Some timely information from a friendly IRS expert

April 10, 1995|By ROGER SIMON

Every year at this time, I interview one of America's most dapper and delightful G-men, Dominic J. LaPonzina, the IRS public affairs officer for Maryland and the District of Columbia.

LaPonzina, 43, is a graduate of Calvert Hall High School, Towson State and Johns Hopkins.

This year I asked him the tax questions that are uppermost on the minds of most people:

O. J. Simpson is in jail. Does he have to pay taxes?

"Everyone has to pay taxes if they have earnings," LaPonzina said. "They are also entitled to deductions."

Could O. J. take Kato as a dependent?

"He could if Kato met the five tests: He has to be a U.S. citizen, he has to earn less than $2,450 unless he is a full-time student, he can't have filed a tax return himself, O. J. Simpson must have provided more than half of his support and the person must be a relative, with this exception: A person who lives in your home as a family member for the entire year can also be considered a dependent, but the relationship cannot violate local law."

What is the marriage tax?

"The standard deduction for a single person is $3,800. Two people living together, therefore, could take a combined deduction of $7,600.

"But the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly is only $6,350."

So the government encourages people to live in sin rather than to marry?

"Well, let's just say that Congress has been looking at this issue."

The government discourages marriage!

"I would hope someone doesn't predicate their inclination to get married solely on tax advantages or disadvantages."

So you believe in love?

"I'd like to."

I hear IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson is a fox. True or false?

"She's a very nice lady and an excellent commissioner."

Are those computerized tax programs you can buy for your home computer any good?

"Some are good; some are bad. Some have problems, glitches. But some are very good. I can't endorse product names, but their overall value is that computer-prepared returns invariably provide more accurate returns than the old pencil and paper."


"The biggest problem with returns is math mistakes. People don't add or subtract properly or work out percentages properly. The computer programs minimize that because they use a calculator.

"Also, people enter numbers on the wrong line. They will put their interest income on the dividend income line, for instance. Computer programs produce a prompt that you answer in order. Also, computer programs print out neat and legible returns and give taxpayers a good record they can save on their hard drives."

There are rumors that you don't have to file by April 15 this year.

"This year, the deadline is not April 15 but April 17, because April 15 is a Saturday."

Will this make any difference?

"If you are the kind of person who was up the night before typing the term paper because it was due the next day or the person who goes to the MVA on the last day to renew your tags, this will help you."

How many people forget to sign their returns?

"About 1 to 2 percent don't sign. Since my district has 2.6 million returns, 1 percent is 26,000 people."

Is it possible to send all your money to the government every year and just ask them to return what you should keep?

"No. I doubt they would do it. We would need more information."

Could I pay my taxes in pennies?

"It's conceivable you could, but it is not something we encourage. We wouldn't send you a refund in pennies."

Fair enough. What is the average refund?

"The average federal return is about $1,000."

Quick, how many pennies is that?

"One hundred thousand."

Spell potato.


Spell Kato.


Wrong! It's P-O-T-A-T-O.

"Ha, ha, ha."

Thank you.

"Thank you."

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