Scurrilous as this new local policy of rewarding people who turn in suspected tax cheats in Chicago and Cook County is, it might have a few useful, if unintended, consequences. Local tax authorities seem to think that it will reveal which legitimate businesses are skimping on reported receipts, or doing some of their business in cash, or just failing to pay taxes.
That may happen. The new policy will also have an obvious chilling effect on business, when rivals make phone calls that result in large legal bills to prove a negative. Maybe Chicago doesn’t need more jobs? But the fun part will be when people start reporting each other for hiring illegal aliens. The implicated parties will include some huge percentage of ethnic restaurants, construction sites, and cleaning services — the usual suspects. Is there a mechanism in place to deal with the illegals?
And what about uncovering welfare recipients who are working — off the books? That’s a well-known phenomenon. Will their benefits be adjusted? What happens when someone drops a dime on community organizations or advocacy groups whose leaders are living high on the hog without declaring income? The U.S. Justice Department has files going back 30 years on tax cheats like Jesse Jackson — cases it declined to pursue for fear of political flak.
In addition to sowing unnecessary hatred and mistrust among the citizenry in a way most frequently used in totalitarian societies, those Chicago “revenuers” are opening some especially slimy cans of worms.