Papa Was a Rolling Stone (Emphasis-on-Was Edition)


Motown super-producer and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" coauthor Norman Whitfield has been sentenced to house arrest following a conviction for failing to file a tax return.

I always like to think that anyone who fails to file a tax return–even when done out of sheer laziness–is secretly a tax rebel. Like the people Reason's Brian Doherty wrote about not too long ago here.

"Papa" is surely one of the great AM hits–a stunning blend of music and socially conscious (or perhaps more accurately, sociologically conscious) lyrics that climbed the charts despite its maxi-length. Words here.

Whitfield is a true giant as a songwriter (among his other signature tunes are "I Heard Through the Grapevine" and "War") and producer. Bio here.

NEXT: Dutch Chases Dirt!

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  1. I always like to think that anyone who fails to file a tax return–even when done out of sheer laziness–is secretly a tax rebel.

    In my experience, there is a great deal of truth there.

  2. Yes, but “And when he diiieeeeed, all he left us was an IRS lien on our home,” just doesn’t fit the beat of the original.

  3. I always like to think that anyone who fails to file a tax return–even when done out of sheer laziness–is secretly a tax rebel.

    That would be the Edmund Wilson school of tax rebellion.

  4. I was a little lazy about filing my 2003 tax return (finally did it last month). Funny thing is, I was unemployed in 2003 with a gross freelancer’s income of under $3000, so i didn’t even owe any taxes. Still, the IRS wouldn’t shut up about it, and I just kept putting it off. You know, because of rebellion.

  5. Does the IRS go after taxpayers who fail to file returns even when those people would have refunds coming to them?

    (NB: I did not write “Does the IRS come after…” shifts uncomfortably in chair)

  6. It is illegal to fail to file a tax return (assuming you are required to) even if you owe no money. On the other hand, it is NOT illegal to file and then not pay up – the IRS can levy your property, ruin your credit, but they can’t jail you for not paying, as long as you’ve filed. Thankfully, we’re not back to the days of debtors’ prison yet. In most cases there are no penalties or interest due on late returns where there was no tax due on the return. They may well come after you if they think you might owe them money, so if you don’t, just file the damn thing. Actually, file the damn thing even if you do…

  7. Er, what happens – hypothetically, of course – if you haven’t filed for, say, the past 19 years?

  8. At large: Firing squad.

    Why do you ask?

  9. At, the Statute of Limitations never runs until you file. However, unless someone reported your earnings on a 1099 or W-2 nobody knows that you had income. Going 19 years without somebody asking you to file would seem to indicate that there were no reports made. I’m not giving you advice but I do know of a guy who decided to go straight. He filed a current year return and the previous two years. After that he simply filed every year. It worked out.

    For those of you who live in Californicate, the state will penalize you heavily even if you are owed a refund if you ignore their filing demand letters for very long. Better jump on that.

  10. The penality for not filing is a compounding percentage of what you do owe, so if you owe nothing, you are not penalized, other than with a bunch of letters. However, if you file after that and get a refund, they will hold it until you file the old return. Don’t ask me how I know this, I will deny everything.

  11. IRS (HUH!)
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing (HUH!)
    Say it again y’all.

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