Saturday, February 08, 2020

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime? Taxes In America

As I wrote in my previous article, Washington is heavily dependent on personal income tax to fund the federal budget. In fact, about 51% of the entire budget is derived from personal income tax which has been historically paid mostly by the Middle Class. Yet, 44.4% of Americans don't pay any federal taxes, which means the fewer individuals are shouldering more of the tax burden.

Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't paying any taxes. They pay taxes in form of sales, school , property and payroll taxes among other types of taxes and fees (payroll tax includes Social Security and Medicare). The reason is that the federal tax code has built in exemptions which allow some individuals and households an out, such as through Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit. In particular, low income individuals and families are also typically exempt.

The U.S. tax code is considered to be "progressive"; that is, its calculated on a adjustable scale whereby the more you earn the more you pay. Well, at least that's the theory. The fact of the matter is that the wealthy have more than their fair share of exemptions and tax shelters which allow them to actually pay less than an average Middle Class household. As a result, the upper class earning millions may not pay any more in taxes than a family earning under $50,000.

Again, I don't think this isn't anything that everyday American doesn't already know, even if it's on an intuitive level. However, I was interested in know exactly how many taxes the average American is required to pay . I was also interested in knowing what the typical American pays in taxes based on where they live.

It may come as a rude shock to you, but did you that there are approximately 97 different types of taxes that we are subject to? Yeah, you read that right. There are 97 different types of taxes that the average taxpayers can get stuck with. Now, most people are familiar with property or school taxes, but how about inventory taxes or septic permit taxes? Plus there are transportation, passport, self-employment, utility taxes, tobacco, liquor, gasoline, and dozens more. In addition, there are indirect taxes which are applied in the form of fees such zoning permit, water rights, traffic tickets, parking meters, recycling, toll booth charges, and bunches more . Heck, there's even a tanning bed tax!

Ever take a good look at your phone bill? Depending on where you live, there can be as many as a dozen different fees or surcharges. For instance there is a federal excise tax, a 911 service tax, a minimum usage tax, a universal access tax, and a universal service fee tax. Do you remember ever voting on these? Yeah, me either. Yet, here there they are!

Then there are a number of corporate taxes specifically for small business owners. Kentucky has a minimum $175.00 fee simply for the privilege of doing business in Kentucky, regardless of whether you actually make a profit. As an aside, the average corporate tax is 30%. However, most large companies manage to pay little or no taxes, especially at the federal level. In fact, some of the largest companies actually not only don't pay any taxes, they actually receive millions back. Want examples? Think Chevron, General Motors, Goodyear, Amazon, Netflix, Occidental Petroleum , Honeywell, and John Deere.

With that in mind, let's look at taxes paid in by individuals at the state level. The average resident of Alabama pays in $8,407.85 in state and federal taxes. Their average property tax bill is $556.80. Compare this with residents of Alaska. They pay in $14,640.22 in taxes. Their average property tax bill is $3,309.03. On the up side, Alaskans pay on state income tax. The folks in Arizona pay $10,278.85 in taxes. Their average property tax bill is $1,972.32. Californians pay on average $15,642.81 in federal and state taxes. Property tax is $4,308.09.

Connecticut residents pay $17,037.90 in taxes. The average property tax bill is $4,713.88. Floridians pay, on average, $9,839.21 in taxes. Property tax bills average $2,390.30. However, like Alaska, Florida has no state income tax. Want to live in Hawaii? Be prepared to pay an average of $13,528.92 in taxes. However, property taxes average just $1,735.28 which isn't too bad for a piece of paradise. The average Kentuckian pays $7,536.60 in federal and state income taxes. Property tax averages $1,160.92.

Maryland residents pay around $16,096.75 in taxes, while their average property tax is $2,967.48. Now compare that with Massachusetts which has a comparable federal and state income tax of $16,598.00. However, their property tax is almost double at $4,564.57. Nevada's average federal tax rate is $11, 135.01, but there's no state income tax. Their property tax is $2,403.81.

