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Celebrating the Rape and Pillage of the Tax Man

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April 15, otherwise known as Tax Day here in the United States of America, is the deadline for citizens to turn in their 1040s and inform the government how much we made and how much we owe our dear, old Uncle Sam.

Some people get their taxes prepared as soon as humanly possible. Much like cleaning the toilet, they are the types who want to get that unpleasant chore out of the way and get on with life. Then there are the procrastinators who wait until the last minute and stand in line at the Post Office at 11:59:59 p.m. to get the envelope stamped with the appropriate date. On the outer fringe are the super-procrastinators, those who file extensions and take an inner tube to a Lazy River summer on the way to a somewhat more reasonable October 15 deadline. I’ve done that. You still have to pay, and with interest.

I grew up with income tax, so I’ve come to expect it. I’ve even come to accept it. There was a time – for those real dinosaurs – when there was no income tax. It kind of makes you wonder how roads were built, how public servants fared or how schools could afford to buy books and chalk in the pre-tax period.

If you live in modern day Michigan, as I do, you still wonder about those things. Some of our roads rival those of Third World donkey paths, our public servants serve themselves with fat salaries and a rainbow’s pot of gold of lifetime benefits, and our school districts issue paychecks to dead people and buy millions of dollars worth of art and real estate when they are operating in the perilous red zone. I would feel much better about the entire tax situation if I could trust government to be thrifty and efficient, but since these are not the common adjectives to describe what we have today, I am a cynic holding my breath.

But I digress…

I happened to catch part of a newscast (I tuned in to see if we were going to get a needed rainstorm today) where our President made the comment that people (tea partiers) should be thanking him for the current tax situation.

I am happy and thankful about about many things – my charmed life, my hard-working husband, my beautiful and talented children and child-in-law, my good health, my supportive friends, the sun shining, my faithful dog and uppity cat, that I can read and write, my artistic abilities, as limited as they are, and my orchids all about to bloom at the same time (it’s been six years), among other things.

The ability to pay income tax – or any tax at all – is not among the things that leave me lolling about in a rapturous bliss. I certainly don't feel like thanking anyone for that, that's for sure. Who among us with an ounce of honesty would admit to it? 

No, Tax Day is less about thankfulness and more about feeling screwed. Yes, we are among those Americans who must pay income tax, not among the 50% who have dodged the governmental bullet. Sometimes we feel royally skewered while other times the posterior discomfort is only mildly irritating.

Today the pain meter shifts to the former, not the latter. I survived Tax Day, but not an hour ago, I got off the phone with a city engineer who informed me that even though the curbs and sidewalk in front of my house are disintegrating into dust before my very eyes, if we choose to pursue repair, we will end up footing the bill.

What? What happened to the tax money? The thousands of dollars of property tax money based on the worth of my house before the housing bust? You know, the house that is barely worth the assessed value now? Yeah, that house. I told Mr. Engineer he should count his lucky stars that I called, not my husband. When I’m in charge, hardly ever does anyone get thrown into jail on a disorderly conduct charge.

Well, it appears that only low income areas of Royal Oak get their curbs and sidewalks repaired gratis. Our office – if you can call a 60-year-old cinder block shack that is falling apart and home to nesting sparrows – is located in such a low income area, and therefore, we have reaped free curbs and sidewalks as a result.

Having learned this, I decided I should celebrate my windfall. But why just me? According to the Prez, we should all be thankful.

I propose to make April 15 a national holiday. The procrastinators would have 24 hours to get it together, the tea party activists could go to town (and the accompanying politicians would be out of town), and state and federal workers everywhere would sing hallelujah and drink margaritas. Make it a serious national holiday, like the Fourth of July or Labor Day, so that even we business owning schlepps can have the day off too.

It’s the only way I’ll be happy about the rape and pillage of the tax man, Mr. Obama.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • Jordan Richardson

    Life is hard, eh?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Don’t worry, it’s only going to get worse when the Obamacare bill comes due.

    Dave

  • http://joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    Yeah, I know Dave. I have a feeling we will be one of those small businesses going out of business. The upside is that the government will take care of us.
    *wink wink*

    And then the ultimate upside – we will die.

