The most basic and important lesson I learned while growing up [in my father’s store] was that you must cheat on your taxes to succeed or even survive in business, and that most everyone who could, did so. It all began when I realized we treated the front “cash” register different from the “back” cash register. After a little persistent questioning, my father said that we paid taxes on one, but not necessarily the other. He explained that if we paid taxes on every dollar of sales, we would barely break even, and that if we went out of business both we and our customers would be worse off. The meaning of this was clear to me and I understood its implications. This was not stealing. It was our money and if we gave it to the government they would just go and build more urban renewal [or spend it in ways different than those who paid it would have chosen]. Getting “let in on” the family business made my job even more enjoyable, and I would regularly divert sales to the tax-free register.
As I learned more about our operation, it seemed like everything we did violated some government rule or other, but none of the regulations – from recycling prescription bottles to the location and storage of cocaine – made sense. We never got caught and never got sued. I never heard a customer complain and we had plenty of happy long-term customers of all races and creeds.
[This article first appeared on page 6 of THE VOLUNTARYIST, Whole No. 152, 1st Quarter 2012.]