American government makes it overly difficult. There is a law which states that a person born outside the US, to even one American citizen, is also automatically an American citizen. That was the rule that allowed Ted Cruz to run for President, even though he was born in Canada.

IRS

The Internal Revenue Service has a rule that, any citizen working outside the country, must pay taxes to them. This often means that people have to pay taxes twice, and the IRS paperwork involved is intrusive, convoluted and arcane. It’s enough to cause a career bureaucrat to throw up his hands and retire.

The money-grubbing and paperwork has got so bad, that many Americans are giving up their citizenship. No taxation without representation! This used to be an easy “fill in a form, and pay a $300 fee.” In retaliation, the IRS has instituted new regulations which require a whole tree’s worth of paper, and an increased charge, north of $2000. You have to pay lots of money, not to have to pay lots of money.

The shit has hit the fan, even if it’s not obvious yet. This year, just about tax-time, something occurred which will cause waves, if not change the entire ex-pat tax scheme. A baby was born. There was no star in the East, and definitely no three Wise Men.

Prince Archie

Megan Markel gave birth to Archie Harrison Windsor. Being born in a foreign country, to one parent of American citizenship, the Federal Government has declared him to be an American citizen. The IRS rule says that he must declare all assets, income, and increase in financial worth – and pay taxes on them.

Most 1-year-old children don’t have much of an income stream, but as a member of the British Royal Family, Archie owns a chunk of a nation, and his worth is considerable, and increases constantly. The chances of the IRS collecting a piece of that, are less than the Jehovah’s Witness Church forcing Michael Jackson to tithe 10% of his obscene income.

There’s trouble looming down the line, too. All American citizens, no later than the day after their 18th birthday, must register for Selective Service. Can you see a future King of England fighting in a foreign war? Nah, I can’t either.

The invasive, prying paperwork that either Megan or Archie would have to submit, must include full financial information about a spouse or parent, since that can affect taxes owed. This means that Prince Harry must also reveal to the IRS, all his assets, income, and investments. I can just imagine a Federal clerk opening a letter on Buckingham Palace stationery.

Dear IRS

Re: your request for full disclosure of Harry Windsor’s financial situation

FUCK YOU! Strong language to follow.

I will not be surprised to hear of special dispensation in this case, but surely some enterprising lawyer/taxpayer team can use it as a precedent, to force changes to a Federal Department whose mascot is a shark.

Shark

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IS ATHEISM A RELIGION?

Religions

‘Theism’ means ‘belief in a god or gods’. Believers usually sign up to the values and principles of a godly belief system: it’s an ideology. Theistic ideologies are commonly known as faiths or religions. Many ideologies have the suffix ‘ism’; for example, liberalism, socialism, and communism but, in the case of ‘atheism’, the ‘ism’ ending has merely been inherited from its root: ‘theism’. The prefix ‘a’ turns the meaning around to the negative, that is, ‘not a belief in a god’, so ‘atheism’ is as far from a faith or religion as it’s possible to get.

Atheism is not a belief system, so that should end this article right here, but theists will likely not be satisfied. They might point to the things atheists and religions have in common: religions form churches, atheists form associations; churches and atheist associations appoint members to formal roles such as bishop and president; church members give offerings, atheists pay subscriptions; churches hold services, atheist hold meetings. Churches and Atheists both have literature they value and people they admire.

The problem is, these are superficial similarities and if they make Atheism a religion, they make political parties and table tennis clubs religions too. That is obviously absurd.

There is one organization in the United States which makes it their job to decide which group is a religion and which is not, and that’s The Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Religions receive highly favorable treatment in the USA and the IRS wants to avoid giving these advantages to organizations that are not genuine religions. So the IRS has a set of criteria they apply to any group claiming to be a religion. The primary criteria are listed below with how Atheist groups qualify [shown in parenthesis].

  1. Distinct legal existence [Some Atheist groups are legal entities.]
  2. Recognized creed and form of worship [No creed or forms of worship.]
  3. Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government [No ecclesiastical governance.]
  4. Formal code of doctrine and discipline [No doctrine.]
  5. Distinct religious history [No religious history.]
  6. Membership not associated with any other church or denomination [Atheists may join any number of atheist groups.]
  7. Organization of ordained ministers [No ministers of any kind.]
  8. Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study [No courses of study.]
  9. Literature of its own [No literature reserved for one group.]
  10. Established places of worship [No worship.]
  11. Regular religious services [No religious services.]
  12. Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young [No instructing the young.]
  13. Schools for the preparation of its members [No atheist schools.]

