Thursday, March 17, 2011


My tax appointment with H & R Block is looming, and so I can’t help but be reminded of all that I find abhorrent in our tax code. I have to piece together my income as it is, and then I have to face the fact that the government simply doesn’t give a damn about how responsible I am with my earnings. Apparently I don’t deserve many tax breaks because I earn too much for the Earned Income Credit and too little for tax-deferred benefits.

”Life isn’t fair” you say. Fine, but I consider it my civic duty, in fact the very reason for my existence, to make sure that I do my best to make it more fair, more just, more equal. Please allow me to offer modest suggestions for revising basic tax code.

  • We like to extol the virtue that “charity begins at home,” but you’d be hard-pressed to find that reflected in our tax laws. Apparently my definition of “dependent” is not the same as that of those who wrote that part of the code. I contribute to the welfare of my mother, even though she is not technically my dependent. What I give her helps keep the electricity on and the telephone connected (plus, I call her every Sunday on my own dime). Why don’t I get a break for the money I contribute to her physical welfare? People should be allowed to deduct financial contributions to family members provided they can prove that those dollars were applied to necessities like rent, utilities, medical bills and the like. The relative you help should not have to live under the same roof as you.
  • Interest income should not be taxed for annual accumulated interest under $2,000. Don’t even get me started on how the Federal Reserve Chairman has essentially rendered savings accounts and certificates of deposit virtually worthless since lowering the interest rate to near zero. When the Internal Revenue Service then applies taxation to that interest, it really is just about zero. Meanwhile, we are encouraged to borrow more, increasing our personal debt. I am sick and tired of being punished for being fiscally responsible.
  • Crank up luxury taxes, and institute some new ones. I would be all for taxes on junk foods, soda pop, pornography, and other items that arguably do not contribute to our collective welfare (or actively compromise our health and social well-being). Cities should consider instituting a “parking tax” to encourage ridership on public transit and curb the need for more parking structures. Taxes can be a major influence on human behavior, and we should take advantage of that fact in a more creative fashion.
  • Taxes on “immoral” and self-destructive indulgences should be balanced with tax breaks for constructive purchases such as bicycles, memberships in health clubs, enrollment in cooking classes and other non-credit educational courses.

The largest problem, from my viewpoint, is still the legal evasion of taxation by corporations and irresponsibly wealthy individuals. I often irritate some of my more affluent friends with the latter assertion, but I truly believe that those who work hard and elevate themselves to financial success are in the minority these days. The individuals I am talking about are “trust fund babies” and others who are living chiefly on inherited wealth, and arguably doing little to contribute to the welfare of society as a whole. Unfortunately, they wield tremendous power in all the “right” places, to insure that they will continue to prosper at the highest financial pinnacles.

One man’s (or woman’s) rant is unlikely to do anything but evoke sympathy or ire, so how do we take matters into our own hands? How do we engage constructively to effect change? Even collective movements seem to quickly get labeled and become ineffective. The “Tea Party” will be dying shortly, I assure you.

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