  • Clavos

    Or, we could implement the FairTax.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Don’t count on that, Clav. True reforms are beyond the scope of this administration.

  • Cannonshop

    #5 True reform would overturn too many applecarts and dump too many rice-bowls amongst our Federal Masters. It is, I suspect, beyond the scope of ANY administration we could concievably actually get elected, and likely wouldn’t last past the end of any administration we elected to carry it out.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Joanne –

    I truly wish that you and the rest of the conservatives would take a look at historical tax rates and see how low our tax rate really is compared to tax rates of the past.

    AND if you’ll look, every one of our most serious recessions (and the Depression) have been AFTER a period of low tax rates. Every single one.

    One of the libertarian arguments against charging a higher tax rate is “The top 1% of income earners paid 25% of the total income tax revenue.”

    Yet the same 1% that pays that 25% of the tax revenue own 42.7% of the nation’s financial wealth and 49% of the nation’s investments.

    We all know who Warren Buffet is…and here’s what he said about taxes to a political fundraising group: “The 400 of us [here] pay a lower part of our income in taxes than our receptionists do, or our cleaning ladies, for that matter. If you’re in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”

    And when it comes to corporations, check this out: “Big Oil giant Exxon Mobil, which last year reported a record $45.2 billion profit, paid the most taxes of any corporation, but none of it went to the IRS.”

    That’s right, Joanne – YOU paid more taxes to the IRS than Exxon Mobil did…never mind that they use more of the taxpayer-funded infrastructure in one day than you or I will in our lives.

    Yeah, Joanne – it’s REAL patriotic to protect the rich and the corporations…as long as you ignore the facts, that is.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Joanne, I’ll comment elsewhere…. Definitely, not here.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    More Americans, every year, get refunds than owe tax on April 15.

    And virtually every taxpayer paid less in 2009 — their taxes were cut via rebates and tax breaks amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. Not just the working poor you may like to pretend “don’t pay their share.” More than 95% of all taxpayers paid less.

    And right-wingers cling pitifully to their quite meaningless factoid about those 47% of Americans freeloading off the rest of us.

    The households in the exact middle 20% of incomes [about $35,000 to $52,000] average about 3% in federal income tax [some pay none, some pay a bit more than 3%]. But they pay 9.5% in payroll taxes. And that’s not including state taxes, federal excise taxes — and the need to pay all their housing, health and other expenses on 35-52 thousand a year.

    Rightists often like to pretend that they have an optimistic, happy view of the world. But on issues like this, they can seem pointlessly cynical, bitter, paranoid, and removed from reality.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    And, Joanne, I’ll dial back the polemics a moment and ask a direct question: do you really believe your company will go out of business because of the health bill? Have you checked what the requirements will be, and the costs, and how much of a subsidy your company will be entitled to in order to offer health care? An important part of the legislation is tax breaks to incentivize small business to offer care.

    Or were you simply making another unsupported allegation?

  • http://joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    Nope, handy. It’s a conversation we have had with our accountant and insurance guy. Because if and when the health insurance mandate comes into play, we will NOT be able to afford it. The results are this: downsize to under 50 employees or work for nothing. Because we will have health insurance and nothing else – not even a salary. As far as the insurance guy is concerned, there is NO tax incentive for our business. The tax breaks might help the uber-large businesses and it might help the teeny tiny ones, but it’s not going to help us.

  • Cannonshop

    #7 That might (the thing about Exxon Mobil) be a side-effect, Glenn, of letting Chuck Rangel write tax law (alongside 435 other people who don’t know how to read the laws they vote on.)

    With eighteen thousand pages (nine point type) of U.S. tax code, it’s not a surprise that a multibillion dollar company with a staff of thousands of accountants and lawyers MIGHT be able to find all the gaps and loopholes in such a complex system, or that, in collusion with other corporations (like, say, the insurance industry) get special exemptions written in? pretty obvious, Glenn, how this works.

    none of which makes it any more right that people on the edge get pulled into paying more to cover the short-fall caused by a ‘progressive’ tax that punishes PEOPLE for working harder, while rewarding those at the top and bottom of the scale.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Joanne, do your employees make enough to buy their own health coverage? And if not, do you think that’s OK?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Over fifty employees is a damn good size business, Joanne. And unless it’s a labor-intensive business, you guys can’t be doing too bad. There’s got to be a way for you guys to cut the corners and still make it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    C-shop –

    #7 That might (the thing about Exxon Mobil) be a side-effect, Glenn, of letting Chuck Rangel write tax law (alongside 435 other people who don’t know how to read the laws they vote on.)

