I finished and filed my tax returns this weekend. My taxes are fairly simple, most of my income is from employment; I am able to itemize deductions. I have nearly always prepared my own tax returns, only once in 40 years have I paid someone to prepare my taxes. Actually that year I paid two accountants, the first one was very creative and scared the crap out of me, the second one was overly conservative and in the end I settled on middle ground redoing the forms myself. That was before tax software and at a time when my income was complex. I started using Turbo tax a few years ago when I needed to complete a long term capital gains form – a mystifying form if ever there was one. If you understand the numbers, the software plugs the numbers into the right places on the form and makes it truly easy. I am amazed at the bright and well educated people who are afraid of doing their tax return. If you understand the basics of the numbers, it is really easy. The software does the hard part of getting the right numbers on the right lines and making sure the math is correct. Be honest, and the IRS is easy to get along with. Remember that they know more about your finances then you think they do.
I am truly fortunate, I had a good year; my federal income tax liability was more than I have made a few years in my adult life.
I feel happy to pay my share of the cost of maintaining a civil society. In exchange for this I am able to leave my home without fear for my health and safety. I would not be where I am today without government programs. I used a government first time home buyer program to but my first house in 1982 at 12.5% interest when the market rate was 15% (the good old days.) I started and finished my higher education in state colleges and universities. I used federally insured student loans to finance graduate school, allowing me to greatly expand my ability to help others and earn a living that results in my paying this tax bill. Society gets a good return on investment for my education, my guess is that I doubled by earnings ability, hence doubling my tax liability, so for a-couple of percent interest break, on less than $50,000 in graduate school loans (which were paid off in 7.5 years) society gets several thousand dollars in taxes additional each year. Society needs to make more investments like that. Surely I pay my share of things I don’t like, want or need, but they are programs that someone needs. As a member of society I am my brother’s keeper, if I was not, he would not be mine.
Are there government programs that benefit no-one? Maybe. Can government operate more efficiently – yes – please let the post office drop Saturday mail delivery, close underutilized post offices and sell something besides postage in their retail locations. I know the Post Office is an independent government agency, but when it shows a loss, tax dollars plug the hole and Post Office management has been begging Congress for a decade to allow it to change its business model. But overall, we get a lot for what we pay. We get a safe and civil society, we get clean air and water; you literately can’t breathe without benefiting from the efforts of our government.