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Sic Semper Tyrannis!

I just finished paying our taxes.  It never fails to amaze me how much our “fair share” comes to every year.  Unsurprisingly, my politics take a decided anti-tax, small government turn (OK, it’s not that big a turn) after I fill out those forms.

But, DaddyBear, the government needs that money to pay for the things it provides to you!

No, it doesn’t.  The only things the government provides to me that I really care about are national defense and a teeny pinch of public safety (some law enforcement, air traffic control, that sort of thing).  The rest is, in my humble taxpayer’s opinion, cruft that has glommed onto the taxpayer’s pocketbook over the years.

  • Public Schools – Close ’em.  Reopen as private schools.  Don’t want to pay for your kids to be educated?  Then do it yourself and quit asking the rest of us to do it for you.  And don’t give me that “I pay for schools because I don’t want stupid people” crap.  Public schools don’t prevent people from being stupid.  Heck, we’re lucky if they prevent people from just being ignorant.  Stupidity is both hereditary and learned behavior, and it cannot be cured.  Quit wasting time and money trying to educate the portion of the school-age population that doesn’t care.
  • Law Enforcement – You know, I’ll take a nuanced approach here.  Sheriffs departments and federal marshals can stay. Maybe a few other specialists can as well, but not many, and on a case by case basis. Citizens become responsible for their own security again.  Take the money you save in not paying taxes for police and get yourself the tools and training you want to use to take care of yourself and your family.
  • Fire and EMS – Privatize them.  Either insure yourself against their use or just pay a fee to use their services.  Don’t want to pay the monthly fee to have fire coverage on your house?  Then I suggest JiffyPop and StayPuft marshmallows.  It also might cut down on frequent flyers in EMS if it hurt your pocketbook to keep calling Ambulance Driver over to take care of your boo-boo.
  • Roads – Privatize them or just quit worrying about it.  Seriously, a 4×4 with knobby tires would be cheaper than this.
  • Courts – Since we got rid of the police, the amount of criminal proceedings should go way down, so we can eliminate most courts, judges, and prosecutors.  Of course, we’ll still need courts for civil proceedings.  We do love to sue each other, don’t we?
  • Welfare – I don’t think my position on so-called “entitlement programs” is much of a secret.  Get rid of unearned benefits for those who are capable of finding work.  The world needs ditch diggers and sewer scrubbers, and I’m tired of paying child support for kids I didn’t make.  Now, ask me politely for charity, and you might just be surprised.  It’s the whole “Pay this or we shoot you and your dog” aspect that gets under my craw.
  • Prisons – I’m a big fan of Judge Roy Bean, myself.  Of course, if someone really just needs a time out from society to think about what he’s done, then I suggest tent camps, leg chains, and work crews, in either Arizona or North Dakota, take your pick.  Concrete walls and roofs are for law-abiding citizens, not convicts.
  • Finally, I reserve the right to condemn and push for the elimination of anything that seems superfluous.  This is my fantasy, so I get to make the rules and change them as I see fit.

I’m going to go grumble over a tumbler full of something strong and smoky.  I hope my mood gets better as we get further and further away from April 15.

Holiday Taxes

The news media and blogosphere are alight today because of a new 15 cent ‘fee’ that’s being assessed on every real Christmas tree sold in the United States.  The Department of Agriculture says it will use the money to pay for a commission that will promote the use of fresh trees over artificial ones.  Here at Casa de Oso, we have been using a fresh tree for several years, but have an old artificial tree up in the attic.  So I guess you could say we are agnostic on the whole “fresh versus artificial” debate.

Officials in the Ag Department don’t seem to think that adding an additional 15 cents added to the wholesale cost of a tree is going to do anything to sales, so I guess they forgot that companies tend to collect government taxes and fees, not pay them.

So what other holiday traditions could be use a little government funded booster club?

