By Wayne William Cipriano
Well, it’s tax time again. The new publications as well as the new forms and instructions are finally available. A nice feature each year is the “What’s New” section where you get a primer on changes that have occurred recently or are expected. We always have to treat the proposed changes with a dose of doubt; you never really know what the legislatures are going to do.
Income taxes and property taxes are the big ones for most of us, and property taxes are the simpler. You get your bill and you pay it. Unless we’ve purchased or sold, those property taxes remain pretty stable and easy to understand – most probably because those who decide what gets taxed and at what rate are locally elected people who have to follow some very strict rules. These taxes are a lot more palatable because they support local expenditures like schools and libraries, law enforcement and ambulances that we see working.
Income taxes are different in that they are levied out of our immediate area by people we barely know, if at all. Often, because of what is called enabling legislation, the details of taxes (where we always find the devil) are left by our elected officials to invisible bureaucrats.
As taxation moves from local property taxes to the federal level, the benefits we derive become less sharply defined. At the state level we support state government, state reads, the court system and state police, protection from commercial predation, and so on. At the federal level is the government, the agencies that produce so much of the rules and regulations under which we live, the citizen welfare system, the health system that will someday treat us all, federal highway support, and so on. The most important of all federal expenditures, in my estimation, is the United States military that insures that tomorrow when we awake there will be no foreign troops on our soil. And they have been providing that assurance for well over 200 years.
Except for elected officials, everyone hates taxes, but at some level we all understand their necessity. In truth, we pretty much accept what we pay for what we get since, regardless of our political affiliation or socio-economic condition, we all have the same vote and can use it to press our will.
Nevertheless, the entire income tax paying experience can be very frustrating, time consuming, anxiety ridden, and anger inducing. Just filling out the forms produces a lot of that even though those forms will usually result in a tax refund. (Cousin Billy reminds me that those refunds were our own money all along, given in the form of an interest-free loan to and magnanimously returned to us by our government.)
There are ways to lessen the negative impact paying these taxes have on our psyches. The one that works best for me is to consider them membership dues.
We belong to the Ava Club, the Douglas County Association, the Missouri Group, and the United States of America Coalition and we receive benefits from each. How many of us individually, or in groups for the matter could afford to provide these benefits we use every day in exchange for the taxes we pay to support them? We each won the birth lottery by being born here and became legacy members of the city, county, state, and federal “clubs”. And all we have to do to remain members in good standing is pay our taxes.
When we consider what we receive in tangible (reads, etc.) as well as intangible (freedom from fear) benefits, the price we pay in tax dollars each year seems to me to be a pretty good deal. Although the process by which we pay those taxes, especially Federal Income Tax, is a real pain in the ________ (fill in the blank, in triplicate).