Thursday, April 16, 2015

Just Needs To Be Said: Almost Every American Pay Their Taxes And They DON'T Complain About Paying

With all the Republican/Libertarian anti-tax rhetoric in the media, it might surprise most Americans to realize that most Americans (hi, everybody) don't mind paying taxes in the first place:

That Americans hate taxes has become a truism, but it’s not true. Although they disagree sharply about how tax money should be spent, most Americans actually take pride in paying their taxes. Taxpayers in the United States are unusually honest and reliable compared to those in other countries. And, increasingly, Americans are voting for tax hikes.

I can speak with anecdotal evidence here.  Libraries are one of the last places that carry printed tax forms for the public to use (Post Offices used to, but for some reason stopped).  Every year I've gone through the hassle alongside other librarians to get the basic 1040s and the specialty Schedules out on racks and tables for people.  Except this year: due to budget cuts and Congressional delays, the IRS only sent out just the basic forms, AND no instruction booklets.  Everything had to be done online.  The only complaints I got this year were that we didn't have the instruction booklets, or that people uncomfortable with computers had to go online to do their taxes this time.

I have rarely, if ever, gotten complaints about filing taxes, period.  Everyone coming in over the years griped about the complexity of the calculations, or the number of papers they had to file, or the lack of time they had if needed forms were late.  I can't recall the last time I had someone rant about the unfairness of the taxing itself.  Maybe those people weren't coming in looking for forms to begin with.

My anecdotal evidence fits well with the real evidence that Vanessa Williamson brings up in her Atlantic article:

...In national surveys, over 95 percent of Americans agree with the statement, “It is every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes,” and more than half see taxpaying as “very patriotic.” One man from Ohio called it a responsibility to “the Founding Fathers.” A former Marine said taxpaying is “the cost of being an American,” while a man from California said tax avoidance is the equivalent of “shorting the country.”
The feeling is bipartisan. Surveys show that Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to agree that taxpaying is a moral responsibility. One woman in Kansas called taxpaying “a responsibility that we have to our country as citizens” because “the country has to be taken care of.” She is a Christian conservative active in her local Tea Party group. While Tea Party activists and other staunch conservatives object to paying for “the Obama agenda,” as she described it, they regularly use the status of “taxpayer” as shorthand for being an upstanding, contributing citizen.
You might wonder if these attitudes are nothing more than a nice sentiment, but Americans put their money where their mouths are, so to speak. Compared to 14 European countries, Americans report the highest willingness to pay taxes, and the United States has one of the highest rates of tax compliance in the developed world. One might credit this to fear of the IRS, but economists have concluded that high-compliance rates in the U.S. cannot be explained solely by the level of enforcement...

As another point about the IRS, they really don't enforce that much to begin with.  Audit rates are hilariously low.  I'd like to think most Americans know that the odds of getting into trouble with the taxman is rare compared to getting into trouble with the boss if you skip work to go fishing (note to boss: I don't fish, I swear).  The only ones who do get into trouble are the few who try to game the tax system in the first place.

If there's any complaints about our taxes, it comes mostly from the ones who pine for a flat tax or a sales tax over the income tax system we have.  And they're idiots.  The rest of the complainers are the ones who want to shrink / kill government in the first place, so going after our government's means of raising revenues is their agenda.  And they're con artists/frauds.

Real American pay real taxes, because guess what?  We're citizens.  We view the paying of our taxes as our commitment to the nation, to our communities, to our own well-being.  We are - each of us - aware that our taxes go towards such things as roads, clean air and water, regulated utilities, schools, libraries, small loan programs for business start-ups and large loan programs for higher education.  Most of us don't sign up as volunteers to serve in the military: paying for that military with our taxes is our commitment to our soldiers, to their service and direct sacrifice.

Real Americans only complain about how the tax revenues are being wasted, which is a reflection on the lousy approval numbers for a dysfunctional Congress, or they complain about how the tax burden should involve the rich.

