Caught in the Tax Web

BY CHERYL ROSEN

SIGN OF THE TIMES

“NOTICE OF PENDING INTERNET POSTING,” begins a letter sent recently by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to more than 7,000 people and businesses who owed the state taxes. It was fair warning that the names of those owing $25,000 or more were about to be posted for all to see on a new Web site that went live January 4. Within days, 88 Wisconsin residents and 21 businesses forked over $7.9 million—about 1% of the $771 million the state is owed—to keep their names off the “Website of Shame.”

With the launch of the site, Wisconsin joins a growing list of states using public humiliation via the Internet as their latest tool against scofflaws—and it seems to be working. Like the public stocks used to shame prisoners in old New England, the Web sites of 18 states—including Maryland’s “Caught in the Web” and South Carolina’s “Debtor’s Corner”—encourage good citizenship through full disclosure.

—Cheryl Rosen

Clarification
CPA Richard Forrest, cited in our January Top Line column (page 14) for his helicopter exploits in hurricane-battered New Orleans, is a partner at Forrest and Kelley LLP, a Houston law firm specializing in helping accounting firms. His son, Richard Forrest II, is with the Houston accounting firm of Gainer, Donnelly & Desroches LLP.

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