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Principal speaker at a University of North Carolina testimonial last week was Mortimer Caplin, who heads up the Internal Revenue Service, which collects income taxes. During his undergraduate days at the University of Virginia, Caplin was quite a good boxer, and that in the heyday of Virginia's great boxing teams. Furthermore, Caplin's father and two uncles were boxing managers. Judged by his department's recent treatment of prizefighters, Caplin seems to take no sentimental view of the sport. In his day, he recalled at the testimonial, he had been up against some pretty tough fighters. "Recently," he quipped, "I have been in much tougher company—Joe Louis, Sonny Liston, Cassius Clay. Fortunately, it can be said that we won the nod in each bout."
Caplin was referring, of course, to collection of income taxes from those boxers. But there was certainly no win over Joe Louis, who owes so much that the IRS never can hope to collect it all. And what he seems to consider a win over Cassius Clay was achieved by means that a mobster shylock might envy.
Under the law an independent businessman (like Clay) has the option to 1) pay by April 15 his entire total estimated income tax for the coming year (including estimated deductions) or 2) pay his total estimated tax (including deductions) in quarterly installments. Clay was given neither option. He is a boxer and therefore, in the eyes of the IRS, is suspect. If the IRS suspects you, it seems, the law gives it an arbitrary right to discriminate against you.
On this principle, or the lack thereof, the Government took 90% of Clay's estimated tax from his Sonny Liston fight—granting him a deduction of $1,000. At the end of the year his deductions will be considered and refunds made. Meanwhile, he cannot use his own money. Only the IRS can use it.
"This is an arbitrary policy only imposed in the case of boxers," says Edward Jacko Jr., one of Clay's lawyers.
It is small wonder that, on leaving the meeting with IRS men, Archie Robinson, a little Black Muslim who rides faithfully on Clay's shoulder, muttered: "Now you see what I mean about this country—it's not going to give you a break because of your color."
"Nothing hinders progress," a wise but cynical man once said, "like prosperity." Anyone hoping that the National Hockey League might change its tight little six-team organization—by expanding westward or admitting the Western Hockey League to major status—had better relinquish his hope. With business up 10% over the previous year, the NHL's just-finished season totted up attendance records that were 93.3% of the league's rated seating capacity. In other words, NHL games failed to sell out less than one-tenth of the time—and that means even when the Bruins were playing the Rangers.
You think they're going to change anything?