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Fixing independent programmers' no-win scenario

Feb 26, 2010, 12:33 (5 Talkback[s])

"The actions of Joe Stack, the disgruntled software developer who committed suicide by flying his airplane into the Internet Revenue Service building in Austin, Texas, last week, were callous, selfish, and inexcusable. While in no way condoning his actions, programmers may nonetheless hear a familiar ring in his frustration with a country that seems to actively discourage self-reliance and entrepreneurship, especially in the software industry.

"Among the litany of complaints in his articulate (if rambling) suicide note, Stack gave special mention to Section 1706 of the 1986 Tax Reform Act, an obscure law that he claimed reduced him to "a criminal and noncitizen slave." Under the law, certain classes of workers, including anyone who engages as a "computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work," are considered de facto employees for tax purposes, regardless of whether they claim to operate their own businesses as independent contractors. The IRS can impose significant tax penalties on companies who hire such workers as contractors rather than full employees, a fact that can make it extremely difficult for self-employed programmers to find work."

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