Counting Taxes Doesn't Help You Get to Sleep
Four o'clock in the morning, and I was wandering the halls of our house wide awake.
It happens every year after duck season; my bio-clock is still on duck-hunting time. All duck hunters know that, to be successful, you have to get up before the ducks do, and that's early.
My plan, so as to not wake Linda, my bride, was to get a glass of juice from the fridge and spend the rest of the night in the guest room reading. That was the plan; but when I walked through the dining room, I saw all the paperwork that she had spread out on the table to pull information together for our taxes.
Now, Linda is our household CFO, and she's really good at it. She saves every little necessary receipt, then uses all those numbers at the year's end for our tax bill to Uncle Sam. It's not an easy job, and I'm glad she does it.
I clicked on the lights on the sideboard and sat down to look over her progress. As usual, she had done a super job, and it looked as if everything was ready for our accountant. I thought I'd better see if I could get back to sleep and headed down the hall to the guest room.
A lot of times when I can't get right to sleep, I'll think of items I can count, like all the cars I've ever owned or past hunting trips, things like that. It's better than counting sheep. On this evening, though, I was thinking about taxes. So I decided make a mental list of everything on which we are taxed. That should put me to sleep.
Let's see, now. The biggest is federal and state income tax, and then come taxes on other income, such as capital gains. Those 401(k)s are tax-free going in, but the amount invested, as well as the amount earned, is taxed when you use it during retirement. It's like a savings account for the government.
Then there is real estate tax. Since we live in the city as well as the county and own property, we pay city and county tax. So what do we get for that? Police and fire protection and garbage collection. But wait - we still have to pay a recycling fee to the city. And, of course, there's the water bill.
Property tax goes to help support schools. But how about people who don't own property; how do they support the schools?
I was on a roll now, and my mind was jumping from one tax payout to another. I turned off the bedroom light and rolled over, determined to go to sleep.
Personal property tax - where did that come from? I thought about my old Bronco. The truck is 36 years old, and I've been paying personal property taxes every year for all that time. I've probably paid more in taxes than I paid for the truck when it was new. So it's a privilege tax. I have to pay taxes for the right to own something.
Sales tax. Now, there's one that'll catch everybody. Or does it? Around 7 percent on everything you purchase. I remember when sales tax was introduced on food. It was supposed to be temporary, but it has lasted for years and years. How about the people at the grocery store with food stamp credit cards? Do the feds pay their sales tax to the state?
Tax on gas. I was pumping gas into the Bronco. (I had just paid the property tax on the old truck the week before.) The taxes were more than 50 cents a gallon.
That revenue is supposed to keep up the roads, but I recently read that, as cars become more fuel efficient, the current tax won't be enough to pay the freight, so gas taxes will have to go up. What? We're conserving more so we can pay the government more?
And there are use taxes, like licenses for cars and driving. And what is the deal with car inspection? You buy a new car and have to have it inspected before you can get a license? Where does all that money go? If you hunt, you have to buy a hunting license. And for duck hunting, there is a required federal duck stamp to purchase.
On and on and on! I gave up. Sleep was impossible, so I went back to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. Man, I thought, as I passed by Linda's bookkeeping on the dining room table - I should have tried counting sheep.
Contact Tom Bryant at tom@the pilot.com.
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