With only one criterion applicable to Atheists (and that one all political parties and many clubs share), the IRS won’t be granting religious tax exemptions to Atheist groups any time soon.

Theists might follow-up by asking why Atheists bother to meet to talk about gods they do not believe in. There are several reasons atheists meet but none of them are to talk about gods they don’t believe in. A common reason, especially in very religious countries, is to find some time to socialize with like-minded people who are not preoccupied with religious beliefs.

In many cases, atheists meet as a reaction against religious intolerance, the infiltration of religious dogma into schools and legislation, or the entanglement of church and state. They meet to get organized in an attempt to combat these religious excesses.

Let’s spell this out; Atheists have no beliefs in common, no gods of any kind, nothing they worship, no scripture, no shared values, and no dogma. They have no clergy, no schools, and no sacred buildings. The only thing all Atheists share is a lack of belief in gods.

Why then do the religious so often claim that Atheism is a religion? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask religious people that question. Perhaps it is to try to establish a false equivalency, an attempt to drag Atheism down to the level of a religion—a set of unsubstantiated beliefs, in a landscape where beliefs are held only on faith. If so, they would be completely wrong about that too. 😯

 

WOW #47

Telephone

The Word Of this Week is a word that we all know – or should; it’s

Phishing

Phishing Trip

Ring……..ring……..ring……..
Son – Hello
……..(one second……..(two seconds)……..(three seconds)……..(four seconds) click
(Boiler room – 50 voices in background)
Strike one!
Paki – Hellooo….is this Mr. J. Smith?
Phone is in the wife’s name – Mrs. J. Smith
Strike two!
Son – Yes
Paki – This is the security Department of Visa (Sure it is 😛 )
There are three credit cards in the house, and they are all MasterCards
Strike Three!
Paki – There has been suspicious activity on your Visa card. A few minutes ago, there was a $600 transfer to Western Union. That is often a sign of online fraud. Did you make that transfer?
Son – What are the last four digits you have on that card?
……..Click Yerrr Out!

Sorry! The suckers aren’t biting today – and tell your cousin, the Prince of Nigeria, to stop sending us those get-rich-quick emails.

Remember, folks – TANSTAAFLThere Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch – and there’s always someone ready to try to take away a lunch that you’ve already paid for.

Be alert!!
We need all the Lerts we can get. 😉

You’ve been selected to receive money – Sure you have

You’ve won a prize – in a contest you don’t remember entering

Buy a ticket for this foreign lottery – they just change your dollars to rials before they steal them

You’ll get a bonus or gift if you buy now – see TANSTAAFL

They aggressively claim that you owe money on your taxes – no civilized country’s tax department would approach you in this way, or demand payment in prepaid iTunes cards 🙄

The phone rings once, then hangs up – if you have call-display, do not call an unfamiliar number back. It will direct you to a pay-per-minute site

They say that you’ve been the victim of a fraud (see above) – they’re just after your banking information

They offer to fix your computer – they will download all your financial information

They’re selling an extended warranty on your car – talk to your dealer, face-to-face, rather than some unknown on the phone

They won’t answer your questions (see above) – don’t let them deflect or refuse. They have all the answers…. until you ask an inconvenient question

They’re collecting for a charity you’ve never heard of – then why would you donate?? Real charities don’t demand your credit card number over the phone.

They threaten to have you arrested – There are laws which prevent governments and organizations – even collection agencies – from doing this. Just hang up

They want personal information, like Social Security numbers – for identity theft and fraud. If they called you, never give it out.

They’re collecting a debt you don’t remember – you have the right to a mailed copy of any claim. Demand one!

They claim to have kidnapped someone you know – Some scammers now use social media to find the names and whereabouts of your friends and family members, and use that information to impersonate kidnappers and demand ransom money. It may sound terrifying, but it’s most often fake. Definitely don’t pay them anything. Instead, contact your friend or relative immediately, and report the call to the FTC/CRTC or the police.

