Nothing seems to make him happier than doing his duty and paying his share to Uncle Sam. Which is quite patriotic, perhaps even noble. Funny thing, though: He apparently doesn’t even have gripes that the tax system is too complicated, and yet he needs a tax accountant to help him figure out the amount he’s all too happy to fork over.
The tax-happy gentleman in question, Rich Benjamin—and no, I’m not making that name up, though you’d think it’d be the title character in a dark, updated graphic novel about Richie Rich—pens an op-ed in USA Today. After an inspirational visit with Howard, his accountant, Benjamin gets a little ferklempt, writing, “Deep in my bones, that place that speaks my mind, I am proud and glad to pay my income taxes.”
This could be the most brilliant strategy ever to avoid getting audited.
But Benjamin’s main point, it seems, is to put the Tea Party, flatly deemed “unpatriotic” in his opinion, in its place:
The Tea Party movement comprises protesters politically awakened by the recession. Many Tea Partiers voice their protest by describing lives freshly toppled by a layoff, a foreclosure, a bankruptcy, a catastrophic illness, a depleted retirement account. The irony? Their political complaint — “socialist tyranny,” “high taxes,” “stimulus spending” — often defies any credible explanation of their individual financial woe.
Benjamin argues that Americans, in fact, are not burdened with high taxes at all:
America’s overall effective federal tax rate, or the percentage of income that households fork over — in the form of individual, corporate, payroll and excise taxes — was 20.7% in 2006, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s most recent calculation (2009). The lowest-earning fifth of Americans paid roughly 4.3% of their income in federal taxes, the middle fifth 14.2% and the top fifth 25.8%. Today these rates are lower for every income bracket, except the richest fifth, than in 1982, when President Reagan’s first historic massive tax cuts went into effect. For all the recent grief doled on Uncle Sam, federal tax rates have remained remarkably flat, or often declined, over the past 30 years.
Moreover, taxes on the average single worker— including personal income taxes and employer-paid taxes on the worker’s behalf — are lower in the USA than in any G-8 democracy (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom), except for Japan, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a non-partisan international organization that supports democracy and free markets.
Looking at federal tax rates over time, or comparing America with its closest competitors, our federal income taxes cannot plausibly be called “too high.”
Well, when you factor that citizens of many of the countries mentioned don’t also have to pay for health care out of their pockets, it can be argued that they’re getting more for their money than we are.
And that’s the complaint most people I know have regarding taxes. It’s not simply that the dollar amount is too high, but that it’s all too apparent that tons of those dollars are wasted. And if you’re taking my money only to waste it, then the taxes are too high. I shouldn’t be paying quite so much in the first place.
In a CNN poll, just 3% of those surveyed say that not much of their tax dollars are wasted. By contrast, 74% say that a lot of their tax dollars are wasted, and 23% say that at least some of their tax dollars is misspent. Who can be happy with the idea of their money disappearing with little or no practical outcome?
A lot of Americans are not remotely happy. More from the CNN poll:
Four in 10 questioned say that they are angry about the amount of taxes they pay; 36 percent say they’re satisfied and just under one in four say they don’t have particular feelings on the issue.
Nearly half of Republicans questioned say they’re angry, but that figure drops to 44 percent among Independents and 29 percent among Democrats.
The poll indicates growing public frustration with taxes over the past couple of decades.
People are willing—even happy—to pay their fair share. But there’s nothing fair about wasting American taxpayers’ money.
Side note: Just kidding! Nothing makes me happier than paying my taxes too! (Read: Please don’t audit me.)