Staying Out of Trouble and Being Invisible to Authorities – Learning from Fabius Maximus

Fabius Maximus was a Roman, born 280 BC.  He was the descendant of a long line of Roman patricians, most of whom had led Rome at one time or another.  As a boy, Fabius was learning disabled, not athletic, and socially inept.  It was a rocky start for the guy who would save Rome.  

As he matured, a lot of his early problems seemed to resolve, though he was always quiet and determined rather than dynamic.  He was one of two Consuls of Rome, which is sort of like being the Speaker of the House of Representatives, but with military responsibilities.  Hannibal of Carthage had invaded Italy with the purpose of conquering Rome.  Rome was outnumbered and out-gunned.  (Of course they didn’t have guns, but Hannibal’s troops were superior in both numbers and armament.)  

Fabius and Rome were in a tight spot, so Fabius invented guerrilla warfare.  His out-numbered troops did not confront Hannibal directly, but instead attacked his supply lines.  The Romans confounded Hannibal, and Rome was saved.   

The idea of being “Fabian,” which is defined as seeking victory by delay and harassment rather than by decisive battle, was introduced into English by 19th century English Socialists who thought that they would win for socialism by quietly infiltrating society.  We are not talking about socialism or any ism here, but rather about how to be invisible to authorities.

That is a true revolutionary idea – being invisible to authorities.  If there is one thing that irritates the small business person is the amount of paperwork required for personnel.

How you become invisible is by sending in required pieces of paper on time, correctly and honestly filled out.  The computer checks off the box, and you are invisible until the next time that a piece of paper is due.  

I’ve been involved in tax work for forty plus years, and I swear to you this is true.

Recently a client/friend argued with me about a payroll tax form.  I kept saying, “Stella, you are making this way too hard.  All they want is a piece of paper with zeros on it.”  And of course that closed the matter.  The computer checked the box, and there was no more dispute.  

Here in my office, we have a payroll company do our payroll taxes.  They withhold weekly, and file all the returns.  All I have to do is have money in the bank.  I do this because they make me invisible.  I used to try to do my own payroll taxes, but I kept screwing up because the clients always came first.  I just didn’t apply myself as needed, distracted by a million things.   Twenty years ago I was in Florida, flat on my back with a broken leg, and I had to handle a mad dog IRS collection person on the phone.  I was not invisible.  

You need an accountant or a tax person who knows what they are doing.  That may not be easy to achieve.  A new client told me that she had been through ten accountants and four attorneys until she got to us.  She said that we passed.

But the way to be Fabian, to achieve invisibility, is to comply with the law, right from the start and always.  Compliance is not an imposition; it is the price of freedom.  But you will need a responsible accountant right from the start.  They are not that easy to find.   

I’ll try to help you with that in later blogs.