They want you to invest in something – Unless it’s someone you know, they get no dough!

They just want to confirm your debit or credit card number – this is the fastest way to get defrauded

They want you to make an immediate decision – even if it’s something you want, pressure = fraud. Hang up and do your own research.

The call looks like it’s coming from your own phone – hackers claim that they’re from the phone company, and just want you to verify those magic numbers. Don’t do it!

They’re too friendly – It’s nice to talk to nice people….until they steal you blind. Beware of unknown callers who seem really, Really friendly.

It’s a jungle out there. Keep your eyes on your fries – and your wallet, and online data. 😳

WOW #42

abyss

I gazed into the abyss Rochelle’s weekly photo prompt, and the abyss stared back. I couldn’t get Frederick Nietzsche to help me with a Flash Fiction, so this week’s back-patting, ego-driven Word Of the Week is the all-about-me

Linguaphile

a language and word lover.
Origin of Linguaphile
Linguist has existed in English since the 16th century. It means “one who is adept at learning and using foreign languages; one who is a student of language or linguistics; a translator or interpreter.” Linguaphile has a somewhat different meaning: “one who loves words or languages.” The originally Greek suffix -phile (“lover of”) is completely naturalized in English.

I thought a Linguaphile might be something that smoothed my speech out.  My son doesn’t understand my fascination with foreign names.  They can tell me where someone, or their ancestors, came from.  I’ve studied the origin and meaning of many English names.  While some of them are – interesting, some foreign names just have me shaking my head.

A candidate in a recent, local election was named Estoesta.  I quickly determined that this was a Portuguese name.  From my limited knowledge of Romance languages, I thought that it might mean East/West, perhaps originating when Portuguese sailors reached Malaysia.  Google Translate told me that it actually just means ‘this is.’  😕

 A young Spanish-Canadian co-worker was named Soto.  I asked him the meaning of it one day, but he said he didn’t know, and would have to ask his father.  He might forget or ignore, so I looked it up that evening.  The next day, I told him that it translated to a copse, a thicket, or a brake.  “No, No!” he replied, “My Dad says that it’s a bunch of trees.”  The worker from Newfoundland, who many thought could barely write his own name, piped up.  “What does he think a copse, a brake or a thicket is?”

A recent obituary was for another Portuguese, Eric Armand Cyril Cecil D’Silva.   I suspect that his mother was of English heritage.  While Eric and Armand may be Portuguese given names, Cyril and Cecil are very British.  My English-heritage Father was Cyril, and his half-brother was Cecil.  The word Silva is not the same as Sylva, and has nothing to do with trees.  Instead, it means hiss, whistle, swish, fizz.  How would you like to be named after a leaky steam-pipe?  😳

The four German names, Hefner, Heffner, Hafner and Haffner all come from Hőffner Originally, hoff meant wish or hope.  Medieval travelers often wished or hoped for a country inn, where they could rest and get warmth and food, so hoff came to mean an inn.  A Hőffner was an innkeeper.  Hugh Hefner sold Playboy magazines.  A local car dealership is Heffner Lexus/Toyota.  A small town, 15 miles out, has Haffner Motors, a Chrysler dealership.   This explains the annual Labor Day MoparFest, where dozens of 1970s Hemi-powered muscle cars from all over Southern Ontario show up.

Lastly, I want to talk about big fish in little ponds.  In Germany, if your ancestors came from the small town of Vetter, they might have adopted, or had that name assigned to them.  However, if your forebears owned the village of Vetter, an honorific von, meaning of or from, was prefixed, to indicate minor nobility, and your family name became von Vetter.  The same thing occurred in Dutch or Belgian, with the prefix van.

The equivalent word in French, is guy, although the last name of the French short-story writer, Guy de Maupassant, means something like hard luck, or tough times.  While not a hereditary name, English has the same concept in the honorary title, Squire.  This is the highest that a non-Nobility family may rise.  While the Earl may possess all the surrounding fields and pastures and woods, as his administrator, the Squire owns the land that the village or town sits on, and collects rent and respect from every business and home.

Come back again later when I discuss Lingua Franca, which is how to order a hot-dog from a street vendor food cart.  😉

Religious Freedom To Be Paranoid

Bible

Christianity is again under attack.  So says a newspaper article that’s as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise.  The headline is actually ‘Freedom of religion disappearing in Canada,’ but Christianity is the only religion mentioned.