    Oh, so Exxon-Mobil not paying any taxes AT ALL was merely an ACCIDENT????????? And if you’ll recall, Charlie Rangel did NOT write and pass the huge tax cuts during the early Bush administration. When, oh WHEN will conservatives ever learn to admit it when something’s THEIR fault?????

    And you paid NO attention to the facts I presented that:

    – taxes are already quite LOW compared to most tax rates of our past.

    – Even Warren Buffet pointed out how it’s wrong that the rich pay a lower rate in taxes than low-level workers.

    – The top 1% who own 42.7% of the nation’s wealth and 49% of the nation’s investments pay only 25% of the tax revenue.

    It’s easy to see why you ignored these – you could come up with a truly lame excuse for Exxon-Mobil (it’s just an accident since Congressmen don’t know how to read!), but these are even more outrageous.

    Given your excuse to let Exxon-Mobil off the hook, I wonder what kind of excuses you’ll come up with for the rest….

  • Cannonshop

    #15 No, Glenn, it’s not an accident-it’s the natural outcome when you have a tax system DESIGNED to be too complicated to understand, much less enforce, voted on by people who don’t read the bills they vote on and written with deliberate loopholes bought with contributions to Party outfits like the RNC and DNC, and justified, always justified, with claims that amount to using the tax-system to engineer social or societal conditions, including tidbits like “Too big to fail” and “Economic Stimulus” on the right, and “Social Justice” or “Green Economy” on the left.

    The end result is that outfits with enough resources can avoid paying ANY tax-because they can afford the staff to manipulate the tax-code, and it HAS the levers for manipulation.

    If I could afford a staff of tax-accountants and tax-lawyers, I could also avoid paying taxes. The problem comes down to exemptions, and how those exemptions are designed, and who writes them in.

    A solution would be to gut the existing system down to a fixed percentage that EVERYONE pays, regardless, without goofy exemptions. One set of rules for everyone, a set that is enforceable and anybody can comply with regardless of their education level, assuming they can read and do grade-school math.

    we don’t have that kind of system, we have a system that is DESIGNED to allow this, and not to raise revenue.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Too complicated? Then why have I been able to do my own taxes almost every year since 1981? BTW, this includes 1040EZ, 1040A, and the 1040 Long and Hideous Form…and I’ve found that if you’ve got so much in the way of deductions, credits, and loopholes that it’s too complicated for you to figure out, then you’re OBVIOUSLY making enough money to fork over a couple grand for an accountant.

    NO, C-shop – taxes are NOT ‘too complicated’…except for those whose reading comprehension skills are too low, or for those who look at a stack of papers and throw their hands up in frustration without even TRYING to get the job done.

    “Designed to be too complicated to understand.” That’s a load of crap. That’s not a reason – that’s an EXCUSE. Tell your excuses to someone who’ll buy them…because if I can run a small business and go through a whole ream of printer paper to do the taxes, so can you, and so can the great majority of people who think they can’t.

    And you STILL paid NO attention to the facts I presented that:

    – taxes are already quite LOW compared to most tax rates of our past.

    – Even Warren Buffet pointed out how it’s wrong that the rich pay a lower rate in taxes than low-level workers.

    – The top 1% who own 42.7% of the nation’s wealth and 49% of the nation’s investments pay only 25% of the tax revenue.

    It’s easy to see why you ignored these – you could come up with a truly lame excuse for Exxon-Mobil (it’s just an accident since Congressmen don’t know how to read!), but these are even more outrageous.

    Given your excuse to let Exxon-Mobil off the hook, I wonder what kind of excuses you’ll come up with for the rest….

  • Cannonshop

    Eighteen thousand pages of tax-code, Glenn. What we do with a 1040(and whatever schedule you’re using with it) isn’t even a major percentage.

