Friday, March 05, 2010

tax burden

I just filed our taxes for 2009. We're getting our usual sizable refund.

As I was filing, I was thinking about the way people complain bitterly about the burden of taxation that US citizens are prone to feeling they're under. People complain that 1/3 or some absurd amount is taken away from them by the greedy government. Like most people, I do object to some of what the government spends money on, though my list is different from most tax revolutionaries' lists. (I like roads and schools, not so much prisons and wars.) But the notion that the government is paupering us to spend like drunken sailors doesn't really fit the fact pattern in my life.

This year, a typical year for me, my effective rate of taxation, after all the deductions and so forth, was a grand total of 11.34%. Now, if you look just at the very much reduced federal "taxable" income (which is about 1/3 less than my adjusted gross income), I pay about 12.97% of that to the feds. But if you take the tax amount from the adjusted gross, my total federal tax is a quite reasonable and doable 8.95%. My rent per month is more than double what I pay in federal income tax.

The state tax is even more interesting. Californians of a certain political stripe love to harp on the incredibly high tax burden of Californians. This is a lie, there's no other word for it. The actual rate of property tax here is below every other state I'm familiar with. And the income tax is even lower. My income tax rate this year, versus my taxable income, was 2.7%. In relation to my adjusted gross income, it was 2.4%.

You know what? I pay about the same amount per month for satellite TV as for state income taxes. (And again, I'd prefer more schools than prisons...)

There are governments that impose serious taxes on people, and do things like fund universal health care, strong educational systems, programs to eliminate the urge to commit crimes, and to rehabilitate people who do. Given how much of our tax dollars go to the military-industrial complex, and how little goes to helping ordinary people's lives, the social services portion of our tax dollars are stretched incredibly thinly. And most of us should shut the hell up about burdensome taxes.