Time to pay the tax man

Published 11:48 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2003

By By James Crawford
News Editor
There are two things that are certain in life. One: you are going to die. And two: you will have to pay your taxes before you go. What has me thinking about death and taxes is, of course, it's that time again. The time that comes every year like clockwork: tax time.
Every year I go through the same drama in the software isle. I go back and forth over which tax program I should use to file my taxes. I've pretty much decided to stick with the TurboTax line, but the choices don't end there, unlike my wife's patience with me at the checkout line.
She doesn't understand that it takes time to figure it all out. You have to decide if basic is all you'll need, or if you'll need to upgrade to the deluxe model, or do you have dozens of investments that will put you in the position of needing the premier edition to handle it all for you, and last but not least, if you own a business then surely you'll need the extra buttons and options that the home and business version will deliver.
The confusion is as endless as the options. In the end of course she's right, the choices boil down to what do you really need to get the job done? Unless you own a business, in which case you need to be fairly good at math and legalize to understand all the deductions to do it yourself, then you will probably be in the Leave it to Beaver home situation, namely mom, dad, and one or two kids.
If you fall in line with the Cleavers like I do, then all you really need is the deluxe model. Now by deluxe I don't mean that this version really has that much more than the basic model. It just happens to include a free version of the state program and a discount rebate that pays for one electronic filing and give you the money back for the state.
In retrospect, I have no idea who would even pause for a minute and buy the basic version. You would then have to spend extra money for the state and together they would cost more, but I guess some people fall for it. It can SEEM cheaper sometimes to buy them separate like that but it's not with the rebate.
Once you get the software installed, the process is fairly painless, unless you're like me, always nervous about forgetting something that will get your return rejected. But in the four years I've filed electronically using a program, I've never had a problem nor a rejection, so I guess I should lighten up and hit the send button. Besides, there is an adage in journalism that you are blind to your own mistakes so I doubt I could find a problem anyway. The computer age is finally found something it can help you do without a problem: pay your bills.
Every year at this time, there are endless debates about taxes. How much should we pay, who pays the most and for some fanatics, should we even have to pay at all? The answer of course, is yes, we have to pay taxes and yes everyone should pay their fair share and no, that isn't the way is works all the time.
Big brother, the federal government, needs taxes to provide all the wonderful services that it gives to us. Some of which we take for granted on a daily basis. But the purpose of a government is also to help people and you don't help anyone by taxing them to the point of starvation.
Here in Alabama that point is underscored by the most arcane, antiquated tax system in all the fifty states. To the point where I refuse to say I'm from Alabama when the subject of taxes is brought up.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm proud to pay my taxes just like every other citizen but sometimes it gets a little ridiculous. I mean, in Alabama if you make just a little bit above 4,000 gross in a year, you will owe some amount of tax.
That's not just ridiculous. That's obscene. Once more, it's pathetic. The tax structure in our state is a mess and that mess goes all the way back to our insanely inadequate state constraint, I mean constitution, that was designed to hold the poor folks in a state of perpetual poverty and the well to do in a state of well – being well to do.
There is no wonder this state is the laughing stock of America in terms of poverty levels and education. I don't care how you look at it. If you are destitute and make only 5,000 per year and you have to feed a child out of that, then you should not have to pay taxes. I mean come on. You shouldn't have to rely on unearned income credits and such. It should just be that way, without any tricks.
In the struggle to end the education crisis Gov. Riley needs to focus a bit of his attention to pursuing the means to rid us all of the burdens of the past. The only true hope this great state has for continued survival is the replacement of our state constitution and the spinning off of the tax laws from that document so that they stand separate and are regulated on their own. Therein lies the only means of reaching true equality with everyone paying their fair share.
If Alabama refuses to make the adjustments necessary to continue thriving in this new century, then Alabamians will continue to suffer the everlasting burden of poverty and despair, the essence of what keeps a great people tied down to a past they can't outrun and a future they can't keep up with.
James Crawford is the News Editor of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at 368-2123 or by e-mail at james.crawford@atmoreadvance.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.

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