Five Good Reasons to Be Mad About Taxes

April 13, 2009

For release April 15 and thereafter (680 words)

In honor of the annual agony we call Tax Day, citizens will gather across Indiana today (April 15) to protest taxes. On the one hand, Tax Day Tea Party is something of a publicity stunt with groups planning to throw tea bags into rivers, prompting environmental concerns about depletion of oxygen in the water and potential damage to fish. On the other hand, this is a real grass-roots effort, promoted almost entirely online by conservative and tax-focused organizations using networks like Facebook.
   
Protests are scheduled at different times of day in Anderson, Bloomington, Columbus, Elkhart, Evansville, Jasper, Lafayette, Lawrenceburg, South Bend, Terre Haute, Valparaiso, Warsaw, Winamac and in Indianapolis on the south lawn of the Statehouse at 4:30 p.m.
   
Jeremy Kata, Republican organizer of the St. Joseph County Tea Party, said the issue is not partisan. “People understand that whether they are Republicans or Democrats their children and indeed their grandchildren will pay for our current spending.”
   
Although the focus of the protests is the $789 billion federal stimulus bill and its impact on future generations, there are plenty of other tax issues riling up organizers. So in the spirit of the original Tea Party in Boston when colonists objected to the onerous Tea Act imposed by Parliament, here are five good reasons to be mad about taxes:
   
They’re high. The average Hoosier worked until April 8 — 98 days — to pay his federal, state and local tax burden this year. This is a slight improvement from years past due to temporary tax cuts and reduced income caused by the recession, but, as the Tax Foundation points out, folks “will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing and housing combined.”
   
The tax code is so ridiculously complex that it is impossible to fill out a return correctly. The tax preparation firm H&R Block says it has found errors in four out of five returns reviewed as part of its highly advertised Second Look service. In 2007, the Internal Revenue Service conducted 1.4 million audits. More than 1 million resulted in additional payments due. In the Tax Foundation’s 2009 Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Taxes, Government Spending and Wealth Distribution, 82 percent of adults said the tax code should be rewritten.
   
The system lacks credibility. How can it be otherwise when the nation’s “role models” don’t comply? Among President Obama’s Cabinet nominees with tax trouble: Kathleen Sebelius, picked to head Health and Human Services, who repaid nearly $8,000 because of “unintentional errors”; Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who failed to pay self-employment taxes in a previous job and had to pay more than $40,000 in back taxes and interest; former Sen. Tom Daschle, Obama’s first choice for HHS who withdrew after disclosing that he paid $140,000 in back taxes and interest.
   
Our representatives in Congress are addicted to spending and earmarks and show no signs of changing. In 2008, 48 lawmakers received an “A” in the National Taxpayers Union 30th annual rating of Congress. A record high 267 senators and representatives got Fs. The scorecard examined every vote affecting tax, spending and regulatory issues. In Indiana, As went to Mike Pence and Dan Burton and Fs to Pete Visclosky, Joe Donnelly, Andre Carson, Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill, and Evan Bayh.
   
Indiana is no longer a low tax state. The Tax Foundation ranks us 28th in overall tax burden – property, income, sales etc. – compared to a 41st place ranking as recently as 1983. We are 23rd in the amount homeowners pay for property taxes as a percentage of home value. Our sales tax at 7 percent is close to the nation’s highest. We’ve been on a slippery slope of tax hikes that have allowed us to invest in education and services but could ultimately damage our business and employment climate.
   
Is a Tea Party in order? Absolutely. “When we speak to our leaders, they do not listen,” Kata complains. Maybe they will listen if thousands of Hoosiers show up on courthouse steps, at the Statehouse or on riverbanks with loud voices, protest signs and tea bags.

Andrea Neal is a teacher at St. Richard’s School in Indianapolis and adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contact her at aneal@inpolicy.org.



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