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April, the Cruelest Month

Tax Season and Cruiseships Arrive


WANDERING SOULS: Call it the Month of the Lost Tourists.

Days and days of forbidden U-turns, erroneous excursions down one-way streets. Cruise ship passengers trudging blocks up from the waterfront. Questions hurled from cars full of kids: “Where’s the beach?” “Where’s the zoo?” “Where’s the Mission?” “Where’s a bathroom?”

Barney Brantingham

But they’re generally pretty good-natured, leave money, and … from what I heard, love Santa Barbara and envy us locals.

T.S. WAS RIGHT: If April’s the cruelest month, according to poet T.S. Eliot, mixing “memory and desire,” it’s also when we have to shell out for taxes. Most of us, anyway.

Lots of Americans seem to have no memory that April is tax time and have no desire to pay Uncle Sam. But how else could we pay for our wars?

<b>TAX TIME:</b>  But not for all … Henry David Thoreau is among the few who found good cause not to pay taxes.
Click to enlarge photo

TAX TIME: But not for all … Henry David Thoreau is among the few who found good cause not to pay taxes.

Speaking of which, one of our most famous tax refuzniks was legendary author Henry David Thoreau of Walden Pond fame. In 1846, the local tax collector, Sam Staples, demanded that he pay local poll taxes. When Thoreau refused, Staples tossed him in jail.

Thoreau wouldn’t pay taxes because he objected to the Mexican-American War and slavery. After he spent a night behind bars, someone paid the taxes (against Thoreau’s wishes), and he was freed.

Some latter-day tax dodgers are not so principled. April’s the month when Major League Baseball gets under way, and we take delight in watching multimillionaires play a kid’s game. Our diamond heroes rake in the bucks while basking in the glow of fame and love in the cheers of lowly taxpayers in the bleachers.

But some duck out of the IRS lineup when it comes time to step up to the plate and pay Uncle Sam.

Darryl Strawberry served three months in prison in 1995 for failing to report $350,000 in income from autograph shows. Pete Rose, banned from baseball for betting on games, was sentenced to five months in prison in 1990 for filing false returns. He was nailed again in 2004 when he was hit with a nearly $1 million tax lien for unpaid taxes. He had a lifetime batting average of .303 but struck out with the IRS.

Former Dodgers star Duke Snider and ex-Giants slugger Willie McCovey both pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

Far lower on the food chain is a Santa Barbaran I’ll call John. To my knowledge, he has never paid income taxes, keeps a very low profile, gets paid under-the-table ​— ​when he works ​— ​and complains about the greedy government.

Then there are those who argue long and hard (in their books they want you to buy and seminars they urge you attend) that it’s purely “voluntary” to pay federal taxes. And they quote the IRS to “prove” it. When they can’t bedazzle you with brilliance, they baffle you with bullshit.

True, the IRS uses the term “voluntary compliance” but only in the sense that it’s up to John and Jill Q. Citizen to fill out the forms and figure the taxes. Uncle Sam won’t do it for you. For those tempted to follow “advice” from tax scammers, trouble awaits.

SPIES OF WARSAW: Hooked on Alan Furst’s novels about intrigue in pre–World War II Europe, I noticed how his books spell out Hitler’s strategy of threatening small countries into compliance, if not invading them. Russia’s Vlad Putin seems to be an ardent reader. Reality turns into fiction, which (presto!) becomes reality.

GOLD PLATES: Bill Tomicki, Montecito publisher of ENTREE travel newsletter, is back from a month in India, where he ran into Gloria Steinem (in Calcutta of all places). Bill and his wife, Barbara, dined on gold plates in the former palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad at a table that could accommodate 101 people. There they dined alone, in luxury.

GANGING UP ON WOLFGANG: Music lover Mercedes Eichholz would have loved Friday’s Camerata Pacifica concert held in her memory. Best of all was the dynamic fivesome of Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Jose Franch-Ballester (clarinet), John Steinmetz (bassoon), Martin Owen (horn), and Warren Jones (piano) on Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat Major for Piano and Winds.

GHOST OF A CHANCE: What do you do when your fiancé’s late, very-dead ex-husband arrives on the scene and tries to win her back? Does he have a Ghost of a Chance, title of the current offering by the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre? Lots of laughs and a happy ending. Antics by Tiffany Story alone are worth the price of admission.

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