    As for exxon, I”m not ‘Excusing’ them-fact is, you’re upset about a Symptom, I’m upset (and the original author’s apparent position is the same as mine here) about the Disease, Glenn.

    Excuse me, Obamacare passed, so it’s now TWENTY thousand pages of Tax law.

    Most of which, like the rest of the iceberg, you and I don’t see on a daily basis, but the presence of which allows corps to pull the kind of stunt Exxon-Mobile is pulling in your example.

    (also allows guys like warren Buffett to avoid paying taxes and make statements like his claim about today being ‘less’ taxed than in the past… for him, it’s probably true-he can afford the army of accountants necessary to assure it. for you and me and Joanne? not so much.)

    Your third point is class-envy. get over it.

    Everyone should pay the same percentage, Glenn, no exceptions, no credits, no exemptions. the SAME. you could dump about nineteen thousand nine hundered and ninety pages of U.S. Tax Code that way, people (including me) would still bitch, but there wouldn’t BE any discussion about how the rich pay less than everyone else, because everyone would be paying THE SAME PERCENTAGE.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Oh yeah?

    Then by YOUR ‘logic’, America’s ENTIRE legal jurisprudence system is designed to be incomprehensible to Joe Everyman.

    And you know what? It IS…because Joe Everyman is NOT expected to know the 95% of the legal niceties, the finer points of law, the tens of thousands of precedents on which our modern legal system is based.

    That’s why there are lawyers.

    And as you pointed out yourself:

    What we do with a 1040(and whatever schedule you’re using with it) isn’t even a major percentage.

    That’s absolutely right – and just like our legal system (and our Codes of Federal Regulations, and the regulatory systems of EVERY state AND county AND municipality AND territory AND profession in all that is America) is too much for any ONE person to understand.

    It’s all just DESIGNED to be too complicated, huh? Must’ve been a vast left-wing conspiracy that did it, too, huh?

    What I want is NOT “class-envy” – if you’ve read anything I’ve ever written about taxes, you’d KNOW that I support higher taxes on myself! Why? Because I KNOW that our taxes are actually quite low considering what we’ve paid in the past, and I KNOW that the great majority of our taxes goes directly to infrastructure that benefits ALL OF US.

    BTW – your ‘flat tax’ argument isn’t good either, for two reasons. One, a multimillionaire can much more easily afford to be subject to a 30% tax than can someone supporting a family on $40K a year.

    And two, ever hear of the ‘Greatest Generation’? When America’s debt was even worse than it is now following WWII, America’s richest paid a 91% top marginal tax rate. NINETY-ONE PERCENT…and this was through the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. JFK cut it to seventy-odd percent, and by the time Carter was president, it was lowered to sixty-odd percent.

    And did all this bankrupt America?

    DID ALL THIS BANKRUPT AMERICA?

    DID ALL THIS BANKRUPT AMERICA?

    No. In fact, during this period of 60-plus percent tax rates for the wealthy, we had NO recessions that compared with the Great Depression, the 82-82 Recession, and the Great Recession…each of which came after Republican administration that slashed the top marginal tax rate to 35% (and before the Great Depression, they slashed it to 25%)..

    This is reality, C-shop. This is history. And all your conservative rhetoric means NOTHING when you honestly consider the facts.

  • John Wilson

    The flat tax will never come about because it is opposed by the rich people and corporations that control policy.

    A flat tax would shift tax burden to corporations, which have a track record of controlling tax policy and shifting tax burden to mere citizens. For example, in the Eisenhower era corps paid 75% of taxes and individuals 25%, but by adroit management of government corps have been able to reverse that burden. In addition to direct and indirect subsidies (welfare) estimated at $200billion/year by the House Senate Joint Tax Committee, corps are allowed extraordinary deductions that no individual can make.

    They call the shots and they get what they want.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    It’s mostly conservatives pushing the Flat Tax, John, so I don’t know if your argument holds water.

  • Cannonshop

    #19 Glenn, Taxes are different from LAWS, and in the case of OUR tax system, it employs courts that aren’t restricted by such things as the right of Habeas Corpus.

