I got my first every paycheque a couple days ago. And with it, a surprising realization.
Well, surprise pretty much sums up this entire short post. At first, I was surprised because I thought I had been underpaid by over a couple hundred dollars. I dealt with it for a couple days, double and triple checked my contract, and decided how to tactfully bring it up with my boss. No, I was completely certain I had been underpaid. But maybe this was standard practice, and the next biweekly payment would make up for it? I didn’t know what to do. So one day, out of sheer boredom, I looked up my payment receipt.
I hadn’t been underpaid. Instead, they had taken off the income tax from my payment. I didn’t even know companies do that. Do they? I suppose perhaps because I’m working for the government, the procedures are slightly different than what they are for everyone else. And in a way, I suppose this is a good thing; I don’t have to worry about filing taxes later, because from what I’ve seen happens everytime tax weekend comes around, no one’s having fun.
I’m not going to lie; I was seriously considering not paying taxes on the money at all. Consider the facts: I’m a university student, so people universally have sympathy for my financial position. I’m working for the government, so I’m not making fat stacks, either – quite the opposite. For that reason, the tax rate would be incredibly low for me – so low that it probably wouldn’t even make a difference if I paid or not. And this isn’t America – the IRS won’t shut my life down for a little bit of tax evasion. Of course I wouldn’t have done it, but it was fun thinking about it. But I didn’t even get the chance, because they cut the taxes from my salary. And that’s when the realization hit me.
This is coming from someone who used to fully embrace the idea, too. I used to think that taxes were the foundation of a strong democratic society, that they were instrumental in the power and actions of the government, that they sought to restore some fairness among an inherently unequal people, that they bettered society. The truth is that taxes probably do all of that. But I had to pay income taxes, and that leaves a different taste in you mouth.
The juice goes out of taxes when you actually have to pay them. Yes, it’s a beautiful thing in theory, but it’s a different beast when you consider it practically and personally. And not everything that’s good in theory works out in the real world – communism and KFC, for example. When my parents used to complain about paying 40% tax on their income, I would lecture them on the uses of it, and why we need them. But now I can sympathize with them. And now I realize that they must be making big bucks compared to me if I’m complaining about paying less than half their percentage on my income.
Well, I’m not just going to rant and not suggest how to fix this travesty, that just wouldn’t be me. So here’s what needs to be done.
- Stop taxing the poor. Where I once would have said that everyone should be taxed at proportional levels, I now think that if you earn less than a certain threshold, you shouldn’t have to pay income taxes at all. Let’s face it – income equality has never been worse. Even with proportional taxes, the wealthy hardly feel their taxes while the low-income feel every hard-hitting dollar. So instead of citing equality while achieving the exact opposite, let the poor keep their income, and bring themselves to a level where they do start paying taxes. Doesn’t sound that bad to me.
- Increase taxes on the rich. Seriously, the extremely wealthy can afford to give up a little more. If you’re making more than 10 million in net income, taking half really shouldn’t kill you. Instead of cutting taxes on the rich, we should be cutting them for the poor and increasing them on the rich. I would think that more obvious words have never been spoken, but apparently quite a few people (ahem, Republicans) would disagree. And for the life of me, I can’t imagine why. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Reagan was overrated and did way more damage to the economy than good.
- Actually, that’s it. It isn’t too tough a recipe.
You may very well disagree with everything I’ve written. If so, more power to you. All I know is that I had to pay taxes for the first time in my life, and I hated it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Taxes are not a bad thing, and are absolutely necessary in a society – but I do think we should reconsider who has to pay, and how much.