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What About This…? 3.30.2017

By Wayne William Cipriano

It’s getting to be that time again, to pay those membership dues for the United States of America Club, you remember, income taxes?

Whether you are a Full-Fledged Member (citizen), an Aspiring Member (in the naturalization process), an Associate Member (holding a Green Card), or even a non-member (refused or never initiated naturalization), you probably have to pay income taxes to the Federal Government and possibly to your home state.

Citizens have an official method of effecting how those taxes are spent (elections) and some others (contributions of time or money, communications, etc.), non-citizens are restricted to the “others”.

We all know that there are penalties for paying less than we owe, serious penalties for paying late, and very serious penalties for not paying at all.

Regardless of the incompetence and tardiness we often encounter in the Federal Government and to some extent our states, the Internal Revenue Service (the tax collection arm of the Federal Government) and its state counterparts are remarkably astute and decidedly persistent.

We hear of a lot of fraud being committed surrounding income taxes, who knows how much we don’t hear about.  It seems to me that sleeping the rest of the innocent is pretty much worth whatever some fraudulent scheme might profit me, but what do I know about the tax bill of some really rich dude?  Maybe Federal prison is worth the risk, especially if you hire the Dream Team?

I do know that honest mistakes and legitimate differences in rule inter-pretation are treated surprisingly respectfully by the IRS.  I think that dealing with honest citizens willing to pay their fair share surprises the IRS into courtesy.  Maybe not.

As I think back, I don’t believe the Income Tax Due Date has ever been earlier than 15 April.  Of course when that is a weekend or a holiday the due date is pushed back, but a good way to avoid anxiety is to submit that tax returns(s) on 14 April.  It’s only a day or so early and what a relief!

That refund, that non-interest loan you made to the governments by overpaying your taxes throughout the year usually gets mailed to you more quickly the sooner you file your tax returns after New Years.  An even quicker way is to allow the Feds/ state to return your overpayment to you (the “refund”) directly into your bank account.

You can see why the Feds/state prefers this method: no check to print; no postage; no duplicates for lost/destroyed/stolen checks; etc.  But there are also benefits to us, the recipients:  checks can be misprinted for amount or address; checks can be delivered to the wrong house; stolen from the mailbox.   Once you get your check you could misplace it, deface it, or have it stolen.  And, even if none of these things occur, what do you do with that check?  You take it to the place the Feds/state would have sent it for you –– the bank!

Now some people do not wish to do business with banks, some people have no access to banks, and some people are just plain wary of giving the Feds/state entre to their bank accounts.  I understand these people.  For the large majority direct deposit seems to be worth the risk of sticky Fed fingers in your accounts.  Speed versus security?  Who knows?

The United States of America Club is a very good one in which to be a member.  There are many, many benefits of membership (Full-Fledged, Aspiring, Associate, and so on), and the dues we pay to maintain ourselves in good standing are very little compared with what we get for those dues.  And, while there are a lot of “suggestions” our culture makes towards us, there is only one membership requirement: lawful behavior.  As long as we observe the law our membership is protected.  And so we pay our dues, our taxes.

Rather than think of all the things our taxes pay for, think of those things we use so often that our taxes support:  roads and bridges, airports and harbors, public buildings, libraries, our various governments, schools and state universities, protection from hostile cultures by our armed forces, protection from ourselves by police, fire protection, our courts, etc.

And don’t forget those financial perks, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.

When you consider the entire enchilada, our taxes are a very good deal for what they buy for us, wouldn’t you say?