Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"April the 15th (or, in this case, the 17th)"

I do not like paying taxes. (For the Record: I am grateful to have income to pay taxes on. But still.) (For the Record: I acknowledge being ungrateful for saying “But still.”)

Just generally, I do not like money departing from my bank account. But normally, when it does, I end up with a shirt. I go to a Menswear store, I buy a shirt, the price of the shirt is deducted from my net worth – if I pay cash, or write a check, or use a credit card, somehow, it flies away. But at least I have the shirt. What do I get for my taxes?

I know. Roads. But roads are for everybody. The shirt is exclusively mine. I do not get a knock on my door,

“You’re sharing the shirt.”

“Who with?”


So it’s not the same. Taxes pay for services we all use, and I get that. But still. (That’s the last one. I promise.) They really don’t need me for the roads. If I were never born, they would still have the roads. They wouldn’t even be shorter. My part would be paid for by somebody who was born.

So there’s that. You have a certain amount of money. And after April the 15th (or, in this case, the 17th), the pile is smaller. If there’s a choice between having more money or having less money, I prefer to have more money. Unfortunately, in this case, there is no choice.

Which brings us to another reason I don’t like to pay taxes, the reason being,

“They’re wasting our money.”

It seems to me that “They’re wasting our money” is an issue everybody can agree on. Who’s in favor of wasting money? Besides the people who receive that wasted money.

“We don’t mind at all.”

We know.

Now when I talk about “They’re wasting our money”, I’m not talking about the subjective version of “They’re wasting our money” where the Right thinks they’re wasting our money on certain expenditures, like on a vaguely defined group called “deadbeats” and the Left thinks they’re wasting our money on, among other things, missiles, since we already have enough of them to blow up the world more than once, when blowing up the world once would appear to be enough. Once you’ve blown up the world once, what would be the purpose of blowing it up some more?

“Oh, no! I’ve been blown to smithereens!”

“Oh, no! My smithereens have been blown to smithereens!”

“Oh, no! I don’t know if there’s something smaller than smithereens, but if there isn’t, I’ve been blown to something they don’t even have a word for!”

(Is my bias here showing at all?”)

We can agree that some portion of our taxes will inevitably be spent on things we would rather they were not spent to, but that’s just the way it is. There is no “taxes checklist” where you can, say, opt out of subsidizing the Brussels sprouts farmers because you don‘t eat Brussels sprouts – and we’re all equally upset about that, because there is always something each of us would prefer not to pay for.

So there’s disagreement on that version of “They’re wasting our money.” On the other hand, nobody wants to pay for what they call “Waste, fraud and abuse.” If there were an option in that regard, I think we would definitely all check the box marked, “Not interested.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t, and, at least to some degree, whenever I pay my taxes, I feel like I’m flushing a chunk of my tax payment down the toilet. And then learning we’ve been seriously overcharged for the toilet!

But put all that aside, and I’d still be annoyed about paying my taxes. I am not now referring to the idea of paying taxes. I am referring to the actual process of paying the taxes themselves.

Specifically, my state taxes.

For the past two years, we have been required to pay your California state taxes online. You can pay your taxes by mail – as I mistakenly did last year – but there’s a substantial penalty for doing so.

Other than writing this blog and buying things on Amazon, I prefer not to do things on the computer, because I get confused, and I make mistakes. Once, in preparation for a trip to San Francisco, we ordered baseball tickets to a Giants game from an online ticket agent, and we mistakenly inserted the wrong date and got tickets for the game the day after we wanted to go.

We immediately called the ticket agent on the phone, and though we’d ordered them just minutes before, the man refused exchange our tickets. As a result, we had to reschedule our return flight to L.A. (at considerable expense), so we could attend the game we never planned to go to, because they would not change our tickets to the game we did. Our other option was forfeiting the substantially inflated price of the tickets.

The situation here is similar. If you mess up the online filing of your California tax payment – which I did last year on a quarterly estimate – that payment is rejected, resulting in a substantial penalty for filing late.

Are you getting this? If you pay your taxes by mail, there’s a penalty. And if you pay your taxes online and you mess up, there’s also a penalty. This is very disturbing. It’s like some board game, where you’re going down the river, and there’s crocodiles coming at you from all directions.

This does not put me in a great mood for paying my taxes.

And I was not that happy already.


Doug said...

Earl, I think that you and I - from opposite poles of the political spectrum - can agree that our paying taxes to support the salaries of the ninnies who come up with ideas like forcibly "encouraging" online payment of taxes is akin to paying a toothless carny to spin you in an oversized teacup. They both make you dizzy and nauseous.

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; it's the value for money ratio that bugs most people. I can't site a particular study but I'm pretty sure that if tax payers feel they're getting value (even shared) they mind paying their taxes a little less than those that feel they're not getting value.

That said, it's no fun paying taxes in California.