  • American Flags – Let’s be real here, kids.  A lot of people have stopped flying the flag, even on special holidays like Memorial Day or Independence Day.  Every year, thousands of miniature flags are purchased to decorate graves.  If the government could just get a few cents off of every flag sale, then a campaign could be set up to remind people that if they want to fly the flag, Walmart still sells them.
  • Pumpkins – A lot of people are buying those resin or ceramic jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween, and that’s bound to cut into business for our nation’s squash producers.  A propaganda campaign of commercials during the network news every evening during the month of October could be paid for by charging a few cents per pound for every real pumpkin sold.
  • Candy at Easter and Halloween – This is another untapped gold mine.  Millions of jelly beans, candy eggs, peanut butter filled bats, and much more are purchased every year.  A fee of just a penny per piece would fund radio ads of just the sound of JayG opening a Zagnut on Vicious Circle for the entire year.  It would be a boon for dentists, and if this works, we might not have to pass a fat tax to keep kids from eating all that junk food.
  • Turkeys – Let’s face it, tofurkey and other alternatives for Christmas and Thanksgiving are eating into the gobbler lobbies bottom line, and that’s un-American.  A fee on every bird sold could pay for pop-up ads on foodie websites reminding people that Columbus ate turkey on his way to the new world aboard the Mayflower or something.  Come on, who wants to eat ham for Christmas anyway?  It’s just not Kosher.
  • Champagne and other booze – I have it on good authority that there are actually people who have the energy on December 31 to stay up until all hours of the night, drinking large quantities of liquor and champagne, just so that they can sing a song and then drink some more.  This untapped source of government revenue could fund billboards reminding everyone to stop off for a six pack on their way home from this party.  It’s not like we tax booze in this country, right?  What’s that?  Oh we do?  Well, then we’ll call it the “Champagne Charge”.

As you can see, the government has a lot of methods for separating us with just a little more money in order to convince us to buy things we were going to buy anyway.

Update – Corrected “15%” to “15 cent”.  Thanks to Ruth for catching that!  DaddyBear reading comprehension fail!

Dear Warren

While I appreciate your candor in your recent newspaper article, in which you opined that the rich in our nation should pay more in taxes, please keep it to yourself.

You see, while I’m not super-rich by any measure, I am working my butt off to bring my household’s income to the level that President Obama says ‘rich’ starts at, $250,000 a year.  I’ve got a long way to go before that happens, but hard work will pay off over time.

As it stands now, I’m giving a lot of money to the government in both taxes I pay directly and money I give to businesses when they pass on their tax bills to me in the price of their goods and services.  I pay income tax, property tax, energy tax, sales tax, as well as taxes on many of the services that I purchase in order to maintain the level of comfortable living that I want.

I don’t think I need to pay more taxes, and while you may envision only the rates for the highest earners going up, the slippery slope theory of tax law leads me to believe that when that particular snowball gets going, my tax rates will go up and my upward mobility will slow or stop.

Mr. Buffett, if you feel you should be giving more of your income to the government, please feel free to do so.  In the mean time, please allow the rest of us to do the same if we so choose, or to do something meaningful with our money, either through investing, spending, or saving.  In other words, do something that makes you feel good and leave the rest of us alone.

Sincerely,

Daddy J. Bear

Render Unto Caesar Part 2

I hate paying taxes.  I truly hate having to do the math to figure out what my income tax burden is going to be, deciding which withholding category to put myself into, and then having a good chunk of my paycheck withheld by the IRS to pay towards my yearly debt to the government.  I absolutely loathe filling out my yearly income tax forms, and hoping that I didn’t over- or underestimate what I should have had withheld by too wide a margin.  I try to be within a couple of hundred dollars on either side.  I don’t want to write yet another fat check to Uncle Sugar on April 15, but I also don’t want to give him a nice interest free loan every year.

Last year, Junior Bear moved out and went to college on day 188 of the Julian calendar.  That’s important because he spent just barely over 50% of the year in my home.  So I planned my tax withholdings to have three dependants (Junior, Girlie, and BooBoo.  Little Bear lives with his mother full time, so she writes him off.)  I did a quick analysis of my tax position in January, and I was going to be about $200 in the black come April 15, and that money was going right into the gun savings account.

On or about April 10, I got a call from Junior Bear’s mother.  She was in her accountant’s office with Junior Bear’s tax documents and a power of attorney.  Guess what she was doing?  If you said “She’s doing Junior Bear’s taxes” you get a cookie and a gold star.  She had convinced my loving son that by filing his own taxes and sticking it to the man (me), he would more quickly become an independent student, and as a happy happenstance, I would get hosed one more time by my loving ex.  After a rather ’emotional’ discussion, she pretty much stated that she could show that Junior had spent just enough time outside of my care during those first 188 days of the year that I would not have the right to deduct him from my taxes.  She, and I quote “dared” me to file with him as a dependant, trip an audit, and see who came out the worse.  With me on speaker phone, she instructed her accountant to pull the trigger on e-filing Junior’s tax return.

