When this posts … at least if you are one of the first few readers of the day … I will be in my accountant’s office going through the paperwork he needs to do my 2013 taxes. Bob has been my accountant since I formed my own consulting company back in 1999 and paying quarterly estimated taxes brought the possibility of the IRS’s punitive underpayment penalties. Bob is an excellent accountant … he’s saved my britches on several occasions when peculiar situations turned up in my tax records and he’s advised me well on business tax matters … and he’s a very nice man. None-the-less, the week leading up to my meeting with him is my least favorite times of the year because with my income varying from year to year, I’m always uncertain how much I’ll owe. No, I won’t be getting any money back … I’m not in the business of giving Uncle Sam no-interest loans. I pay the amount that Bob tells me will avoid penalties and nothing more.
I am not, however, one of those people who, as CNN says, seem to increasingly treat taxation as a something close to a crime committed by the ruling class. I don’t have to do much searching on the internet to learn that by international standards, particularly among developed nations, U.S. citizens are relatively lightly taxed. We have excellent roads and infrastructure, effective law enforcement, capable national defense, and reasonable public services given the size of our country. While I don’t believe in government sponsorship of a massive redistribution of wealth, I firmly believe that an affluent society should help its less fortunate citizens. This all costs money and that money comes from taxes. Of course, government waste drives me crazy, as do politicians that treat themselves like the ruling class we’re not supposed to have as a democracy. Naturally, finding a balance between government and individual rights, between capitalism and socialism to satisfy a diverse citizenry is a continuing process (Spare me, OK? We haven’t been a purely capitalist society in decades). Democracy costs money.
Oh, yeah, I’ll moan and groan if Bob calls me before April 15th and tells me I owe thousands of dollars. I’ll hate sending money that could pay for a nice vacation to a government that seems to forget sometimes that it is our money. I’ll be happy to listen to anyone who has a way to simplify the tax filing process or eliminate government waste. But being an American costs money … and perhaps a few moans and groans … as well as belief in some rather cherished principles, all of which seem to get forgotten in this era of partisanship and American angst. So, I try not to complain too much. Still, I can’t resist posting my traditional tax season video: