Thursday, September 10, 2009

A taxing defense?

Today's "ADD in the News" story introduces us to Robin Magee, a professor at a law school in Minnesota. The prof's in a legal pickle of her own after being charged today with 11 felonies that pertain to her failure to pay state income taxes or file tax returns. Oops.

In the matter of how did this happen, counsellor, what say you?

"Magee stated that she has been unable to organize her records because she has extreme ADD and is unable to complete her tax returns."

That's what she said! You can read it for yourself in the criminal complaint, which is linked here.

(And I'm curious: does "extreme ADD" involve skateboards and Mountain Dew? If so, why did I end up with the boring regular ADD? Not fair! I digress...)

Folks, lately I've been working hard at having compassion for others and being non-judgemental. But honestly, Gandhi would have a hard time understanding Ms. Magee. For starters, she's a law professor who once practiced tax law. Although I'm not a lawyer, I am an American, and you can't escape knowing that April 15 rolls around every year. (The commercials for Turbo Tax and H&R Block won't let you, anyway.) She also earned her law degree from the University of Michigan (go blue!), which is one of this nation's top ten law schools. She's a smart lady, to be sure.

But yeah, I realize that intellect and ADD are two very different things. I have both of these things, so I should know. And therein lies the problem.

I think it's difficult for non-ADDers to understand that a clinical disorder can cause you to forget things because your mind is elsewhere or be confounded by having to file papers in your desk. On a daily basis, I try to explain these sorts of things to non-ADD people, and it's just not something to which they easily relate. So, when ADDers use the disorder as a defense for actions of this magnitude, I feel that it hurts all of us ADDers. It perpetuates the inaccurate stereotype that ADDers are capricious nitwits who don't have their act together.

Ms. Magee, if you lost your W-2s and want to blame your ADD for it, go right ahead. But attributing years of tax evasion and fabricating information on tax returns to ADD? Eh, overruled. Can she attribute her ADD to having difficulty with preparing tax returns? Yeah, sure. But if you want to attribute 11(!) criminal charges solely to ADD, then you may as well blame ADD for credit default swaps and trans-fats while you're at it.

Admittedly, I tried to be mature and give Ms. Magee the benefit of the doubt. And apparently, so did the the tax department:

"MDOR investigators requested Magee to provide documentation that she was medically unable to file tax returns due to the stated condition, but she has failed to provide any such documentation."

Hmmm. But wait; there's more:

"Magee also claimed that she did not believe that her repeated delinquent filing of income tax returns was criminal because she was due refunds because she overpays taxes." However, MDOR records show that for most years, tax was due after adding back income which Magee had omitted and eliminating expenses she could not substantiate."

I don't have a copy of the DSM-IV handy, but the last time I checked, cheating on your taxes isn't a symptom of ADD. If so, the prisons would be jammed with me and you and the rest of the ADD populace.

I do wish Ms. Magee well and hope that she takes responsibility for her actions instead of using her ADD as a foil for them. And speaking of Gandhi, as I did earlier, I'm going to take to heart his sage quote, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." There is a big stack of tax-related papers on my desk, and I shall file them now.

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