Mariette recently did her taxes. It consisted of logging into a website and letting the tax agency know that the paperwork they had prepared for her showing what she would receive as a refund was correct. She then provided her bank information so the tax agency could forward the refund to her account. Total time she invested in it was 10 minutes. And her taxes are D-O-N-E.
Filing one’s taxes in the U.S. are the polar opposite. I finished my ordeal today and in finding some forms I needed on the IRS site I noticed that there are 2,040 different tax forms and publications one can access. I read somewhere that the U.S. tax code is more than 50,000 pages long and I believe it.
In Sweden, the tax agency basically does the work for you. In the U.S. there is a whole industry devoted to navigating the complexities of the tax code for people who can’t make heads or tails of it. Doing one’s taxes oneself, especially for the self-employed, like myself, takes hours and hours. The nation’s 140 million taxpayers must spend billions of man hours doing their taxes, so not only are citizens getting less and less from their tax dollars, they have to spend their valuable time figuring out their yearly tribute.
Granted, taxes are high in Sweden but at least the government makes it painless to pay them. Not to get all political, but the last painless way for anyone to pay taxes would be to replace the income tax with a consumption tax. While exempting various necessities from taxation such as food, medicine, clothing and rent allowances for poorer people, everything else could be taxed on the consuming end to furnish revenues to operate the government. Sales taxes take the individual person no time at all to calculate. You just pay them at time of purchase and are done with it. Everyone pays their fair share proportionate to their purchases, even the black market economy pays into a taxation system based on consumption (sales taxes) rather than production (income taxes).
And while I am on a roll, the Federal Reserve’s charter is up for renewal in 2013. If Congress refused to renew the charter (fat chance), the Fed would cease to exist.
I’m glad to get that out of the way because tomorrow’s post will be all about Easter, which is a big deal here but not for the reasons it is a big deal in the U.S.