Saturday, April 11, 2009

Taxing matters

There's an episode of the television series M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye sends a telegram to President Truman in the middle of the Korean War, asking simply, "Who's responsible?"

On a much less violent and important level, I feel like sending the same message to a President every time I do my taxes.

Who exactly came up with this system, anyway? I know, Congress. Tax policy is public policy, so there are fingerprints everywhere.

Let's take an example. Thanks to some outside work, I have to pay self-employment tax. Here are some actual words from the form I had to fill:

Net earnings from self-employment. Multiply line 3 by 92.35% (.9235). If less than $400, do not file this schedule; you do not owe self-employment tax.

Self-employment tax: If the amount on line 4 is:

* $102,000 or less, multiply line 4 by 15.3% (.153). Enter the result here and on Form 1040, line 57.

* More than $102,000, multiply line 4 by 2.9% (.029). Then, add $12,648 to the result. Enter the total here and on Form 1040, line 57.

Deduction for one-half of self-employment tax. Multiply line 5 by 50% (.5). Enter the result here and on Form 1040, line 27.

Wouldn't you like to know how someone came up with 92.35%?

Then there's the capital gains tax form (check it out here). I feel like I'm taking English as a second language courses when I read that. These two examples are relatively common and simple; what happens with the complicated stuff?

I used to do my own taxes, and have switched to the computer program TaxCut for guidance in the past several years. I admire the pluck of anyone who tries to do his or her own tax return without a computer if they have any deductions or outside income and/or if they don't have an accounting degree.

If any Congressional candidate pledges to greatly simplify the tax code (maybe not to the level of the Steve Forbes flat tax, but you get the idea), he or she will get my vote ... particularly if there's a special election just before April 15.

1 comment:

Glenn Locke, The Tall Thin Guy said...

And it will never be simpified, because the stuff that makes it complex earns campaign donations for congressmen.