Pay the piper

 

By Joe Rector

By now, millions of Americans have filed their tax returns; usually those folks are anticipating a refund. Citizens who might owe more taxes are a bit slower to file, and some request extensions to push back the dates that they must make the final accounting. For most of us, the three things that are for sure in this life are life, death, taxes.

As a teenager, I worked in the summers and during high school years. The pay was low, but money was in short supply, and any little bit helped. Each pay period, I’d receive a pay stub that told the total I’d made and how much was withheld for social security and for federal income taxes. The first of these checks came when I was 15 and working at the Copper Kettle.

Over the years, I continued part-time jobs, and as the pay grew, so did the amount of taxes and social security deductions. My understanding of the whole system was minimal, but when a refund check arrived sometime after the first of each year, I excitedly put the funds into savings.

I began teaching in 1974 for $7200 a year. My goal was to make $10,000 a year, a sum that I thought would make me rich. Amy and I also married that year. So began the life of filing as a married couple. Most years, our return was small, but any extra cash that came in was welcome.

Our family grew and so did our income. We were by no means rich, but we lived a comfortable middle-class life. Our daughter was born on April 15, and I immediately dubbed her “our new little tax deduction.” Dallas came four years later, and again we claimed another deduction.

Like other families, we had a mortgage and other things that could be claimed as deductions. For most of our lives, Amy has completed the forms and filed our taxes. Any refunds we received were either put into savings or applied to outstanding bills that we had.

Eventually, our children went on their own ways and no longer were helpful to our tax liability. Thankfully, we had paid off our mortgage. All of a sudden, Amy and I stared down the barrel of a tax system that failed to reward “no debt” filers. A few years back our income dramatically dipped. We made less but had to pay more taxes; how is that right?

The rich folks in our country pay less (as a percentage of income) in taxes than most of us. Go figure! I know some people have done somewhat better on paychecks since the Trump tax cuts, but many are surprised that their refund checks are smaller than they’d expected. According to the Tax Policy Center study, the lauded tax cuts we lesser earners receive will end in 2025, and by 2027, only the top 1% tax filers will receive 82.3% of returns.

I have never minded paying my taxes. If citizens want services, they must be willing to pay for them. It’s like paying the piper. Yes, too much of our tax dollars are wasted; too many sectors take a disproportionate share of those dollars. I also think that people should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labors. At the same time, those who are wealthy should pay a fairer share. Companies should not thrive while not paying a dime in taxes.

Don’t forget that April 15 is the tax deadline. I hope you receive a nice check in the mail. As for Amy and me, we’ll keep our fingers crossed as the forms and W-2’s are figured. Good luck!

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