April 18, 2011

Washington witchcraft

Once again, as a full-time starving artist I only had to fork over to Uncle Sam a pound of flesh in the form of "self-employment taxes." On the bright side, if the Social Security system survives in its current form until I hit seventy, I'll collect about what I'm making now!

Doing my taxes reminds me what a corrupt system this is. I didn't starve that much this year, so I was a little surprised when I ended up owning no income taxes. The "Making work pay" tax credit, it turns out. I had no idea it was there until I scanned the final PDF of my 1040.

The complexity of the tax code and the resulting lack of transparency means that however politicians may swear they're helping the poor and downtrodden, the poor and downtrodden are more likely than not being screwed over by those same "tax breaks" they don't know exist.

There was even a story on the local nightly news about the "Making work pay" tax credit, reminding people to take advantage of it. The only rational recourse is to use decent tax preparation software (I use TaxAct). But that, frankly, is an utterly undemocratic solution.

The income tax has become a magical black box that turns numbers into money for reasons known only to the alchemists, which politicians then pretend came out of their own generous pockets. We may be One Nation under God, but we're being ruled by witchcraft.

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# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
4/19/2011 7:54 AM   
I can attest to all this! When I first did my taxes, pencil to paper, I owed the government $40--even AFTER I factored in paying interest on my student loan and claiming a deduction for educational supplies.

Eugene told me about Taxact and the idea of rewriting my taxes in pen and checking my numbers made me so tired (there's a reason I teach English), I decided to use it.

And what do you know--now the Feds owe ME $200.

Which is nice but it would have been nicer not to have the scare in the first place (initially, before I applied the few bells & whistles that I did know about, I owed the Feds $400).

It amazes me how anti-small-business/anti-individual our supposedly progressive Federal government can be.