Revenooer Rants: Obama’s ‘hidden persuaders’ |

Revenooer Rants: Obama’s ‘hidden persuaders’

Jeff Quinn

Upon hearing of the proposition that government Pooh-Bahs are suggesting ways to “Strengthen Federal Capacity for Behavioral Insights,” we couldn’t help but recall the Vance Packard classic from the 50s, regarding the encroachments of advertisers into target audiences psyches.

Seems Obama’s minions are considering implementation of a “Behavioral Insights Team” (a la a scheme pushed in the UK recently) whose mission would be to look for ways to subtly influence folks’ behavior — in ways, of course, which might nudge citizens’ attitudes to agree with whatever is the administration policy du jour.

According to, while the program is still in its early stages, the indication is the White House is already working on such projects with nearly a dozen Federal departments and agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.

Such tactics, which encourage behavior subtly rather than outright require it have come to be known as “nudges,” after a book entitled “Nudge” authored by former Obama regulatory czar Cass Sunstein and Chicago Booth School of Business professor Richard Thaler popularized the term.

Chilling stuff — and we are inclined to agree with Michael Thomas, an economist at Utah State University who says that “Ultimately, nudging … assumes a small group of people in government know better about choices than the individuals making them.”

And if you’re a California business entity which may not have filed in 2011, for whatever reason, you had better get ready to hear from the California Revenooers whom, we hear, are in the midst of contacting more than 90,000 such entities and asking for an explanation.

If you’re in that boat, you will have to respond to the nastygram you get from the Franchise Tax Board within 30 days by filing whatever return may be missing, lest you leave it to them to make up a return for your entity, based on info they have received independently (Forms 1099, etc.) from others.

We hear that every year, the FTB reviews more than 5 million income records received from the IRS, the California Economic Development Department, the state Board of Equalization, banks and brokers and others, which they then use to attempt to identify noncompliant taxpayers.

If you receive a letter from FTB, it would be best not to ignore it — they have been known to be tenacious.

CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISER – This article contains general information about various tax matters. You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation. Jeff Quinn, the author of this article, is a shareholder in Ashley Quinn, CPAs and Consultants, Ltd., with offices in Incline Village and Reno. He can be reached at 831-7288, welcomes comments at, and invites readers to consider his other commentary at

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