Skip to comments.An Uncivil Income Tax System
Posted on 04/05/2012 5:44:47 AM PDT by Kaslin
Each year in the United States, an estimated 6.1 billion hours are spent complying with the federal tax code. I'm pretty sure at least half of those hours are spent by me.
With less than two weeks remaining before this year's tax returns are due, I've barely made a dent in my stack of forms, receipts, and instructions. Each year the prospect of doing my taxes looms more daunting and dismal than the year before. Each year I wonder where I'll find the time, never mind the patience, to get it done. Each year's tax ordeal seems to require more mental energy, more double-checking of math, more scouring of check registers and credit-card statements and brokerage records. And yet when I finally hit that "Send" button, I'm less certain than ever that I haven't inadvertently screwed something up. And if that's true for someone like me, whose financial arrangements are not especially abstruse, how much more miserable tax season must be for taxpayers whose circumstances are more elaborate.
Some people claim they file their tax returns cheerfully. They approvingly quote Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s dictum that "taxes are what we pay for civilized society." I quote instead that eminent commentator Dave Barry: "It's income-tax time again, Americans: time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil and stab yourself in the aorta."
Not surprisingly, the Internal Revenue Service embraces Holmes's words. They are chiseled over the entrance to the IRS headquarters in Washington, DC. Yet I doubt whether Holmes, who retired from the Supreme Court in 1932, would think there was anything civilized about what the federal tax system has turned into, or the burdens, confusions, and complexity it imposes on honest taxpayers.
When Holmes first expressed that sentiment about taxes and civilization in a 1904 speech, the federal income tax didn't even exist. That had changed by 1927, when Holmes's phrase appears in one of his dissenting opinions. But even then, all of federal tax law -- not just the Sixteenth Amendment and Revenue Act of 1913, but the entire corpus of related regulations, rulings, and forms -- took up fewer than 500 pages. Today, the Standard Federal Tax Reporter runs to 73,608 pages in 25 volumes, and consumes nine feet of shelf space.
Is it any wonder, then, that the paperwork, record-keeping, calculations, form-preparation, and filing procedures required to pay federal taxes have become one of the great soul-crushing time sinks in American life? Or that the National Taxpayer Advocate (the independent ombudsman within the IRS) declared flatly last year that "the most serious problem facing taxpayers and the IRS is the complexity of the Internal Revenue Code"? Or that the Tax Foundation concluded in 2005 that income-tax compliance costs amounted to a stunning $265.1 billion -- in effect, "a 22-cent surcharge for every dollar the income tax system collects"?
By now the great majority of individual tax filers has decided that putting together their tax returns without paying for help isn't feasible. According to a 2011 MarketTools study, only 12 percent of US taxpayers still complete their federal income taxes without hiring an accountant, visiting a tax-preparation firm such as H&R Block, or buying tax-preparation software. I gave up trying to prepare my returns by hand years ago; like tens of millions of other Americans, I now put my fate in the hands of TurboTax.
All of which is terrific for the tax-preparation industry, and perhaps April is anything but the cruelest month for those who make their living as a CPA or own stock in Intuit (which makes TurboTax). For the nation as a whole, however, the labyrinthine tortures of our tax system have serious social consequences.
Our tax code's lack of clarity -- and the flood of special-interest giveaways and preferences that make it so cumbersome -- has turned innumerable taxpayers into cynics. Americans conclude that the whole setup is rigged, and that only a sucker doesn't bend the rules in order to pay less or finagle a bigger refund. How many people who wouldn't think of ripping off a local charity or business don't hesitate to cheat on their taxes? In such an environment, it isn't only compliance rates that suffer. Some of the civic virtue so important to a healthy society is lost as well. Jimmy Carter was right in 1976 when he called the US income tax "a disgrace to the human race." Thirty-six years later, it's more disgraceful -- and maddening -- than ever.
I owe taxes so I will wait until the 11th hour to mail it in...because I’m one of those people that the IRS would take everything I, and my great-great-great-great grandkids, own while at the same time ignoring the millions owed by the elite in this country.
What pisses me off are those people who don’t pay their taxes for years and years and years, then some law or tax firm decides they’ll help you finally pay less than HALF of that to the IRS (seen the commercials?)...which means you and I are forced to pay the missing pieces.
I don’t pay taxes; I get a refund.
You mean that you let the FedGov use a chunk of your money interest free for most of the year. Clever you...
The primary goal of the US tax code is not to raise revenue; it is rather to influence personal behavior and empower government to direct and control numerous financial decisions that used to be made by individuals.
It was in Carter’s administration when we began to believe there was a new method in the madness. That was when the windfall profits tax was introduced.
“They” have intentionally made tax preparation more complex and confusing in order to take it out of the individual’s hands and put it into other hands for an additional price. That makes us dependent on someone/something else and pretty well ignorant. Not that wading through the tax books particularly enlightens one.
We no longer have control in many other areas as well.
Beat me to it. :)
You mean that you let the FedGov use a chunk of your money interest free for most of the year....I, myself, try to figure out what I’ll have to pay for the year and put it in savings for the few cents I’ll make in interest and send the remainder in on the following April 15th.
I've got a tax preparer who does the paper work for me but we send a few pages along with the check too!
That's okay because General M!gumbu of Nigeria is about to come through for me.
Republican Candidates could improve their Primary vote count by campaigning with the following idea:
Due to the FHA, Fannie and Freddie Bankruptcies of September, 2008, American home owners lost 30 % of the value of their homes. That is a 30 % cut in just one month. Home values are still down 30 %.
Thus, let us cut the total compensation to all elected Federal politicians, and their staffs by 30 %, and an additional 10 % cut to elected Federal politicians each year until Federal Spending is LESS THAN the average of the previous 2 years of Federal income.
BTW, since slightly less than half of the US House, and 2/3 of the US Senate are Millionaires, it will be a great opportunity for Congress to lead by example that EVERYONE should give up their fair share of the American Dream.
What better way can there be to demonstrate that Federal politicians are on the same page as the voters?
It sure does make the Fair Tax look better and better, doesn’t it?
The whole current system is about POWER - there is so much POWER and MONEY at stake for the politicians and lobbyists, Rush says the Fair tax won’t happen with the current crowd in DC, and Boortz says it won’t happen until the people demand it.
IT IS TIME TO DEMAND IT!!!!!
Now that people are finally waking up and paying attention, it is time to repeal the abomination of the 16th amendment, and return to liberty.
9-9-9 as a transition to the Fair Tax would get us back on the path to freedom.
9-9-9 The Movie - Slaying the Tax Monster
I forgot to mention the “movie” is only about five minutes long, and is a good laugh at the joke being played on us.
You make an error in assuming the IRS acts in the interest of raising revenue. They do not. The IRS exists for the purpose of social control. Think of how much of your personal information must be submitted to this agency of the government so that what you owe can be determined. They know who you work for, what you do at your job, how many hours you work, how much overtime you work, how many sick days you take, how much you spend in insurance and where you are insured, where you invest your retirement funds and where, They know where you live, how you get to work, how much your house is worth, what you pay in local and state taxes, and a myriad of other information that is gathered on you simply so that you can pay "your share" of the federal budget.
It's about control Not revenue