Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Taxing Times Again 

Interesting article from Capital Hill Blue; basically, and obviously, tax forms are hard.

Now, I have my doubts about a flat-tax, because I think it would somehow manage to penalize the poor and middle-classes. But... the tax code has got to be simplified. Apparently, 99.9% of the people who wrote the code don't do their own taxes; they hire professionals. And it makes no sense. Let's put it this way -- most of you get utility bills every month. The electric company, e.g., calculates how many kilowatt hours you used, applies their formulas, adds the applicable taxes, and gives you a bottom line. Likewise your phone company and gas company and insurance company and -- everyone else you pay.

So, I have to wonder -- why is it different for taxes? After all, in theory, the IRS gets the same forms that we do -- all those W2s and 1099s and whatnot. Is there any good reason whatsoever that things during tax time should be the other way around? That is, instead of us having to figure out mathematics that would make Newton vomit, the government should figure out what we owe and send us a bill?

How much easier would that be? 'Cause, you know what? Despite having all the information necessary by the end of January, I don't think I've ever done my taxes before about April 12th since... forever. Why? 'Cause it's just a farking pain in the ass. Even though I've only ever not done the standard deduction thing once in my life, about five years ago, I've got no incentive to crack the books and do the forms early. I've been doing it by computer (thank you, H&R Block) for at least the last seven years. Have I been doing it right? Who fucking knows.

Again, while I don't think "flat tax" is the answer, I do think that "simple tax" is the way to go. Eliminate most of the fancy deductions and write-offs and whatnot; increase the standard deduction and exemption. Want to give tax relief to the poor? Up the combined exemption and deduction to, say, $20K. If it exceeds your income, you only need to file if you'd get a refund. Otherwise, no problem, no forms, call us again next year. Forget that "deduction per kid" thing; instead, give one big deduction if you have any children, but no bonus for breeding like rabbits. And, if you really want to make taxes equitable, index the tax rates per state. That is -- if you live in an expensive state like California or New York or Vermont, drop the tax rates. If you live in a state without income taxes, and where a family home doesn't cost damn near a million (like Wyoming or Texas), then up the brackets.

Ideally, it would work like this. Around about February, the IRS would send everybody a bill. "You made X, we deducted Y, you owe Z". We'd all then have the option to either a) Pay Z by April 15th, or b) File a form reducing our tax liability based on very simple, very easy, do 'em in five minutes rules, and pay the adjusted amount.

Of course, if we really wanted to make taxes representative, they'd add this twist: every tax form would include a percentage breakdown of where the money goes, and you could opt out of paying for things with which you don't agree. Hate welfare? Opt out. Hate the military? Opt out. Etc.

It'd be giving the line item veto, that holy grail of the rightwing, directly to the people. Of course, I don't think the wingnuts would be happy with the popular vote results on that issue, since everyone could slash their tax bill by 80% by not giving to the military. But it would be the most direct referendum possible, voted every year by everyone's pocket book.

But again, ask yourself this: is there any other place in your life where you're supposed to figure out what you owe, and then pay it -- and suffer penalties if you get it wrong? Um... no. Try that next time you go to the grocery store. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Smith. You underestimated your $42.00 bill by twelve cents, so now you owe us $63.00 for those groceries."

Yeah, um... fuck that shit.

The only thing that Repugnicrats are partly right on but -- if they were serious about tax cuts, they'd just eliminate the whole damn thing outright. They can't and they won't, of course, because, just like everyone else in government, they suck on the public teat and would cry if it were taken away.

And because, in order to make the system equitable, they'd have to wind up taxing the billionaires and the corporations, and leaving the average American alone.

Hint: your elected officials tend to fall into the "billionaire" and "corporate" categories. And so -- Happy Easter, it's tax day, bend the fuck over and take it. And god forbid you managed to misinterpret even a single line of the well-over hundred page instructions that you'd need a master's degree in accounting to understand.

'Cause, fuck knows, our own government is too goddamn lazy to do the work for us. 'Cause, like, you know -- that'd be... like... work. Eeeeew...

And one thing that's pretty obvious -- we are overpaying every last Senator, Congress Critter, Administration Rat and SCOTUSness. Jeebus Krispy -- in an equitable world, the presidential salary would be $15K instead of $400K, and all the others would follow. Or, to put it another way, WHICH PART OF "PUBLIC SERVICE" DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND? Asshole... Er, assholes.

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