Hoping someone can provide me with some moral advice for an issue that is causing me so much frustration. I’m 21 years old, go to college, only work 6 weeks out of the year in the Summer and don’t get paid very much. I have recently learned about certain tax laws and rules in my home state from previous years where I didn’t pay these specific taxes because I simply didn’t know about them, all the while paying all the taxes I believed I had to pay. Now that tax day is approaching I’m wondering if I am morally obliged to remedy these past mistakes.
The tax I’m referring to is called a use tax, basically, because I ordered stuff online or bought stuff in other states and use it in my home state, my home state insists on me paying the use tax for simply using these items in my home state. I think I only would owe this tax for the past 3 (possibly 5) years, which under normal circumstances would cost me a whopping $24 total… if only it were that simple, but my state also charges me penalty and interest for simply not knowing about this obscure tax that very few seem to pay. So as it stands if I were to be forthcoming in a spirit of honesty and full disclosure I stand to be penalized and charged interest, and they are going to demand nearly $60 (and this is a conservative estimate depending on what I realize I need to report) rather than the $24. This may not seem like much, but to me it is a big deal with only a few hundred dollars in my account, and it seems totally unfair to me for the government to penalize me for not knowing their tax code in specificity.
I want to do the right thing, and I’ve been told tax evasion is a sin and theft, but at the same time I feel completely taken advantage of as a both a citizen and young person, when the state seems to be using what I believe to be my legitimate and understandable ignorance of the law as a way to take more money out of my pocket, when I don’t have much in my pockets anyway.
So I’m hoping for some sensible moral advice here, and maybe some big picture advice as well. I know we are supposed to obey just laws, but this just seems unjust to me, when the penalties and interest charged to me, will add up to more than what the tax was to begin with, punishing me because as an 18 year old (now 21) I didn’t know I had to pay such a tax.