Tags

, , , , , ,

As if. Who would put the word “joy” in the same phrase as “paying taxes?” Especially if she owed the Minnesota Department of Revenue $477.16 due to a filing mistake?

I would.

We have a country full of people who’ve decided that the government has too much of their hard-earned money – people who think that paying one cent to the government is an outrage.

I am not one of those people. Perhaps if the government was asking us to pay over 40% of our income and/or was not delivering any service to citizens, I’d have a different opinion, but historically we are seeing comparatively low tax rates right now, particularly for the wealthy. How would you like to pay 77% of your million-dollar income to the federal government? That was the tax rate for millionaires in 1918. (See The Tax Foundation’s website for historical tax rates. The Tax Foundation is non-partisan.)

Of course, there are all sorts of deductions and credits people can report that lower their incomes for tax purposes, so most of us pay taxes that are lower than the posted rates. Still, at a time when we expect more and more services from government at all levels, citizens are not pitching in as much as we used to in order to pay for those services. It’s not popular to be pro-tax.

I’m pro-tax (if the rates are reasonable & progressive), therefore I’m not popular. So be it. Paying taxes to support our government – a government that is by and for the people, meaning us – is a civic duty that we ought to be proud of, rather than something we try to shirk. Instead, the majority of us grouse about it, mentally ignoring the many services we provide to ourselves through the government.

Some of this crossness with paying taxes is the result of the approach the Internal Revenue Service and various state departments of revenue take with the public. If you accidentally muck things up on your tax reports (as we did), you get very stern letters in the mail that make you feel like a criminal. The Minnesota Department of Revenue (now called Minnesota Revenue, which I can’t seem to get used to) has a Twitter feed (@mnrevenue) that regularly posts on the tax cheats it has caught. No good news on all the wonderful people who’ve paid their taxes, only the bad news.  (Okay, so the feed does have informational stuff on taxes, but still, why not a tweet on the tax compliance for a specific city or county?) And who isn’t scared of the dreaded tax audit? Kinder, friendly tax collection agencies might make us feel happier about paying our taxes.

Regardless of how kind or friendly Minnesota Revenue is, if I owe taxes, by golly, I’m going to pay them. We received one of those stern notices from Minnesota Revenue over the weekend concerning our 2008 Property Tax Refund form. We hadn’t reported some income on the form. We wracked our brains trying to figure out what we hadn’t reported. Turns out it was scholarship and grant income Erik had received while in college. While we had told our accountant at H & R Block that Erik was in school and that he got scholarships and grants, these don’t appear to get counted on income tax returns, but they do get counted on Property Tax Refund forms. It seems strange because the money actually never passed through our hands. It went directly from the grant and scholarship agencies to the college and was, therefore, not available for paying property taxes. In any case, we had forgotten to report it in 2008.

In looking back at our records, I discovered that we hadn’t reported it in two other years and had entered the wrong amount for this line item in another year. Sheesh!

Being eager to straighten all this out, I re-figured our property tax refunds for all of the appropriate years and filled out Amended Property Tax Refund forms this morning. We owe the state $477.16, which includes the interest we owe on what we were overpaid. It’s a big chunk of change for us, but I’ll gladly pay it in order to make things right with the state’s coffers.