Cheney Free Press -

By FRANK WATSON
Contributor 

Tax relief in the U.S. leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to logic

Guest Commentary

 

April 12, 2018



I finished my taxes a few weeks ahead of the deadline. Yippee! Now I can worry about something else.

When I talk to my friends, I find I am one of the few who prepares their own tax returns. Most are afraid to make a mistake or decide not to spend the time.

The IRS publishes estimates of the time required to prepare each form. They are pretty accurate. By the time I read the instructions, sorted my files into the appropriate piles and completed the forms, I had invested more than three full days.

I recall a big IRS push a few tax seasons ago to simplify the process and save paper. The instructions are now longer than the Washington state fishing regulations, but the IRS saves paper by putting everything online so that we have to print our own forms and instructions. I am still waiting for simplification. Every year it gets longer, more complicated, and less logical.

The first thing the IRS asked was how many children I have. I know the answer, but I don’t understand why they encourage me to have children. Our planet is rapidly approaching the maximum carrying capacity for humans. Why does our country reward those who exacerbate the population problem?

The government must provide services and infrastructure for every new child born in the USA. It would be more logical to make large families pay extra to offset the cost. Experts say that by 2050, we will no longer be able to feed the inhabitants of our planet, but our tax system encourages population growth. Go figure.

One of the basic tenets of our graduated income tax is that the wealthy should shoulder a larger burden than the less fortunate. Proponents insist the wealthy have been blessed by our country, so they should be expected to contribute a significant portion of their blessings to the greater good.

I understand the argument, but I wish the IRS were consistent in the application. Those affluent enough to buy a home are rewarded while those who can’t afford a down payment are not. And it is not just one home. Those who can afford a second home can deduct for that one too.

Our penchant for socking it to the rich has spawned a new Alternative Minimum Tax, supposedly for those who are wealthy enough to employ high-priced tax lawyers to find loopholes. I never made enough money to worry about that until the year I cashed in my IRAs to help pay for my grandchildren’s college tuition. The IRAs were taxed as normal income, and I was temporarily elevated to the level of the very rich. I was not very happy about it.

Our government is wallowing in debt. The IRS encourages taxpayers to do the same. “Scrooge McTaxpayer” can deduct the interest on his home, his vacation home in the Bahamas, his new Mercedes and any other debt that he may have. Those of us who try to manage our household budget relatively debt free are penalized. I don’t understand why our government should encourage us to mismanage our money.

The IRS decided several decades ago to help me support my local church. Thus, they add to every contribution I make by allowing me a tax deduction. My church and I both appreciate it but are bewildered why the U.S. government should feel obligated to support our little house of worship. It would seem logical that the IRS would pick and choose which charities are worthy of their support and which are not, but they don’t. I can give to charities with diametrically opposed goals and deduct both of them. It doesn’t make sense.

When all was said and done, I divided my taxes by my gross income, and it came very close to 10 percent, as it has for the past several years. Why doesn’t the government just have everyone pay 10 percent of their gross income and eliminate all the paperwork, stress and illogic?

Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and long-term resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free-lance columnist for over 19 years.

 

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