Donald Rumsfeld may be one of the most controversial figures of our time, but you have to respect his resume. He won a seat in Congress at an age (30) when some of today’s college graduates are still living in their parents’ basements. He served as the youngest Secretary of Defense in American history (under President Ford) and the oldest Secretary of Defense in American history (under Bush #43). Between those positions, he headed G.D. Searle, General Instrument Corporation, and Gilead Sciences, Inc. Those corporate posts helped make Rumsfeld the second-richest member of Bush’s cabinet, with a net worth north of $62 million.
Rumsfeld is also known for his unique, sometimes blunt and sometimes slippery, speaking style. Who can forget this response he gave a reporter who asked him about the lack of evidence tying Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government to weapons of mass destruction?
“[A]s we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Rumsfeld’s quote has been roundly mocked, and even has its own Wikipedia page. But now he’s weighed in on a new “known unknown” that we all can support. We’re referring, of course, to the letter he sent on April 15, addressed to “Sir or Madame” at the IRS:
“I have sent in our federal income tax and our gift tax returns for 2013. As in previous years, it is important for you to know that I have absolutely no idea whether our tax returns and our tax payments are accurate. I say that despite the fact that I am a college graduate and I tried hard to make sure our tax returns are accurate.”
Four paragraphs later, you have to wonder if he’s being snide or sad about the whole exercise:
“I do hope that at some point in my lifetime, and I am now in my 80s, so there are not many years left, the U.S. government will simplify the U.S. tax code so that those citizens who sincerely want to pay what they should, are able to do it right, and know that they have done it right.”
At this point, a cynic might reply that Rumsfeld can find “tax simplification” hiding in the same place as Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. But cynicism aside, if Rumsfeld really wants to see tax simplification, he should write to his former colleagues in Congress. They’re the ones who wrote the 2,600-page monstrosity known as “the tax code” that gives him such fits. And one remedy he could pursue in the meantime is to sit down for a plan. We would be happy to show him how he can pay less on his income from speaking fees, memoirs, and investments. Of course, if Rumsfeld doesn’t come knocking, that means more time for you. So call us about your “unknown unknowns,” if you think you paid too much on April 15!
Peter J Tarantino CPA
Tarantino & Company, CPAs
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Roswell, GA 30076
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