New Jersey has an average federal and state tax rate of $19,977.91. The average property tax bill is $7,163.33. Neighboring New York is not as bad. While their combined tax average is less, just $15,467.46; their property tax average is $4,877.60. Tennessee, which has no state income tax, pays an average federal tax of $8,746.85. The average property tax bill is $1,100.31. Another state with no state income tax is Texas. Their average federal tax bill is $12,392.38. The average property tax bill is $3,383.11. If I didn't mention your state, you'll find a link below.

While no one likes paying taxes, it's considered the price we pay for civilization. After all, taxes cover the costs paving roads, providing clean water, schools, garbage pickup, police protection, the military, and so on. The issue, however, is whether everyone is paying their fair share. Unfortunately, that answer is no. As stated earlier, the bulk of the taxes continues to fall on the Middle Class.

The result is typically a two or more income family; not to get ahead, but just to keep their heads above water. Too often politicians see raising taxes as a first and only option rather to find other avenues to fund projects (including whether the project is even necessary). In some cases, it's actually a duplicate of another program or could be incorporated into an existing program. But as often as not, it's just another "bridge to nowhere" boondoggle.

Lastly, taxes, fees, and rate increases should be our decision to make, not politicians. After all, politicians have shown time and again that they are incapable of managing our money. I think the best solution is to allow us--the taxpayer--to have the final say. Each proposal should be placed on the ballot along with an explanation as to what the tax or fee is for. Since we are the ones being forced to pay for it, shouldn't we be the ones to decide whether or not we want it? Besides, I'm pretty sick and tired of getting "nickeled and dimed" to death. Aren't you?

Of course, most politicians don't think we're smart enough to understand what we're voting on. Seriously. In my 40+ years as a political activist and community organizer, I've been told repeatedly by political hacks that voters don't have the common sense God gave a goose; that we are incapable of understanding what we're voting on. I disagree. I think most people, when it comes to their money, have a pretty good understanding about how and where it should be spent. I think we need to start demanding that increases, be they property tax, school tax, water or utility rates, or fees for services should be decided by us.

Finally, I want to point out another "tax" of sorts that few of us think about. Corporations, who often receive taxpayer based subsidies, often charge fees, be it handling or restocking charges, late fees, processing fees, a charge to access our money, or whatever, are in fact a form of tax. The difference is that these are "taxes" by another name imposed on us by corporations.

I admit that some of these charges are legitimate. They actually incur an expense for one reason or another which caused. However, many of these charges are simply BS. They're just a means to "penalize" us for some make believe charge while in reality they are just creating a new source of revenue. We need to question these charges every chance we get. Let's make them justify these charges. Personally, I'd like to know why I have to pay a fee to return a product that simply goes back on a shelf or to get some extra cash after just spending a hundred dollars or so buying my groceries there.

So, let's start asking questions. Let's start demanding answers, especially where our money is concerned. Politicians are suppose to work for us right? Instead, many of them act as if what goes on , be it in Washington, the state capitol, or locally, is none of our business. They cater to Corporate America; the Oligarchy, and why not? After all, they underwrite their campaigns. They pay attention to us only when they need something--- like our votes.

Well, it's every bit our business. They are there to represent us--the working class. It's time we control the purse strings. Let's also demand real tax reform. Personally I favor a consumption tax which is tax only on what you buy. You can control the amount of taxes you pay by increasing or limiting your purchases. Just think, no need to even file a tax form. Others, however, prefer a flat tax rate based on their gross income. Again, no income tax forms to file!

As for these businesses who want to charge us an unofficial "tax", let's remind them that in a capitalist economy, it's the consumer who calls the shots. Without us, there are no profits. Without us, there is no business. Let's make them fight for our business. Let's seek out businesses who don't try to take advantage of us with their bogus fees and surcharges. The others will either follow or fade away. Frankly, I don't care which and I don't think you do either. Let's put them to work for us for a change.

Here's how much Americans pay in taxes in every U.S. state

A List of 97 Taxes Americans Pay Every Year

More than 44% of Americans pay no federal income tax

Types of Taxes

You Pay Taxes. These Corporations Didn't.

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