Let me say upfront that I hate taxes and I hate everything about the concept of them. You scrape, you save, you eat hamburger helper with no hamburger (well maybe not that bad), but you put together enough to buy a a house or a car. And then each year you have to buy a part of those two belongings back in taxes. It's the only two things I know you have to keep buying even though it is paid for. Could you imagine going to the mall and buying a new shirt and then at work some tax guy (or gal) comes and rips your shirt off for not paying the continuing tax on it.
You earn money on the job and you pay a chunk of it in state and federal income tax. What is left, you get in your car (that is taxed) and drive to the mall to buy that shirt. On the way, you stop and put some gas in your truck and it has a huge state and federal tax on it. Once you buy the shirt at the mall, you pay another eight cents on the dollar before you can haul it out of the store.
When I started work in Georgia I struggled mightily with the state tax form because I had earned some money in another state, the forms were little or no help and I couldn't find a human being to help. So I do the very best I can and make the stinking deadline. So months later, I get a letter that said I figured it out wrong and they were sending me a $300 refund. Well, I figure they wrote the laws and so understand them better than me. So I spend the $300. The letter said if I didn't agree with their math that I could appeal. Well, anytime you are being given money you don't appeal anything. So I accepted the decision and threw it away. Four months later I got a letter from the Georgia tax officials saying they had considered my appeal (remember, I didn't file one) and they ruled that I owed them $300 plus penalties for the months since I filed my taxes. So I wrote to them and said I didn't appeal anything. So I get a bunch of bureaucratic junk back that said if I didn't pay up they would get me. So I borrowed the $300 and additional penalty and bit my tongue and dropped it into the mail box.
Even now as I enter a new year the April 15 deadline already gives me a sour stomach.
All of this dislike of taxes and especially the confusing forms and rules has me thinking about this proposal I dismissed as stupid that would put a 25 cent tax on what you buy and do away with the federal income tax.
In Europe, they hide any taxes in the cost of something and I like this. You go into a convenience store to buy a Cherry Coke and it is $1.25. You go up and plop down $1.25 and it is yours. You don't think that there is tax hidden in the cost.
So the 99 cent chili at Wendy's is really $1.08 now when you pay the sales tax. Under the European plan, a big sign would say Chili: $1.35 and that is what you would pay.
I think I like this idea. You don't see the tax. You don't think about the tax. You consider the $1.35 chili. Is it worth it to you? Yes, and then you buy it.
Several things worry me about the sales tax replaces income tax plan. First, it is being pushed by right-wing Republicans and so I think there must be something that is going to slam the little redneck Southern boy like myself and help the corporate headquarters for Wendy's. Secondly, I worry about people who, unlike me, don't have any mad money. They live at the nub of life and so if buying food or clothing is going to cost more they are going to do without. So maybe we could exempt food at least and maybe medicine. Also, I wonder what the businesses are going to pay if consumers like me are going to pay the freight. And if not, are you going to have a federal income tax for businesses? Either kill the viper or not.
What sounds good about the plan is the same thing that is good about the one cent sales tax in Clayton County to support schools and the penny a dollar to support the county. When someone from Macon stops at the mall and spends $100 on Christmas decorations they are ponying up $2 for the schools and county in the county without even realizing it. One estimate is that as much as 40 percent of the sales tax comes from non-county residents. The same would be true of the foreign visitors. When they haul part of America back to Tokyo or London, they would be paying part of the bill for running the massive federal bureaucracy. I always consider David Scott to be a level-headed, rational kind of elected official who never forgets the thousands of struggling people out here in Clayton County. He says he hasn't ruled out the national sales tax, but like me just has a lot of questions. He also knows the federal tax codes are a mess and way too complicated.
So I say to the right-wing Republicans. We have an open mind. We hate taxes just like you do even though we recognize that you have to have green fuel to run this giant government. So convince us this is just not a ploy to shift the burden to us from big business and convince us that it will bring in the needed money and then we will consider it.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor for the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .