It’s that time of year again, taxes. The one time of year that car commercials are not number one on the television. H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt commercials dominate the air.
Because taxes are so difficult everyone takes their hard-earned money to pay someone else to tell them what they really owe.
Someone wants MY money and they make me pay someone to figure out how much they want. And God help me if I’m wrong. What kind of system is this?
I spent yesterday doing taxes on-line for my kids. Three different returns. It’s free, if you want to fill in every little detail yourself. If not, then it’s $29. And wait…. Another $40 if you want to file your State tax. $70 each. One of the returns owed $21 and another had a $4 refund and I paid $70 and spent an afternoon for that?
It gets worse. I don’t even attempt to do my own taxes. With owning a home and my wife’s business there is no way. I still spend an afternoon putting information together for the accountant and then pay him a few hundred dollars to tell me how large a check to write the government.
Just imagine if you went to a restaurant for a meal. After the meal you were given forms to calculate the cost of the food, portion of the waiters, cooks and busboy’s time and salaries, portion of overhead for rent and utilities, portion of the cost of other staff, portion of the cost of advertising and on and on to calculate how much you will pay for your meal. And if you get it wrong they will have you arrested. Do you think you would ever go back to that restaurant? I think not.
That is almost how ridicules taxes are. The government has the big super computers, let them figure out how much I owe. WAIT! I don’t want that because I’m sure their calculations would be all of it.
So what’s the answer?
How about a consumption tax? It’s just like sales tax. I may not like to pay sales tax but I find out right away when I buy something how much it is, pay it to the store and I’m done. No surprises, no forms and no headaches. We could do the same thing for the federal government. I’m not sure what all the IRS agents would do or the employees at H&R Block but it would save individuals and the government a fortune. The government would get their money quicker, businesses would save money computing payroll taxes and everyone would be happy. You would exempt essentials like food, prescriptions, utilities etc. to protect lower-income individuals. All that money and time for the tax payers and the government, processing taxes would go back into the economy.
It’s so simple. The problem is that governments pride themselves on bureaucracy. The more difficult it is, the less everyone understands it so they just fall in line. It’s job security for the government creating giant bureaucracy s that no one understands. The current federal tax code is 74,608 pages long. With a consumption tax it could be less that 50.
So will it ever happen? There are a few voices in government supporting it. Most politicians preach “we need tax reform”. In most cases that means adding pages to the existing system. It will never happen until the people, US demand it. That will never happen in a big enough way to get their attention. Government will continue talking about change while working diligently to maintain the status quo and us as individuals will fall in line, wasting money filling out forms and writing checks.
So if you will excuse me, I need to go find my 1099s W-2s and all the other forms so I can pay someone to tell me how much I owe.