What's sad is that there are ways to increase the uber-wealthy individuals and corporations into paying their honest-to-God fair share of the tax revenues without affecting the economy, but we can't pursue a single method because the modern Republican Party is too beholden to those uber-wealthy individuals and corporations who are un-American in their desire to avoid their responsibilities to the United States.  Per Weissmann's Slate article:

Let’s say your only interest is in maximizing the amount of revenue the Feds collect. Conservative guru Art Laffer became famous for pointing out that, at some point, raising taxes becomes counterproductive, because people either stop working or find ways to hide their income. Thankfully, we’re probably nowhere near that point. In their most recent work on the subject, co-authored with Harvard University’s Stefanie Stantcheva, Piketty and Saez conclude that governments would net the most money from a top marginal rate somewhere between 57 percent and 83 percent (that includes state taxes, too). Why the range? The three researchers acknowledge that, when taxes go up, the rich seem to earn less on the job. If you think that’s entirely because they choose to work less, then 57 percent is your number. However, Piketty, Saez, and Stantcheva argue that lower taxes don’t seem to spur executives and other highly paid professionals to work harder so much as they encourage them to bargain harder for extra pay, whether it’s from their board of directors or their partners at a law firm. Negotiating a bigger paycheck for yourself doesn’t actually add anything to the economy. So, if you believe taxes simply discourage that kind of tough bargaining without making star workers much less productive, then 83 percent is your figure.

It's a debate to consider, whether we should impose higher rates.  And it's not like everyone is arguing the top tax rate should go as high as 89 percent or anything, but even talking about bumping the top rate from 39 percent up a full percentage to 40 percent (still way lower than 89 and lower than the 57 percent Weissmann's article hints should be the range) is cause for riots in the halls of Congress for some reason.

In fact, Congress is passing a bill that practically guts the estate tax for the very rich families of our nation.

...Certainly, it’s hard to see how anyone can possibly believe that the Republican Party, which fetishizes low taxes for the rich above all other priorities, truly cares about wealth inequality; but perhaps this is one of those times when the mere pretense of caring signals that they understand how badly their reputation of callous disregard for everyday Americans’ economic security has hurt them.
In any case, this shallow attempt at appearing to give a damn was short-lived. This week the GOP is voting, as they always do, to ensure that the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune won’t be faced with the terrible responsibility of having to pay taxes on their inheritances...

To clarify about what's at stake here, via The Hill:

Under current law, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 5,400 estates will have to deal with the tax over the next several years, out of the well over 2 million deaths that occur annually.
That’s because individuals with estates valued at less than $5.43 million this year, and married couples with estates worth less than $10.86 million, are exempt. The 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal set the current parameters, which also include a 40 percent rate and linking the exemption parameters to inflation.

Notice how many people this spares from taxation?  Roughly 5,400 families.  Depending on the actual number, we're still in the low tens-of-thousands affected.  This is out of roughly 317 MILLION Americans.  We're not even talking 1-Percenters, we're talking a percent of a percent.  And the current cutoff of $5 to $10 million as the exemption?  How many people do YOU know are over that rate to qualify paying for the estate tax?  We're talking about a tax that affects a very minor portion of the population.  And a tax that is littered with enough loopholes - means of hiding the overall value - to avoid paying a full rate.

And THIS is what the Republican Congress is fighting to pass?  Nothing about eliminating taxes for middle-class families in the millions across this nation.  Nothing about the regressive tax burdens that are shifting onto the majority of poorer Americans.  They want to save the kids of the insanely wealthy.  Who will still be millionaires and billionaires even after they pay the estate tax anyway.

So like I said in the blog article title: ALMOST Every American Pay Their Taxes.  And ALMOST Every American Doesn't Complain About It.

Just the insanely wealthy greedheads and their Republican suck-ups refuse to pay their taxes, and then complain about it.

Remind me which side are the Real Americans again?

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Taxes are the price of civilization. The IRS can seem scary, but right now they are so underfunded, most of that is a myth left over from their former reputation.

-Doug in Oakland