The top aide to New York's governor has quit in a scandal over his failure to file his taxes since 2001. His lawyer says he suffers from something called "late-filing syndrome." A paper by a lawyer and a psychiatrist says people with the syndrome are perfectionists and workaholics, who have difficulty talking about their problems with others and cannot ask for help until their secret is exposed. Furthermore:

  1. They are sophisticated, both financially and with respect to taxes.
  2. The reality of ultimate discovery of the failure to file is obvious to them.
  3. The potential penalties, both financial and professional, are clear to them.
  4. They acknowledge that these penalties will likely occur.
  5. There is often no clear benefit to not filing, in that either (a) there is no significant tax due, or (b) they have the money to cover their tax liability, or (c) they can easily borrow the money to cover the liability.
  6. They usually have a history of filing in the past.
  7. They sometimes get extensions and make some estimated payments.
  8. They often are anxious and obsessed about not filing.

  9. And yet, exhibiting self-destructive behavior like lemmings rushing to the sea, they do not file until the I.R.S. is upon them.

That's from a New York Law Journal article from 1994 titled "'Failure to File' Syndrome: Legal and Medical Perspectives," by Elliot Silverman, a lawyer, and Dr. Stephen J. Coleman, a practicing psychiatrist

Nicholas Confessore of The Times reports that the syndrome has not yet received widespread recognition among psychiatrists. City room readers are skeptical. And yes, there were plenty of jokes in the newsroom on deadline about reporters with "late filing syndrome."

AuthorPatrick LaForge