    Taxes are there, (allegedly) to fulfill a single mission-raise money for the operation of government. That’s it. that’s a simple thing. They aren’t there to elect winners or losers in the economic system, nor to reward or punish people-they exist to raise funds.

    Laws exist to regulate and control, taxes are there to raise money.

    What part of this idea don’t you grasp? They aren’t the same.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    What part of obeying laws don’t you get? ALL of it – taxes, traffic laws, safety regulations, environmental rules – ALL of it are ‘simply’ legalese…tens of thousands – nay, HUNDREDS of thousands of pages of legalese.

    I DO understand your differentiation between laws and taxes…but that’s like differentiation between vehicles and trucks – all trucks are vehicles, but not all vehicles are trucks. Likewise, all tax laws are LAWS, but not all laws are tax laws.

    It’s all just legalese…and it’s not as intimidating as you make it out to be.

    I refuse to throw up my hands in frustration saying “It’s too complicated!”…and I refuse to give others that same excuse.

  • Cannonshop

    #23 Glenn, I think we’re talking past one another here. I’m saying “That’s how they did it”, you’re assuming I’m excusing the action.

    I also suspect we’re not on the same page in a fundamental philosophical level here-I want the Law to do what it says it is supposed to do, you apparently just want another law to cover the mistakes of the first one.

    Tax law is supposed to raise revenue to run the government and pay its bills-that’s what it is supposed to do, and given our deficits and assuming your position that the spending isn’t the problem, then it’s not doing what it is supposed to do. I consider this to be a problem, you apparently do not.

    Where I see too many exemptions and even conflicting directives, you just want to raise the rates to cover the shortfall caused by these exemptions and conflicting directives. If I’m wrong about any of this, please explain how.

    IMNSHO, an annual (or quarterly) tax form should take about five to fifteen minutes to fill out, without aid of a computer, in ink, and any jackass with a sixth grade education should be able to do so.

    Because we’ve got about a hundered million or so jackasses with a high-school diploma whose actual education level is about sixth grade (being generous here), including executives and politicians.

    It should fit on a post-card, and it should be predictable from one year to the next. (Salary=x, tax is z (x times y%), you owe z dollars to Uncle Sam. No excuses, exceptions, exemptions, or hidey-holes overseas.)

    I don’t think savings accounts should be taxed, nor health-insurance participation, or Healthcare Coops, or pensions…ANY pensions, but especially not government-provided pensions like Social Security or Medicare benefits. Capital gains, interest income from investments, those are all INCOME, not some special catagory of income that gets a higher rate, just the same standard rate as you get taxed on hourly labour. Gambling losses should not be deductable, even if they’re losses by a professional gambler. You made X, you pay Y.

    done right, it’s simpler, and nearly impossible to cheat, and as we’ve seen with Chuck Rangel, nearly impossible to screw up.

    (the alternative to the argument that it’s too complex, Glenn, is that we have a couple criminals in high places-a congressman who sits on the ways-and-means committee, and a Secretary of the Treasury. It’s either too complicated, or they are crooks who’re getting away with it. take your pick.)

  • Druxxx

    The problem with government is how much?
    What is enough?
    What is too much?

    It would seem to me to be obvious that the bigger the government, the more the chances of waste.

    People are not so upset about the taking of taxes. They are upset about the ways the govenment spends those taxes.
    If the government truely needs all the money it spends, I would have no problem with them taking more.
    But I think we all know the government could get by with much less if we forced them to do so.
    We all know we need roads, bridges, schools, sewers, powerlines.
    Its government spending that only helps small groups, and not the masses that most of us are suspect about.

    It could take years of debate to figure out the perfect way to collect taxes so we all pay our fair share.
    I think in the mean time we should focus on reducing spending to a point where the country does not go bankrupt.

  • http://yoursuccesshere.info/joinvemma/ Ann P

    Is that an accurate figure, that 50% of Americans don’t have to pay income taxes? If that is true, then I am assuming that means that 50% of Americans don’t earn enough money to have to pay taxes?? Am I interpreting this right?

    Glad you survived tax day. This is the first year I didn’t survive it. Filed and extension and I’ll deal with it this summer.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/elvira-black Elvira Black

    Nice piece; that’s all I have to say.

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