My Personal Tax Hell

Well, I intended to get this Rant posted in time for tax day, but I failed. I have a couple of halfway decent excuses. The first is the birth of a baby son! (Too late for a '96 deduction.) But the second, alas, was the mindbending amount of toil required to file those damned inquisitous documents. Not only did our various levels of government require a great deal of money (that could have been going toward baby clothes, toys or a college tuition fund) -- they compelled me to do a monstrous job of work to make sure they didn't get even more!

At a modest consulting fee of $15/hr., I'd have to charge $225 (before taxes) for my work getting those taxes together (assuming someone were willing to pay it), not counting the cost of the tax software that enabled me to avoid paying an even costlier professional tax preparer. Yes, I'm angry. In this year of "welfare reform", I have been required to spend an oppressive amount of time -- much better spent elsewhere! -- to process the handing over of an excessive amount of money -- assuredly better spent elsewhere.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Of course not, but that only makes it worse. My feelings in this matter are demoralizingly common. You see, we are told that our income tax system in the United States is based on "ability to pay" but every middle-class taxpayer knows that the system is really based on inability to avoid paying.

Now, don't get me wrong; I'm not a wild-eyed government-hater. I happen to think that the public sector can (and occasionally does) do worthwhile things. There was a time when the federal government provided for the children (not to blame, after all, for their condition) of indigent mothers. There was a time when a solvent, sensibly designed federal pension system insured against widespread poverty among the aged. Those programs are gone in Clinton's America, but presumably they could be resumed. Don't say we lack the wealth: we are still, after all, building the B-2 bomber and the Seawolf submarine, two strategic weapons that lack any conceivable military mission in the post-cold war world. Every year, we purchase a collection of surpassingly expensive bad sculpture at over $1 billion per unit. No, we've got the wealth -- and as I see it, a good bit of it is my infant son's.

It's not like we don't have an alternative, either. They're not fooling me for a minute; I live in New York City. Every month I pay a pretty penny for access to a little spot of ground on which to rent a place to live, and the costs of location, location, location are factored into every high-priced, high-taxed thing that I scrape together the meager wages to buy.

But let me reiterate: I'm not anti-government. I am willing to pay my fair share to support the activities of government, albeit corrupt and misguided. But why should I pay through the nose when others, who benefit from my work while collecting my money, and benefit doubly from the contributions of government spending, are barely asked to pay anything at all?

Who are these deadbeats? Why, the landowners, of course. Why is real estate such a decade-in, decade-out good investment? Because land's value is enhanced by every productive activity of the community, whether public or private -- and that very productive activity is taxed so as to further enhance their asset values.

Let's put it more directly: the value of land is not created by land holders but by the productive activity of the community, which is penalized by taxes in order to fund the public improvements that further increase land values! The rent of land is created by the community, and belongs to the community. It is the fund from which public improvements should be paid for.

We pay for land twice, in this economy: first to the private land "owner" who "owns" the resources we need for livelihood -- and second to the government(s) who lack the wisdom or the courage to collect public revenue from its proper source.

We only need to pay once. The rent of land should be paid to the community to fund public needs, and other taxes should be abolished. There is an alternative to our vexing, insulting, burdensome, unfair, inefficient and ponderous tax system. So go ahead, fellow citizens, be angry. Be very angry. Be angry enough to explore the alternative. We don't need to abolish government. We have the capacity to fund the legitimate needs of the community -- sanely, sensibly and fairly.

Remember: we file the returns in April. But the robbery goes on all year long.

Lindy Davies -- April 16, 1997

And here's what folks have been saying:

I came, I read, I smiled.
Ed Dodson <[email protected]>
Cherry Hill, NJ U.S.A. - Thursday, April 17, 1997 at 20:04:36 (EDT)
Good statement, Lindy, on the need for the community collection of Ground Rent. I would be a little stronger re: the abomination that is the IRS and the "income tax" system. Certainly, intimidation and extortion are prime weapons of the IRS collection agency. Are you familiar with the pamphlet entitled STOP LEGAL STEALING written by John C Lincoln in 1958? It corresponds with my thinking that TAXATION IS THEFT and that the community created rental value of land is the only legitimate source of public revenue. Got that off my chest. Best regards
Roy Davidson <[email protected]>
Green Valley Green Valley, Az USA - Monday, April 21, 1997 at 10:42:44 (EDT)
Wait a minute! Are you saying that people like Michael Jordan or Donald Trump should pay no income tax when they make millions and millions?
Max Schmoo <[email protected]>
Brooklyn, NY - Monday, April 21, 1997 at 13:58:36 (EDT)
Or Bill GATES?
Brooklyn, - Monday, April 21, 1997 at 14:00:33 (EDT)
Yes. that's exactly what I'm saying. Michael Jordan, Donald Trump, Bill Gates should pay no income tax, no sales tax, no tax on their dwelling. The
Roy Davidson <[email protected]>
Green Valley, Az USA - Friday, April 25, 1997 at 11:37:52 (EDT)
Stumbling into your site was a fabulous find. I had sadly concluded many years ago that Henry George was my secret and mine alone. No one else seems to know him. And when you try to discuss his insights, either eyes glaze over or folks put you down as certifiable, subversive, or both. But George's insights supply almost the only policies that could reverse our downward spiral into a feudal swamp. I learned a little of him in college (U of Miami, FL, 1947-51), then spent most of my carrer as a public policy economist in both gov't and industry. Retired for more than a decade, I keep my hand in as a political activist, formerly in the GOP, now with the Democrats. Politics is an essential step for anyone who needs to understand how "sausage" is made, and would then influence the recipe. The drive for speculative land profits is the most powerful force fueling politics and campaign funding at ALL levels of Gov't. And we cannot counter that by sitting on the sidelines, no matter how hard we work to educate. Our most urgent task of the moment is to make sure that the President doesn't give away the "Capital Gains" tax in exchange for something else he wants from the Republicans. Most people have yet to catch on that gains tax reductions (or elimination) is a welfare program for speculators. We need to use that lable repeatedly when communicating with the President, Congress, and the press.
Dave Gillogly <[email protected]>
Leesburg, VA USA - Sunday, April 27, 1997 at 22:31:40 (EDT)
I couldn't agree more re: capital gains taxes, David. We are led by the conventional stupidity to think of CG tax reductions as good for business -- but in fact they are only good for FIRE sector activities, not the productive enterprises that make the economy go.
Lindy Davies
- Thursday, May 01, 1997 at 12:31:20 (EDT)
I see what you're getting at but the real problem is OBFUSCATION. No Georgist would want to tax Capital. There are so many misnomers today such as confusing Capital with Land and Land with Wealth that it seems almost hopeless unless there is greater recognition of the clear definition of terms used in Political Economy as did Henry George in Progress and Poverty.
Roy Davidson <[email protected]>
Green Valley, Az USA - Thursday, May 01, 1997 at 19:06:03 (EDT)
hg's remedy is the kinder gentler thatcherism/reaganism everyone is seeking. life is intimidating extorting abominating don't forget exaggeration is a form of mental illness in eburnsmd feeling good the new mood therapy righteous anger is constructive
- Monday, May 05, 1997 at 15:35:09 (EDT)

And the discussion goes on...