In 1811, President James Madison started the Federal Conscience Fund, which allows guilt-ridden Americans to surreptitiously atone for their financial sins. Over the years, generous benefactors have achieved various levels of catharsis. Typical donors range from guilty individuals, such as a Massachusetts woman who mailed in nine cents, because she re-used three postage stamps, to a government contractor haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past who sent in some $400,000.
Predictably, many people send in offerings to clear their consciences “with the IRS and with God.” One anonymous woman generously offered a few hand-made quilts to settle her tax debt. But perhaps the best of all is a man who emptied his conscience by writing, “I cheated on my income taxes and haven’t been able to sleep. So, I enclose a cashier’s Read more