Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Are Individuals More Willing To Lie To A Computer Or A Human About Their Taxes?

Arvind Sabu (Chicago-Kent), Reframing Bitcoin and Tax Compliance, 64 St. Louis U. L.J. 181 (2020):

This Article argues that, contrary to the common belief that Bitcoin enables tax evasion, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) can increasingly police transactions in Bitcoin. First, commercial and technical intermediaries have emerged as part of Bitcoin’s ecosystem. This diverse set of intermediaries can facilitate tax enforcement, as the litigation over the IRS’s summons on Coinbase—the largest domestic digital asset exchange—and subsequent IRS efforts show. These intermediaries could report transactions to the IRS or even, one day, withhold and remit tax payments. Second, the publicly visible, trustworthy nature of Bitcoin’s blockchain—its unique role as a shared truth—allows tax authorities to observe transaction flows. This renders Bitcoin unusually regulable for tax purposes, as recent efforts by the IRS to rely on Bitcoin’s blockchain to police tax evasion demonstrate.

The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries The Intercept 

Chris Hedges on the Ruling Class’ Revenge Against Julian Assange Scheerpost

 Kathleen DeLaney Thomas (North Carolina; Google Scholar), Your Tax Software Doesn't Know You're Lying (JOTWELL) (reviewing Ethan LaMothe (Central Florida; Google Scholar) & Donna Bobek (South Carolina; Google Scholar), Are Individuals More Willing to Lie to a Computer or a Human? Evidence from a Tax Compliance Setting, 167 J. Bus. Ethics 157 (2020)):

JOTWELL (2020)Imagine your accountant asks you if you earned any income that wasn’t reported on a 1099 or W-2 this year, and you know that you have an extra $5000 of such income. Do you tell her? Probably. For starters, you might be worried that she is going to be suspicious if you lie to her. Something in your voice might give it away, or perhaps your income this year is lower than last year and she wants to know why. Further, you might have developed a rapport with your accountant, and lying to her might cause psychological discomfort.

Now imagine that you are debating whether to report the same income without an accountant’s help, using tax return preparation software. The software isn’t suspicious of your omission and doesn’t harbor any ill feelings about whether you are telling it the truth. In that case, you might be more likely to lie and not report the income. A fascinating new study by Ethan LaMothe and Donna Bobek confirms this intuition. In a survey of 211 participants, LaMothe and Bobek find that individuals may be more willing to lie to tax preparation software than they are to a human tax return preparer. ...

This article should be of great interest to tax compliance scholars and those interested in the impact of technology on the tax system. As LaMothe and Bobek note, policymakers “should consider the tradeoffs inherent to tax software usage and perhaps view preparation method as a relevant risk factor when developing enforcement strategies.” The study also has interesting implications for tax software design. While it may be impossible to replicate true human interaction, software designers could consider ways to compensate. For example, the author’s findings arguably support proposals to make ethics more salient when individuals use tax software (such as those found herehere, and here). While automated tax preparation has tremendous efficiency advantages, the potential compliance costs of using tax software should not be overlooked.

A computer science professor from Sweden has discovered an arbitrary code execution vuln in the Universal Turing Machine, one of the earliest computer designs in history – though he admits it has "no real-world implications".

Compsci boffin publishes proof-of-concept code for 54-year-old zero-day in Universal Turing Machine

This Made One of Them Thoughtful'

Were it possible to distill our last century into nineteen lines of blank verse and close it with a bitter, O. Henry-like denouement, it might be Anthony Hecht’s “The Ceremony of Innocence” (The Darkness and the Light, 2001): 

“He was taken from his cell, stripped, blindfolded,

And marched to a noisy room that smelled of sweat.

Someone stamped on his toes; his scream was stopped

By a lemon violently pushed between his teeth

And sealed with friction tape behind his head.

His arms were tied, the blindfold was removed

So he could see his tormentors, and they could see

The so-much-longed-for terror in his eyes.

And one of them said, ‘The best part of it all

Is that you won't even be able to pray.’

When they were done with him, two hours later,

They learned that they had murdered the wrong man

And this made one of them thoughtful. Some years after,

He quietly severed connections with the others

Moved to a different city, took holy orders,

And devoted himself to serving God and the poor,

While the intended victim continued to live

On a walled estate, sentried around the clock

By a youthful, cell phone-linked praetorian guard.”


Sound familiar? Readers of Koestler know the scene depicted in the opening lines, as do those familiar with the fates of Babel, Mandelstam and Bonhoeffer, among millions of others. Hecht gives his poem a title borrowed from Yeats. “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” he suggests, as it was in 1919. Readers have complained that the poem’s ending seems tacked on, an after-thought of cheap irony. But isn’t human destiny capricious? Doesn’t it often strain credulity? Don’t bad people sometimes repent? Don’t the wrong people die every day?