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20 years ago--for several years running--my neighbor-firefighter got up at 5:30A on days off. He prepped used cars for a local dealership, getting $40+ for each car, depending on what he did. He said he could do 12-15 a day. I wandered over a few times and asked him why all this workaholism? "My son's going to college, something I never got to do, and he sure as hell isn't goin' on a fireman's salary. I get paid in cash." I didn't need to ask the why behind the payment method....

If you knew your neighbors cheated on their taxes, should you turn them in? More than 3/5 surveyed by the IRS Oversight Board said you should. The board provides oversight for IRS and found 62% of people surveyed completely or mostly agreed "it is everyone's personal responsibility to report anyone who cheats on their taxes." The year before, a slim majority of 53% agreed with that.

If there's really been a one-year 9% jump in tax-cheating morality, then why? The chairman of the Oversight Board thinks he knows:

"Taxpayers are mindful of corporate accounting scandals, mutual fund scandals, and big accounting firms and law firms concocting sophisticated, illegal tax shelters for their big, wealthy clients. That is calling to people's minds their own sense of...fair play and paying what they owe under the tax laws."

The Devil's Advocate in me tells me a possible different scenario. Given the taxpayer "mindfulness" of the intensity to ferret out dishonest big boys, might that spawn a mentality that Joe Sixpack isn't being targeted...that personal honesty can more safely "go on vacation?"

About 88% said it is "not at all" acceptable to cheat on income taxes. 82% said their personal integrity has a great influence over whether they report and pay their taxes honestly. The dean of social science at U. of CA, Davis, said his research shows that taxpayer honesty depends heavily on the belief that everyone else pays their fair share truthfully, too.

I say bless the newly-sanguine American taxpayer. I guess I'm still stranded at Camp Curmudgeon, where the prevailing belief is that "personal integrity" can be temporarily lost but experience a quick recovery on April 16.

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