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Tax Freedom Day is a good time to reflect

In Our Opinion

 


Amidst the thrashing of filling out those last-minute 1040 forms and plenty of other concerns, the Internal Revenue Service tax filing deadline came and went a week ago Tuesday, April 15.

A 4-million word tax code can certainly affect how a smoothly running life travels down the road.

But this week has a pair of notable, but, perhaps, little known bookend dates unofficially linked to taxes, too. Monday, April 21 was national Tax Freedom Day while Friday, April 25 represents the day we in Washington state have satisfied payment of additional state and local taxes.

Officially, Tax Freedom Day is when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year, according to the Tax Foundation organization’s website.

On average in 2014, Americans will pay $3 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state taxes for a total tax bill of $4.5 trillion, or 30.2 percent of income. This year, Tax Freedom Day is 111 days into the year. That’s three days later than in 2013 due to a slow economic recovery.

But living in Washington, the nation’s No. 4-ranked state when it comes to combined state and average local taxes, it takes another four days for us to satisfy our debt.

The total tax burden borne by residents of different states varies due to differing state tax policies. This means a combination of higher-income and higher-tax states celebrate Tax Freedom Day later as both Connecticut and New Jersey are May 9. Louisiana crossed the fiscal finish line first on March 30.

Thinking that it took a little over 16 weeks of work for us to have that zero-balance for our tax bill makes one ask if we are getting our money’s worth?

We pay for highways. What are they like?

We’re supporting the Food and Drug Administration. Do we feel confident we can go to the store and not be fearful of bringing home salmonella?

The Federal Aviation Administration regulates air travel. How do we feel about flying? How about the Transportation Safety Administration? Do we think the TSA is adequately protecting us as we prepare to fly?

How about the military, do we feel secure or are the borders protected enough so that terrorists have a difficult time entering the country?

Social Security is a huge concern considering its importance as many people’s sole source of retirement income. The question remains, however, with what we are paying, what might we expect to get back when it’s time to collect?

And that discussion naturally leads to Medicaid or Medicare, the other two legs on the $1 trillion entitlement stool. Recently, it came to light that some huge payments were being made to some doctors on one end, yet on the opposite side, doctors in ever-growing numbers are no longer seeing patients because of paltry reimbursement for services.

There’s of course the waste, which Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn illustrates each year in his “Waste Book.” Three of his 100 examples include:

• Grounding the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels, but spending over $400 million for an aircraft that would never fly.

• The Department of Interior counted sheep with unmanned drones while closing national landmarks and parks.

• Or the U.S. Department of Agriculture opting to create smart phone apps to help tour wineries while over $300 million was spent on a healthcare website that just limped along.

Still, when polled, the Cheney Free Press editorial board scored the bang for the buck ratio in excess of 75 percent, perhaps closer to 80 percent.

Which led us to also agree that while we certainly have the best country in the world, the motor certainly could use a tune-up.

 

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