Unless you're an accountant or a dependent, April 15 is a day of dread for most Americans. This is the fateful day when federal income taxes from the previous year are due.
The first income tax was enacted in 1862 to finance the Civil War. In 1895, the Supreme Court declared the income tax to be a violation of the Constitution. It took the central government until 1913 to clear all the legal hurdles and pass the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution which made the income tax a permanent institution and an annual national headache.
Today, the average American pays more in taxes than he spends on food, clothing, shelter and transportation combined. To conceal this outrageous fact, taxes are collected from every conceivable direction, such as federal, state and local income tax, state and local sales tax, real estate property tax, personal property tax, licensing fees, communications surcharges and so forth. Soon there will be a tax on breathing.
George W. Bush and his merry band of intellectual overseers have enacted new tax laws meant to ease the tax burden, albeit ever so slightly. This new law will take effect in phases over the next ten years and will include 441 changes in the current system.
Some of the changes have already caused a great deal of confusion. There's a new line on this year's return to claim a credit if you received no rebate check, or less than a full rebate check, from last year's one-time program to give taxpayers up to $300 for individuals and $600 for couples, based on the previous year's tax expense. In the early tax returns through February, there had already been more than 2 million returns with errors related merely to this one line.
Anyone who fumbles through a federal income tax instruction booklet quickly realizes the tax code is far more complex than it should be. Even accountants go bonkers trying to figure it out.
Perhaps it was designed to confuse and frustrate on purpose, much like the design of my ex-wife. For example: IRS form 8583, Passive Activity Loss Limitation -- "Passive activity income does not include the following: Income for an activity that is not a passive activity." Although it proves that Cheech and Chong have many followers among instruction manual writers, it doesn't really help anyone looking for an actual answer.
The federal income tax is one of the many tools our central government overseers use to confiscate our individual wealth in order to cover their monstrous expenses. In their eager attempt to be fair, they compromise beyond reason until any semblance of fairness is lost in the process. Since no one can understand the tax code in the first place, it's probably about as fair as a debate about the origin of the universe between a theoretical physicist and a cat named Ding-Dong.
The Internal Revenue Service was set up to assist taxpayers. In a recent government study, 37 percent of taxpayers calling the IRS for information never get their calls answered. Of those who did, 47 percent were given the wrong answers.
The IRS is on the ball though when it comes to nailing taxpayers. Last year an accountant cost one of his clients a $10,000 penalty because he failed to put sufficient postage on the return to get it delivered in time.
The IRS also operates with the efficiency we have come to expect from our vast central government. Nearly half of the 30 million penalty notices the IRS mails out each year are erroneous. The IRS spent 11 years and $4 billion on a new computer system that doesn't work. According to the General Accounting Office, the IRS has no clue how 64 percent of their present budget was spent, some $4.3 billion. Plus the GAO is unable to verify any of the IRS's financial statements from 1992 to 1996.
If you were to stack all the tax publications of the IRS, the stack would be over four feet high and you would probably have a pulled groin.
There's an old saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Apparently, those who came up with our tax code had a lot of committee meetings.