Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Your Tax Day Thoughts

- I suppose I don't mind paying my taxes as much as, well, everyone else does. The way I figure it, if we want our government to not shut down and leave us in a state of anarchy, we all have to pay up. I'm frequently unhappy with the way in which my tax dollars are spent (not to mention the fact that the government likes to spend way more than it takes in), but the fact that they are spent? Not so much a problem. That having been said, I sympathize with the effort to simplify the hell out of the tax code (why should a 1040 be two pages? Why?), and Atlantic Monthly blogger Megan McArdle's plan isn't half bad for a libertarian-inspired tax plan. I don't agree with eliminating all the anti-poverty programs, of course, but I could get behind pretty much everything else.

- Here's a fun little article on the effect of illegal immigration on taxes - namely, illegals pay billions in payroll taxes that they'll never recoup in Social Security benefits. They only account for 1.5% of SS/Medicare taxes that come in, but when Social Security and Medicare are taking in and putting out roughly the same amount, losing that tax revenue may be the difference between solvency and insolvency. So Social Security and Medicare essentially depends for its survival on taxes taken from workers who can't receive benefits? That makes me feel good.

Incidentally, here's a reason why the federal government isn't as interested in fighting illegal immigration as the state governments. The states have to pay for all the services, and the feds get all the spare money! Since meaningful immigration reform isn't coming our way anytime soon, that's going to continue to be a source of tension.


Matthew B. Novak said...

Your thoughts on taxes not being particularly painful mirror my own. I like to joke that my theory of good government is "tax and spend." So yeah, taxes don't bother me too much.

As for the illegal immigrants: what services are state governments providing for them?

Ben said...

I've always kind of considered paying my taxes to be part of my civic duty, like voting or jury duty.

Libertarians of the world can rejoice that my wife resents paying taxes a bit more than I do....or at least she doesn't like discovering that we had too little witheld from our paychecks and needed to pay more.

Mike said...

As much as I like to advocate, with tongue tentatively planted in cheek, the abolition of the income tax, I too mostly fall into the "I don't mind paying taxes that much" camp.

My essential problem with taxation is twofold: first, I believe we surrender too great a percentage of our annual incomes (a little fiscal responsibility could go a long way). Second, certain people (like me) have the misfortune of never seeming to vote for the winning candidate in any national election, and therefore essentially no say in how our money gets spent. I often wonder how feasible it would be to remedy this latter point by allowing each individual to designate what their taxes go toward; in broad categories, of course, not things like "please put $2.50 of my tax money toward the White House water bill." The DOD would love me in this case. Of course, this would make doing one's taxes even more annoying than it already is, so yeah, maybe not so much.

Ben, tell Christy I feel her pain about having had too little withheld.

-Dave said...

I owed about $67.00 after all was said and done, and I don't actually mind paying so much. Of course, if it weren't for paycheck withholdings, that figure grows about 90 times over (being a single childless apartment-renter means the deduction-fairy doesn't smile much on me), but I manage just fine.

"...illegals pay billions in payroll taxes that they'll never recoup in Social Security benefits." I used to think this. Until I heard several Democrats float proposals to change this "injustice" during the latest round of debates on the subject. That made me worry that our current good fortune may soon turn into a much larger liability.

That worries me, because the programs - Medicare in particular - are already in dire financial straits. Flipping one of the things keeping us solvent into a larger liability (assuming that the illegal immigrant demographic is likely to be on the net-payee side of the programs instead of the net-payor side) would be bad, but it would sound (and, in at least one sense, be) fair.

Jacob said...

Dave's comment brings up what I think the most important tax reform would be: eliminating withholding. It turns tax day into lottery day, with many people happier to find out they're getting money back rather than being pissed at how much they've been paying all year.

Scheduling quarterly tax payments would allow people to plan accordingly instead of facing a huge tax bill annually, while still making them fully aware of how much they're paying.

Andy said...

I don't think any of us have a problem with paying taxes in principle. Well, maybe Ron Paul, but he's an idiot.

I think the argument is what my taxes go towards. I don't mind taxes for a standing militia (a.k.a. the Armed Forces) so I can sleep better at night. I don't mind taxes for roads because frankly, I can't work a paver. But if you're using my taxes for sequencing the genome of a soy bean, no thanks. If my taxes pay for a new flower park in Murtha's hometown, no thanks. If my taxes go to farming subsidies, nope. If they go to funding illegal (note that first word) alien anything, no way. And socialized medicine, don't get me started.