For every single year of my adult life, I have promised myself that I will get my taxes done early. This year I actually did it for the first time. I have completed form 1040. I have completed Schedule A. I have included my W-2. I have included the relevant information from my 1099-B and the information about my mortgage. I have put it all in an envelope and mailed it to the IRS. I am finished with my taxes 45 days before the deadline.
Do I mind paying taxes? Well, not really. This year I paid $3538 in federal income taxes along with several thousand in state taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, sales taxes, real estate taxes, car taxes, and probably others that I’m not even aware exist. Overall, it’s a pretty small amount compared to what I earn. Most people on earth both past and present would be happy if they could pay as small a percentage in taxes as I do.
Indeed, taxes have had a big effect on the fate of many nations and it was rarely a good one. High taxes have ruined nations as diverse as ancient China, the Byzantine Empire, pre-revolutionary France, nineteenth-century Russia, and many third-world countries today. Whenever you have a monarchy or a small oligarchy that has the power to set tax rates and benefit from high rates, they tend to raise rates. Once that happens, it’s game over for that society. Here in the United States, we actually have sufficient limits on government and sufficiently active citizens that the government has some motivation to keep taxes low. Hence our high standard of living.
There are, however, a few things that I would change about taxes if I could. First, I don’t think that the tax code should be thousands of pages long. Second, I think that the collection process should be more efficient. For example, I live in Virginia and I have to send my tax return to the IRS processing center in Kansas City, MO. There’s an IRS processing center in Atlanta that is much closer to my home, but obviously they can’t allow me to send my tax return there. No, tax returns from the mid-Atlantic region must go to the great plains (and vice versa) in some cases, because that’s the way government does things. And if you don’t like it, they’ll be happy to audit you.