Under our federal income tax system, nearly all monetary or in-kind transactions are taxable, even between family members. True, our federal policymakers do allow deductions and exemptions, but all deductions and most exemptions are still reportable acts. Considering the number of human transactions that involve some type of compensation, our federal tax system is essentially a behavioral modification and data collection system that just happens to also collect revenue.
Not to be outdone, state governments follow suit each in their own way. If individual states are not as intrusive as the feds, it’s only because the feds have already collected all of the important information.
At the local level, information needed to assess one’s tax obligation can take on rather interesting hues, which brings me to the spark that caused me to write this article. A few days ago I received a property appraisal form from my county auditor. The form requires me to update a number of property features, such as number of bedrooms, whether I have gas or wood fireplaces, and the number of toilets in the house. To be fair, the form doesn’t specifically ask for the number of toilet bowls, but it does list toilets in the definitions of full and half baths. It also asks if I have added any outbuildings in the past five years. I assume an outhouse is an outbuilding.
I don’t know how much of this reporting is state-mandated or is part of some county auditor best practice learned at county auditor school and passed around at county auditor conventions as a means to squeeze every drop of tax blood possible. Having lived in several different states, I know variations of this process are used nationwide. Nevertheless, I also know that our tax systems, from the federal government down to the local governments, are not characteristic of a free and great nation. They are characteristic of a bureaucratic and declining nation.
This is not an anti-tax rant. It’s more of an open letter to the Republican Party. Although there are many more efficient and nonintrusive ways to collect tax revenue, the GOP has done nothing to promote or establish a tax system that collects the required revenue but does not violate our civil rights and damper our economy. And yes, telling the government how much I give to charity and the number of toilets I have is a violation of my civil rights. I’m not even going to touch the negative impact our tax system has on our economy. If I have to explain why I feel the way I do, you might want to stop reading this and go find out what the Kardashians are up to.
What’s amazing is how universally accepted intrusive tax systems have become. Earlier this year, I was active in defeating my city’s (Beavercreek, Ohio) fifth attempt at passing an income tax. City Council put the income tax on the ballot by a vote of 7-0. Council members, in their zeal to pass the income tax, kept telling us that the burden of adhering to the new reporting requirements was no big deal. They also told us we shouldn’t worry what the money was going to be spent on; we needed to trust them. That’s just another way of saying we had to pass the law to find out what was in it. The tax initiative failed 62% to 38%. At least three of those council members were/are known registered Republicans. My county auditor is a Republican, as was the prior longtime auditor before him.
I’m a simple man and this is a simple message. But maybe the problem is that I’m not a simple man but rather just a simpleton. I sometimes get the feeling that when I tell Republican politicians what I believe, they act like they agree with me until I leave the room and then break out in hysterical laughter. Sort of the feeling you get after you buy a new car thinking you got a good deal, but as you’re driving away you wonder if the sales crew is standing around the water cooler having a good laugh at your expense.
I know power is an aphrodisiac and political parties crave political power. And nothing exudes political power more than the ability to control someone’s behavior by telling them what they can and cannot deduct or exempt and being able to force them to tell the government everything about themselves under the pretense of meeting their patriotic tax obligations.
Taxes are the lifeblood of governments. If anything, the history of the past 50 to 100 years has shown the GOP has played nice with the Democrats on nearly all government expansion programs (ignoring political grandstanding, which is usually just for show). Of course, many in the GOP would claim they cooperated under the spirit of bipartisanship. Bless their hearts.
If our intrusive tax systems benefit both political parties, the $1M question is why do we need the Republican Party? The GOP is on the road to permanent minority status unless the party distinguishes itself from the Democrats. We don’t really need two pro-government parties; many voters will just choose the one that does it best, and the remaining voters will just stay home.
I have to go now. I have some toilets to count.
Tony Corvo is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with a Ph.D. in physics. He is active in local Beavercreek, Ohio politics and is the author of All Politics is Loco: Musings from the Conservative Next Door. He and his wife have two grown daughters. He writes extensively on local issues. Many of his recent articles can be found at taxbusters.wordpress.com/author/phdmc2.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
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