Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Rangel"ing With The Tax Code

As you may have seen, Congressman Charles Rangel of New York is in a spot of trouble after it was disclosed that he failed to pay federal taxes on $75,000 in rental income from a beachfront house he owns in the Dominican Republic. He claims that he had trouble getting information from the resort's managers. “Every time I thought I was getting somewhere, they’d start speaking Spanish,” he told reporters. I'm sure Ma and Pa Mainstreet are sympathetic to his plight since every time they think they're getting somewhere with their taxes, their accountant starts speaking Greek.

I can imagine how frustrating the language barrier must have been for Rangel. Spanish for goodness sakes! Who speaks Spanish anymore?! I went searching for some information to bolster his case. Here's what the poor guy was up against. As of 2004, the Hispanic population of the U.S. was estimated to be only 41.3 million people. Only one of every two people added to the U.S. population between July 2003 and July 2004, was Hispanic. The U.S. has only the fifth largest Spanish speaking population in the world.

And poor Mr. Rangel is stuck in New York City. According to the Zoni Language Center's website:

New York is the world's seventh most populous Spanish-speaking center, with more Spanish speakers than Quito, Ecuador, Asuncion, Paraguay or La Paz, Bolivia and almost as many as Havana, Cuba. At least a third of subway advertisements are in Spanish, and signs in hospitals and other public institutions are usually in both Spanish and English.
If only it hadn't been so difficult for Mr. Rangel to find someone who could translate for him.

What makes this equally absurd is that Congressman Rangel is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. If you're not familiar with this committee, it's one of the most powerful Congressional committees as it is responsible for writing the federal tax code. So, the head of the committee charged with writing tax legislation can't even figure out his own 1040. That's a bit disconcerting, eh?

I may be a little skeptical, but I bet that if his villa incurred any recent hurricane damage, he'll manage to hurdle any language barrier and claim every last one of his deductions and credits.