With April 15 looming around the corner next week, many of us are steadying our resolve for the inevitable tax bill and trying to hold on to what’s left in our wallets. After all, this is America where ambition is still rewarded – with high taxes.
Regardless of how much we pay in taxes or exactly how Uncle Sam takes his share, America is still the land of opportunity - everybody can become a taxpayer (with many of us paying through regular paycheck withholdings, rather than an April 15th check).
The Pew Research Center recently reported that a majority of Americans (56 percent) have a negative reaction to doing income taxes. But let’s be honest, people who squawk about taxes can really be classified in two groups: men and women.
However, the Pew report said about a third of us say we either like or love doing taxes. But surely those are only those who expect a refund. Among those of us who dislike or hate doing taxes, most say the hassle and the amount of time it takes has gotten out of hand. And it requires way too much paperwork. According to the Pew study, people think tax forms are inconvenient and time-consuming.
No kidding. When it was first introduced, the 1040 was 27 lines on one simple form. Today, it’s 77 lines long and so complicated it requires a 189-page appendix complete with instructions. With many Americans in a daze from “intaxication,” not only do we have to pay Uncle Sam on April 15th, but the time it takes us in the weeks and months to get those taxes done is increasing at a maddening pace. According to the IRS, 68 percent of filers who use Form 1040 spend around 22 hours filing our taxes at an average cost of $290.
One quip goes, the income tax form has made more liars out of the American people than golf. And seriously, George Washington never told a lie only because he never had to file a Form 1040.
Of course many of us taxpayers dislike how the government uses our tax money. But at least they are flexible in some ways. As an internet joke lamented, one of the great blessings about living in a democracy is that we have complete control over how we pay our taxes…cash, check or money order.
It’s hard to believe America was founded to avoid high taxation – remember the Boston Tea Party where our forefathers rebelled against British rule largely to protest unpopular taxes? We Americans have been annoyed with taxes from our humble beginnings. We’re not the only ones, however.
Believe it or not other countries, notably Europe, impose far larger tax burdens on their residents nowdays. According to a recent study, Europe has the world’s highest tax rates on personal income, with Western Europe leading with a 46.1 percent tax rate compared to North America’s 27.7 percent. (Those in America’s highest income-tax bracket last year jumped to 39.6 percent). Ouch -- guess we’re lucky not to be rich.
The time is upon us to ante-up and pay the piper (aka the federal and state governments). We’re just glad the latest income-tax form has been greatly simplified. As comedians like to say, it now consists of only three parts: (1) How much did you make last year? (2) How much have you got left? (3) Send amount listed in part 2.
We may dislike paying taxes but a whopping seventy-one percent of us believe that not reporting all income on our taxes is morally wrong, according to the Pew study. So again this year we will be honest, pay the government our fair share and remember that we still have the first dollar we ever earned. But Uncle Sam has all the others.