I can honestly say I have never wondered why my life improved after that woman left me.

I reported this to my loving, understanding, and very red-headed Irish wife.  After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, we mutually decided that we would take this as the final kick in the pants of having to deal with ex-wife #1, bite the bullet, and just pay the taxes that were going to be due now that our number of dependants went from three to two.  I also had a very intense heart-to-heart talk with my oldest son about which parent was the one schlepping up to Indiana with groceries every month and which one was doing nothing for him but co-signing on student loans.

A couple of days before April 15, I took out the tax forms again, re-figured everything, and came up with us not getting $200 back as previously figured, but instead owing almost $1100.  Yes, I again thought back to how much better off I am without her.  I swallowed hard, wrote the check, signed the return, and sent it in.  Yes, I did the taxes by hand using paper forms.  Why spend $100+ dollars on an accountant or tax software to do a simple income tax return?

Pride goeth before the fall, a wise man once told me.   I think the classical Greek playwrights would have called this ‘hubris’.

Yesterday, I received a nice letter from the IRS.  I had apparently made two errors on my return.  First, I had miscalculated the amount of the interest on our student loans we could deduct, which is easy to do when doing the forms by hand, and probably only added a few dollars to my tax burden.  More seriously, the IRS was disallowing one of our dependants, and had slapped us with an additional $1800.00 in tax burden.

Ouch.

Today, during lunch, I jumped on the phone and called the IRS.  After an hour on hold, a lady I will call Ms. T came on the line.  After making sure that she was indeed speaking to a Mr. Daddy J. Bear of Louisville, Kentucky, we dove into my issues.

Turns out, I fat fingered the Social Security number of Girlie Bear on our tax return, and the Social Security Administration had disavowed any knowledge of such a person.  Ms. T gave me the standard “you should have proofread everything before signing anything” speech, and then corrected my error.  She then went back to the student loan interest issue.  I had written off about $1000 in interest, while the IRS only showed me as being able to write off about $400.  Hey, stress me out, caffeine me up, and hand me a stack of government manuals and forms three inches thick, and I will make an error. 

After entering the correct Social Security number in her system and figuring out how much my error changed my tax burden, she was happy to tell me that my new tax bill was $9.80, not $1800.  And to make the day even better, she told me that since I’d filed on time and paid my tax bill already, they were going to forgive that money.  My hunch is that there’s a minimum amount they want to collect because it would cost more to process the check.

Throughout the conversation, Ms. T was professional, friendly, and helpful.  I honestly expected someone a bit more combative to answer the phone.  Just goes to show you can never tell which personality you’re going to run into when dealing with the government.

Here’s what I took away from this:

  • Taxes suck
  • You gotta pay your taxes
  • There is no such thing as a simple income tax return
  • Money spent on tax software or an accountant is money well spent
  • Not everyone who works for the government is unhelpful or obnoxious
  • Taxes suck

Render Unto Caesar

Well, our 2010 tax returns are in the mail.  As usual, I did them myself.  I would have used some software or website to do them, but I refuse to pay $60 to have a machine figure my tax and file it for me when I know I owe money to the government.  If the IRS wants my money, they can deal with a paper return.

I was planning on getting a small return, adding that to my meager gun savings account, and then getting a Buy A Gun Day (BAG Day) gun.  However, my loving ex-wife and our mutual son decided it would be better to have him file his own return, so my tax planning for the year was shot right in the brainstem.  Rather than claim him anyway and trip an audit, I backed down and paid the IRS an amount that coincidentally almost equalled my entire gun savings.  I’ll have to remember this the next time he calls needing something.

The funny thing is that we will be getting a small check from the state revenue department.  Not enough to buy another gun, but probably enough to buy a nice amount of ammunition or something.  How we ended up owing federal and getting a check from state is beyond me.

So, how did taxes go for all of you?  Buying anything fun with your returns?

Owing Money to Your Employer

Apparently a lot of money is owed to the government by government workers.

Funny, when I was in the military, it was common for the government to just take what was owed directly from your paycheck.

I can’t imagine it would be too difficult for the IRS to get a judge to let them do the same to civilian workers.

It’s never a good idea to be in debt to your employer, especially when that employer has the ability to get it back.

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