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'Tax' typo in $2 taxi fare dispute leads to 2 nights in jail

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One Martha's Vineyard vacationer had lots of questions when he was arrested for tax evasion following a minor traffic accident. The answer was a 'tax' typo. (Photo by Vadim Bogulov on Unsplash)

Every taxpayer knows that a small mistake on a tax return could create big tax problems.

A Philadelphia man found out a one-letter typo involving the word "tax" also carried a hefty price.

Angus McCoubrey, who with his wife was vacationing last month on Martha's Vineyard, spent two nights in an island jail following a minor traffic accident. The jailing, however, wasn't for the fender bender.

Instead, in filling out the accident report, local police discovered that the 37-year-old McCoubrey was wanted for felony tax evasion.

Taxi to tax typo: McCoubrey was held without bail because the warrant indicated he didn't show up to face a 9-year-old tax charge in Brookline, Massachusetts.

McCoubrey was confused, since he never was required to file taxes in Brookline. The records were confused, too.

Instead of tax evasion, for which a conviction could carry a six-figure fine and up to 2.5 years in jail, McCoubrey was charged with taxi fare evasion, a minor civil offense typically settled by paying a fine between $10 and $250.

Here's what happened, according to reports in the Vineyard Gazette and

In 2013, McCoubrey and a friend quarreled with a Brookline taxi driver over the fare. The men said the driver took a wrong route, adding to their fare. When they exited the vehicle, the taxi driver asked for the $7 fare on his meter. The men refused, and paid only $5 for the ride. The cabbie reported the incident of taxi fare evasion to Brookline police, who issued the passengers a ticket for the incident. McCoubrey, who soon after that ride moved to New York City, never got the taxi fare court summons, so the warrant was issued.

The legal record mix-up of taxi and tax was discovered when McCoubrey was ferried back the Massachusetts mainland to face, and have dismissed, the apparent tax evasion charge.

The taxi fare charge also has been resolved, according to the court and McCoubrey's attorney.

Small amount, big hassle: Since that $2 fare discrepancy's inadvertent typographical escalation led to 2 nights in jail on tax evasion charges, 2 is this weekend's By the Numbers figure.

As for McCoubrey, he returned to Martha's Vineyard to finish up his vacation after the court session, but it wasn't as restful as he had planned.

"About half of my vacation was taken away and the other half is honestly just going to be spent reliving this," he told the Vineyard Gazette.

And while the ultimate charge in this misbegotten vacation tale had nothing to do with taxes, it's still a good reminder to double check your tax filings. Incorrect entries, of either letters or numbers, are among the most common, and potentially costly, tax return mistakes

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