Taxation without representation was the slogan that changed the world in the 18th century. But as humorist Gerald Barzan famously quipped, “Taxation with representation ain’t so hot either.”
Funny, sure, but there’s not much to laugh about on this April 15th. Tax filing day is a dreaded goal for many, a missed deadline for many others.
At this hour, dining room tables are covered with pieces of paper bearing incomprehensible instructions, required by a bilious tax code foisted on us by bureaucrats who make a living spending other people’s money.
Nothing funny there, unless one means “funny” in the sense of being off or out of kilter, slightly out of whack maybe.
In self defense, many people employ accountants, fearing errors or the IRA’s wrath without CPAs’ help. For me it’s also because of my short attention span and my occasional inability to follow instructions. Then there’s the rage produced by hard facts about our federal tax situation.
Floridians are not the hardest hit Americans when it comes to how many days we have to work every year just to pay our taxes. It’s called “Tax Freedom Day,” usually in March or April.
Last year Florida was 31st among the states in that regard, according to the Tax Foundation. Working Floridians had to labor 95 days to pay their taxes. The dubious title of number one in that contest was Connecticut, where 117 days of work were required to cover all taxes. New Jersey was second, New York third, Maryland fourth, Washington state fifth.
Alaska has the best workday-tax ratio, followed by Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Still, it’s onerous for Floridians to have to work 95 days of each year to pay taxes. The national average is 110 days working to pay federal, state and local taxes, according to the Tax Foundation.
It also reports that Tax Freedom Day does not count the deficits, even though they eventually must be financed. What? You’re still not annoyed? How about this, also from www.taxfoundation.org: “Since 1948, when Tax Freedom Day was first calculated, the difference between what governments are spending and what they’re collecting has never been as great as during 2009 and 2010.
“If Americans were required to pay for all government spending (in 2010) including the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit, they would be working until May 17 before they had earned enough to pay their taxes — an additional 38 days of work.”
That was for last year. The budget deficit is higher now. So is my blood pressure.
The Tax Policy Center reports that among all the American people who file income tax returns, about half will not have to pay any federal income tax this year.
So the system is broken. We get that. But how can we fix it? Flat tax? Fair tax? Maybe. Someday. Meantime, how about these two simple actions:
• Eliminate withholding. Make all annual federal taxes payable April 15. Write the check.
• Schedule federal elections — congressional and presidential — for April 16. Vote your wallet.
Oh, also get a good CPA. In the words of popular business columnist and speaker Harvey Mackay, “Day in and day out, your tax accountant can make or lose you more money than any single person in your life, with the possible exception of your kids.”
- - -
Don Farmer is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and CNN news anchor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.