Taxes the Short and Long—Religion and Politics

Tax season is another time when age and experience rears its sometimes-ugly head.

Though I’m not a person who fears doing my yearly income taxes, I am a person who knows it will not be the type of event it was when I was a much younger, generally not nearly as well paid individual as I tend to be today.

I don’t think anybody will try to argue that—even with the comparative ease of e-filing—filling out tax forms is anything like fun. The thing is though, when you’re young, the chances are, you can count on some sort of “refund” from the tax authorities.

I’m that guy who has more taken out of his check intentionally, so that he never has to be worried about the “tax man” wanting him to pay more in taxes than he already has. I know, I know, that’s money I could have been investing, or spending, whichever was more reasonable at the time. On the other hand, if I “overpay,” I never “get in bad with” the IRS. The result is, at the end of the year, I still get a nice little “bonus” in that I have essentially “used” the authorities as a “no interest savings account” for a part of my income.

Again, were it not for the concern that they would tell me I owed more than I paid, this would not be the case. Since it’s a distinct possibility, it is the case, and so far, doing this had kept me out of paying more at the end of the year.

You may be wondering where I’m going with this. The answer is, I do end up paying taxes in the course of the average year.

“Wait, isn’t that the case for everybody?” You ask.

Here’s what a lot of folks don’t understand about paying taxes (particularly on a federal level). What’s important is not the “short” game, but the long one.

Allow me to explain.

You see, the average person spends their time with “blinders on.” They look at that pay stub (electronic or physical) and grouse about the fact that they’re paying taxes, and that they “have no choice” but to do so, since their employer takes the money out of their pay before they ever see it. This sounds reasonable, but in reality, their missing what happens in the long term.

Let me take just a second to make something crystal clear. Those entities that collect the monies that are paid in taxation—yours and others—do not, in fact likely can not invest that money in any way. By “invest,” I mean, “Take the monies collected and put them into some sort of vehicle that will be used to make more money on that collected.” In other words, I am not trying to argue that investment in things like roads, bridges and schools doesn’t occur—just that such “investments” are really not investments in strict financial terms.

Yes, they do make it possible to get to work faster. Yes they do make it so there are fewer with so minimal education that they can only do menial tasks. I’m not trying to refute such ideas here.

The truth is, I’ve spent too much time on this already, and can’t take the time to get into much more than what I’ve already said. So let me get back to the “real reason” for this post.

The process of filling out tax forms at the end of the year—as comparatively easy as it has become—is still a “deer-in-the-headlights experience” for most folks. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to understand the concepts that “drive” the tax forms, and frankly, the less complex it has become to me. For the “young and green,” that’s mostly not the case.

Many of us have heard people who say things like, “Forty six percent of all U.S. citizens do not pay taxes.” When we look at our pay stub, we think ourselves justified when we call those people out as liars! The problem though is, the pay stub only reports part of the reality.

As we’re all painfully aware, at the end of the year (or more correctly, the beginning of the year that follows), we have to deal with taxation again, or do we?

If you look at the forms that report your income and what you’re taxed at the end of the year, it appears that you have paid some seemingly pretty substantial amount of your income in taxes.

The thing is though, when you fill out that tax form, a good number (perhaps the majority) of all filers get a “refund.” Some have to pay in and some “break even,” but the number of each is typically comparatively small.

Last year, between what I paid in over the course of the year, and what I got back in “refund,” I still paid a pretty substantial amount of money to the IRS. The thing is though, for many paying taxes, this is not the case.

If roughly forty six percent of the populous of the United States were to look at what they paid in, and compare that to what they received in refund, at the very least, they would see that they ended up paying nothing or next to it. That is to say in most cases, if they paid in two thousand dollars, they got at least a two thousand dollar “refund.”

I’m not begrudging these people their situation. Many of them make little enough, that they truly cannot afford to pay taxes. The point though, is that they don’t end up paying any taxes.

The truth is, some percentage (and I’m not clear on what this number looks like), not only get everything back that was paid in, they get more (through things like Earned Income Credit).

This is where the main argument the the current federal taxation system “redistributes wealth” comes from. If people are getting more “in refund” than they ever paid in, then they’re not just getting a refund, they’re getting a refund and an additional government payment. That money came from somewhere other than the individual receiving it.

As with the idea that spending money on some things qualifies as “investment,” I am not arguing the “merit” of this process. Rather, I am making it clear that the process occurs.

Okay, I am out of space and time, though I really have a great deal more I could say. As such, allow me to wish you the best of times, and thank you for reading.

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