The writer gives two examples of loss of (Christian) religious freedom which I can refute quickly and easily.
The man is a paranoid, fucking moron.

What??!  You were expecting something deeper, and more considered?  Alright!

He whines about the Federal Liberal government refusing to give grant money, for the hiring of summer students, to any organization which will not guarantee support for birth control or abortion.   He, and many others, feels that this is loss of religious freedom.

Not so!  Any such church, or Christian organization, is still free to hold and teach any and all moral positions.  The Federal Government is just telling them that they cannot finance proselytizing their restrictive, judgemental views with MY tax money.  He complains that the churches can’t get back “their money,” but all churches are tax-exempt.

Locally, the Federal Government has tried and failed four times in the last 15 years, to strip a successful businessman of his citizenship, and deport him.  He came to Canada in 1948, and became a real estate developer.  He employed over a hundred people, and he and his wife were active in social causes, donating over $2 million to various worthy causes.

He was a 17-year-old ethnic German, living with his family in the Ukraine, when the Nazi death-squads arrived.  When they found that he could speak both German and Russian, they kidnapped him and threatened him and his family with torture and death if he didn’t translate for them, so that they could find the Jews and Gypsies.  Under U.N. regulations, this made him a ‘child soldier,’ not subject to prosecution.

After 50 years of raising three successful children, and giving so much to the country, the Canadian Jewish Congress discovered that he’d ‘been part’ of this hated death squad, and began fomenting for his exile.

It is not illegal, under Canadian law, to have been part, but it is illegal to have lied to immigration officers when he attempted to enter the country.  He says that, when he applied in 1948, Immigration saw him as a young Ukrainian, and only asked him, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?”

Ever anxious to foster the myth of an infallible bureaucracy, the tribunal decided that, “On the basis of probabilities,” he must have lied to officials.

Skip happily with me now, out to British Columbia, to the Trinity Law School, a church-run Christian College.  They require all their students to sign a Code of Conduct.  While enrolled at the College, students may not support abortion, birth-control, or same-sex marriage.  In fact, no sex of any kind, except with someone you’re married to.

Law Societies across Canada have declared that they will not regard a certificate from this school as valid.  The College, and writers like this article’s, are howling that this is an infringement of their religious freedom.  Again, not so!

They are still free to teach and instill this code of conduct, just as the Law Societies are free to decline to take the school and its graduates seriously.  In an area of business and society where neutrality and equality are valued, “On the basis of probabilities,” it is assumed that students exposed to this constant propaganda will have, at least an unconscious bias, detrimental to the even-handed practice of law.

Freedom of religion does not include the freedom to impose ‘yours’ upon anyone else, no matter how wonderful and ‘divinely inspired’ you feel it is.  That’s the quota of ‘Rants and Rambles’ that I’m free to publish today.  I hope to see you again soon, for something sillier.

Flash Fiction #167

Taxes

PHOTO PROMPT © Yvette Prior

TAXING FREEDOM

Start your own business, they said.  Become an independent sub-contractor.  Be your own boss and answer to no-one.

It was a great idea, but this was a downside that the cube drones only had to worry about once a year, by April 15thHe had to calculate and pay his business taxes quarterly.

If he had a heart attack while filling in all these arcane forms, would the cause of death be listed as ‘acute bureaucratitis?’  He wondered if he could list the government as a dependent.

Another shot and a smoke, and he’d be filed by the midnight deadline.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

Flash Fiction #159

Mammon

PHOTO PROMPT ©Jill Wisoff

 

MAMMON INC.

Buddy Bob was railing about politicians, and how they interfere with our lives, especially financially – laws, rulings, regulations, taxes, duties, levies, tariffs – control our every move, and milk us dry.

I told him that he was right – in a way – but it all started here.  Politicians are just the mouthpiece, the head of the ventriloquist’s dummy.  This is corporate America, the center of the real power behind the throne.

You don’t think Donald Trump got elected on his intellect and wit.  Those aren’t telephone lines coming from those castles; they’re marionette strings, pulled by the puppet-masters.  Speak Donald!  Dance Donald!

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.