Death and Taxes

10 Mar

So last weekend, I finally filed my income taxes for the year. Actually, I had software do it with prompting, because the American Tax Code runs to 20k pages; even the IRS doesn’t hold itself accountable to its own advice! There’s got to be an easier way.

Of course, no one voted for this system. Like many government systems, this developed over time, often with the best of intentions (and sometimes the worst), and has been exploited. Now there’s a whole industry built up around this incomprehensible system. Our elected representatives have expanded the power of the Internal Revenue Service, because no other branch of the government is as good at distributing money or collecting it. Money for the budget has to come from somewhere (nihil ex nihilo), so the IRS has gotten really good at finding it.

Just like commandments in the Bible, most of the 20k pages of the tax code don’t apply to you. After all, you don’t run a sugar plant in Florida, or run a hazardous waste dump in New Mexico, or work for a church. You might live on a reservation, get combat pay, or have your property damaged in a forest fire… but you are not me. There are exceptions for lots of different kinds of jobs. For example, if you’re a priest, you may get a salary from your congregation, but that salary is dependent on raising X amount of dollars per month. That’s not a consistent income and a non-profit organization. So… the rules are VERY different than me.

Ever since we had to change the constitution to allow it in 1913, people have been trying to find a way around paying it. In America, the oldest profession has been smuggling–getting around paying import taxes. We wrote “no income tax” into the constitution because of that. But that couldn’t last forever. Even then, government’s siren song of “we need to spend more money” requires you to get it from someone else. Even for the first fifty years, people were tweaking their taxes to get around the law; payroll withholding started in WWII to get the money before you could lie about it. The first major use of computers by the federal government was in 1960 to figure out who was trying to screw the system.

Now that’s an exaggeration. There was an automated system to count the census starting in 1890, and the first computers were used to hack enemy codes during WWII, but it IS the oldest software system still in use today.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You could institute the flat tax, as they do in Estonia, which makes it much easier to calculate your income tax, pay LESS, actually get MORE money to the government than a graduated income tax, and stimulates your economy. Or you could just do a national sales tax and repeal the income tax. Things would cost more, but you’d have more money to spend, and you wouldn’t be taxes on things you don’t buy. So rich people would naturally pay more in taxes, but fairly, because they buy more than poor people.

But if you’re saying, “what about my refund?!” (sigh) It’s a “refund,” you get money back from the government you already paid. I paid over $8000 in taxes this year and only got $300 back… and half of that went to paying someone to file my taxes. But because I don’t actually write a check for that eight grand, it’s doesn’t exist in most people’s mind. “Whoo! Free money!” (groan) However, if you really like your refund, there’s a fair tax proposal which still allows for it, simplifies the tax code to a hundred pages, and still gives a check to those under a certain income.

However, because voters hate drastic change (Americans will vote for a dead incumbent for public office), and there’s a whole industry and the IRS which depends on the current system, it ain’t changing any time soon. Can we get enough “give-a-damn” to change it? Is there another way to fix our tax system? Have you got a better way to cheat your taxes? Let me know in the comments below!

Then, after you’ve written that, why not pick up one of my books! Or if you had to write a giant check to the government and can’t afford $1.99, download one of my free stories. You’ll be glad you did. 😉

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