Vermont's Dirty Little Tax Secret

THE tax season is over, but for what it's worth, a national study has just conferred on Vermont the dubious honor of being the nation's tax-cheat haven.

Vermont's district places last for vigorously pursuing those who evade or underpay their taxes, reports the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The Internal Revenue Service has given Vermont a per capita rating of 3 referrals per 1 million for prosecution. Lack of adequate IRS staffing - there is only one criminal investigator assigned fulltime to Vermont - appears to be the main reason.

Vermont narrowly beat New Hampshire for last place. Washington, D.C. ranks No. 1, by referring 71 cases for prosecution per million people.

The study shows Americans are five times more likely to be murdered than to be criminally prosecuted for IRS violations, FBI officials say.

This year's Tax Freedom Day will be the latest ever, says the conservative Tax Foundation in its own study. The typical American must work until May 7 to earn enough to pay federal, state, and local taxes. That's the same date as last year but represents an extra day of work because 1996 is a leap year. The tax bite in an eight-hour day is two hours and 47 minutes.

And if you're planning to spend your tax refund, you are not alone, says a survey by the bipartisan Competitiveness Policy Council. More than 70 million Americans expect refunds totaling $92 billion. But only one-third plan to save the refund.

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