Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Tax Day

Do people still line up at the post office on the deadline day for mailing taxes?  I've e-filed for over ten years now, so that seems so foreign to me.

But for those looking forward to spending their evening that way, or for those who just dealt with taxes this weekend, or for pretty much anyone else, I present these fun facts about taxes:

The power of Congress to collect income taxes was granted by the 16th Amendment, which reads:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

The Internal Revenue Service actually predates the 16th Amendment by 50 years; per its website, it was created when an income tax was enacted in 1862 to pay for the Civil War, though it was later repealed after the war had ended.  Once the 16th Amendment had been ratified, per the IRS, "Congress levied a 1 percent tax on net personal incomes above $3,000 with a 6 percent surtax on incomes of more than $500,000".  For those keeping score at home, Wikipedia's IRS entry* states that, adjusted for inflation, $3,000 would be worth about $65,000.  So, then, to pay for the federal government under those standards today would require a 1 percent tax on income over $65,000, and a 6 percent surtax on incomes over about $10,833,333.  (I think I could live with such a tax table.)

The very first Form 1040 is available for viewing on the IRS's website.

E-filing, per Wikipedia*, came into being around 1995.

Sixteen years later, "only 30 percent of tax forms are now sent by mail", according to The Coloradan.

The filing deadline was delayed until April 18 this year because of the celebration of Emancipation Day* in Washington, D.C.  This holiday became official in Washington in 2005 and is celebrated on April 16, unless, of course, it falls on a weekend, in which case an alternate day off from work must be provided.  (Meanwhile, I'm finally past the midpoint of my New-Years-to-Memorial-Day period of no holidays whatsoever.  Such is the life of the small-business employee.)  And, since the day selected for observance this year was April 15, no one was available to process tax returns, and so the deadline was moved to April 18.

The Tax Foundation celebrates Tax Freedom Day each year.  That is the day when the average American will have made enough money to cover all federal/state/whatever taxes for the year.  This year, Tax Freedom Day was April 12.

However, if the total cost of covering our budget deficit is factored into the equation, Tax Freedom Day would not be until May 23.

The average tax refund this year is $2,895.  This means a lot of people have way too much money withheld from their paychecks.  People who do that are giving the federal government a free loan for many months.  My general rule is to work through the allowance worksheet on your W-4 form and add at least one to get the total number of allowances to claim.  Of course, that takes into account my deductions; your mileage may vary.

45% of all American households will have no tax liability this year.  None.

The article which provided the previous fun fact has the absolutely-not-meant-to-be-inflammatory-no-really headline "Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically".  I'm sure that has nothing to do with President Obama's renewed cry to raise taxes on "the rich".

The U.S. corporate income tax rate is 35%, making it one of the highest rates in the world.  It's no wonder that some companies, through totally legitimate means, use off-shore subsidiaries and other methods to lower their tax rates.  This, of course, leads some to protest in the streets, when a better way to change things would be to lower corporate income taxes, so that doing business in the United States wouldn't be so costly.  And what conservative mind had that thought?  Why, none other than President Obama's Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner.

And since we're talking about people up in arms regarding supposed unfairness in income taxes paid, I'll just point out that, per the Wall Street Journal, the top 1% of wage-earners in the U.S. paid 38% of all federal income taxes in 2008 (the last year for which data is available).  And to those who think we can solve our debt crisis by taxing the rich, as apparently the president thinks is a winning answer, the Journal also points out the following:

If you took all [emphasis mine] the income of people over $200,000, it would yield about $1.89 trillion, enough revenue to cover the 2012 bill for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—but not the same bill in 2016, as the costs of those entitlements are expected to grow rapidly. The rich, in short, aren't nearly rich enough to finance Mr. Obama's entitlement state ambitions—even before his health-care plan kicks in.

Just a few thoughts to tide you over as you sit hunched over your keyboard, hoping that Turbotax will give you the correct answer.

Oh, and are you running late this year?  If you qualify for FreeFile (adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less), you can still e-file Form 4868 for an extension at the IRS's website.  Of course, if you owe tax, it's still due now, or you can always pay whatever penalty the IRS sees fit to assess.

(Hat tip:  The Daily Caller)

*Information obtained from Wikipedia is, as always, not guaranteed to be accurate.  It is entirely possible on any given day, for example to find the entry for Atlantic Records replaced with a fairly rude statement.