Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rendering Unto Caesar

Yesterday was April 18th, the day on which - because the 15th fell on a Friday - we Americans had to cough up our share of the dollars Uncle Sam uses for all the things he does. You have no doubt seen many tax-related memes and cartoons ...

... and have no doubt bitterly complained about the Internal Revenue Service, government spending, and taxes in general. As the old joke goes, if the Founders thought taxation without representation was bad, they should see it with representation.

Which brings me, however circuitously, to my point: while we all hate the IRS and its mind-numbingly complicated forms and inability to provide basic advice and service to taxpaying citizens*, it's the representation part that we ought to be criticizing. After all, the IRS - intrusive and heavy handed though it is - is only executing the horrifically complex tax code written by the reprehensives you and I elected. 

As I've written here before, I don't object in principle to paying taxes because I recognize that taxes provide the money our government needs to operate. I may (and frequently do) object to what those taxes are being spent on (services of any kind for people in the country illegally, for one), but I understand that I have an obligation as a citizen to cough up my share. My biggest issue is the overall unfairness of the system.

Of course fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If you are wealthy, fairness means that you don't pay any more proportionally than a person of lesser means; if you are a business owner, fairness means that your tax burden limits your profits as little as possible; if you are an ordinary member of the dwindling middle class, it means that you pay a fair share compared to others and not a cent more; and if you're a poor person, it means that the Big Bad Government either doesn't tax you at all or actually pays you something.

Most of the "tax dodges" many of us complain about are perfectly legal, which doesn't make them fair other than to those who were able to get them enshrined in law. If you have the means to hire good tax lawyers and purchase the right legislators, you can get the law written to your advantage ... fair to you, that is ... less so to the rest of us, who have to make up the difference.

The situation isn't going to change, however much the 99% might wish it so. The tax code is written by and for those who have the means to adapt it to their needs. The tax code is mind-bendingly complicated and will remain so, because an insanely complex code supports a huge industry of tax preparers, tax consultants, tax attorneys, and tax software developers. And it will remain so as long as we use taxation as a vehicle for social engineering, business development, and political punishment rather than as a vehicle for bringing in funds to operate the government.

It's not fair and will never be fair ... the best we can do is try to expose the most egregious abuses of the system, whether they are legal or illegal, and hope that some tiny, incremental changes might be made.

Rub that lamp, and ask the genie for tax code reform. It's the only thing that will work ... unless, of course, the genie has already been suborned by someone with deeper pockets.

Have a good day.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* You can blame that part on Congressional conservatives who hate the IRS and believe that slashing its budget will punish it for its misdeeds. Where I come from, we call this "cutting off one's nose to spite one's face."


John A Hill said...

It might be weird, but I wish I HAD to pay more!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I enjoyed the screw sign. A Phillips head, even better.

Form 1040 and the various others is in the realm of higher math for me. Thank heavens for those on-line tax programs! They at least keep me from feeling dumb and afraid that I made a mistake and the I.R.S. will shake me like a piggy bank!

Mike said...

Our file or die window has been extended several weeks because of our December flooding.

allenwoodhaven said...

Taxes.....a necessary evil, and as evils go, not that bad a one!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Better tax income than a sales tax on food. We got both here.

Bilbo said...

Elvis - a sales tax on food (as opposed to meals bought in restaurants) is completely unconscionable. It is the most unfair and unjust of taxes.