People often wonder what happens if you do not file your tax returns. Josh Kornbluth lived it.
For seven years in the 1990s – while he was struggling to make it as an autobiographical monologist – Kornbluth, now 57, simply neglected to file.
Life started to get complicated when he got a little bit of success: a film on its way to the Sundance Film Festival which was going to bring in some real money, and a girlfriend who wanted to get married before their baby arrived.
As befits his artistic medium, Kornbluth made a film all about it, with his frequent collaborator (and younger brother) Jacob Kornbluth. “Love & Taxes” opens in theaters in New York on Friday and later in other cities.
Josh Kornbluth spoke with Reuters about his struggles to get right with his taxes:
Q: Did you make a conscious decision not to file, or did it just sort of happen?
A: I had my first job at a newspaper as a copy editor. Around the third year, I started to freelance. I was told to file a Schedule C and itemize. My circuits overloaded. I didn’t file for the next seven years.
Q: Did you worry about not filing?
A: The first time, I got very nervous. But then I noticed that nothing happened to me. The next day after I didn’t file was the same as the day before. It just became sort of a habit not to file. There seemed to be no repercussions… until I fell in love.
Q: If not for your future wife encouraging you to fix the problem, do you think you would have just continued?
A: The issue was I was raised in a family that was left-wing and there was a general animus against The Man.
Why pay money to The Man?
I rationalized it was virtuous not to file. The system was just going to take my money and put it into bad things.
The woman I fell in love with, she is incredibly thoughtful and is a public school teacher.
It sunk in. She has to buy her own pencils and pens, and I haven’t paid my taxes. Is it The Man’s fault or is it mine?
Q: The IRS just instituted a new penalty under which it can revoke your passport if you owe more than $50,000. Would that kind of consequence have swayed you in your earlier life?
A: When you’re out of the system and you’re floating, there is this general sense of dread that something bad might happen, so it’s really best to not think about it at all.
Q: President Donald Trump has not released his tax returns yet. Does your film now seem like it’s making a political statement about needing to pay your fair share of taxes to contribute to the greater good of the country?
A: There’s great pleasure in being on the fringe, on not being beholden to anyone, but there comes a point for most of us when it’s super important to be part of it.
It’s ‘Love & Taxes,’ not just because of my wife. It’s also that I love America. I love being an American. I love the ideals of Americans. That is tied up inextricably with being a taxpayer.
Q: Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich makes a cameo in the film. How did that come about?
A: It was because my son’s best friend in second grade’s dad was friends with somebody who knows him. I had this thought, Why don’t I contact him?
He’s a ham. He loves to act and he’s really good at it. I sent him an email and he said yes. He plays the former commissioner of the IRS. It turns out that they are friends in real life. That is super cool.