TAXES – THE BASICS

by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

© August 2008, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.

           

All information in this article is for educational purposes only.  It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.

 

WHAT ARE TAXES?

 

            Taxes are fees charged by governments.  This could be the federal, state, county, city, town or other governmental bodies.

Taxes are really user fees on people, businesses, property, automobiles, utilities like electric power and natural gas, phone services and every essential area of life.

They are even put on activities like getting married, dying, traveling, renting a car, flying in a plane, riding on a bus and so many more of our normal daily activities.

 

TAXES ALWAYS COERCIVE AND HARSH

 

To levy taxes literally means to put on as a yolk around the person’s neck.  That is what taxes are, in fact.  They are a yolk around people’s necks.

If one does not pay one’s taxes, one usually goes to jail.  In times past, many people lived in dungeons for this single reason.  Things are little better today, but not much in many nations of the world.

            America locks up more prisoners for crime than any other nation.  However, most nations lock up many more people for tax evasion than does America.  This is an important distinction, too.

 

WHY HAVE TAXES?

 

            Taxes exist for a number of reasons.  One older reason is to support the government, which technically does no work so it has no income.  This was the reason for taxes in the founding documents of the United States of America. 

 

The American principle of government.  That principle is elaborated in the American Declaration of Independence. 

To paraphrase it, it states all men are created equal (by the Creator) with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It says nothing about government interference in the life of the people. 

The government was not to own and operate businesses, as occurs in many nations of the world, even democratically run ones.  The only role of the American government is to protect the rights of the all the people to pursue their lives on their own.  That is the sole function of the government  of the United States of America, originally.

However, this has changed drastically today, little by little, over the past 100 years or so.

 

The move to socialism and communism.  Today the purpose of taxes is often to redistribute income from the wealthier people to the poorer people or to special interest groups that the government deems more worthy of support. 

To these people are given subsidies, free support of many kinds, “tax incentives” and more favors.  Meanwhile, other groups of people, often poor groups, by the way, are forced to pay for these favors with higher income taxes, gas taxes, property taxes, sales taxes on a local level and many, many others.

 

The disastrous change in America.  Let us discuss the change that has taken place in America in more detail.  It is basically a change from a republican form of government, in which all are created equal, to a different for of government that is properly called communist.

 

Communism defined.  Communism is not about Russia or China.  It is a philosophy best described by its founder, Karl Marx, as “from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs”.  This is the essence of communism.

This philosophy sounds utopian and it is.  It imagines a society where everyone contributes to a large central fund and then money and goods are given out freely to each person according to what they need or want.

It sounds great, but it does not work in practice at all.  Every society that has tried it has failed, including experiments with it in the United States and around the world.

It requires a totalitarian government that makes all decisions for all  the citizens.  How else can anyone know the abilities of each person and their needs?

 

Socialism defined.  Socialism is government ownership of the means of production.  It, too, stems from Marx’s writings.  It is a milder form of communism that is practiced in Europe, Canada, Japan and a few other nations to a greater or lesser extent.

 

Problems with communism and socialism.

 

1. The government tends to give a lot more to some favored people than it does to others in an arbitrary way.  In communist nations the party members, for example, or the loyal elites drive nice cars and live in mansions while the rest of the people often starve or live at poverty level.

 

2. This causes bickering, unrest, high taxes, poverty, social unrest and often revolutions.

 

3. Morals decline as people become depressed and angry at each other and their government. 

 

4. The nation becomes militaristic to have someone to blame for their problems.  The people turn to military adventures because life at home is so bad. 

 

5. The economy always suffers because free speech and free expression and businesses are suppressed or even forbidden altogether.  This stifles innovation and excitement in the people, which makes them far less productive.  Eventually, the nation usually cannot even feed itself for this reason.  This has led to mass starvation in Russia, China, North Korea at present and other socialist and communist nations.

 

6.  Eventually the society falls apart for the above reasons. It usually does not take more than a few generations for this to occur.

 

So this problem of socialism is worth understanding.  Let us now go back to the subject of taxes.

 

AMERICA STILL HAS VERY LOW TAXES

 

Because of the change above, and in relation to her past, America’s taxes are very high today.  It was estimated that in 1950, the tax rate was about 5%.  Today many people pay far more than this if one combines all the obvious and the hidden taxes that we will discuss in this article.

However, in relation to Europe, for example, tax rates are still lower in America.  For example, most of these nations have additional taxes such as VAT taxes that can add 100% to the cost of some manufactured goods, for example.  The VAT stands for value added tax, a tax on companies that manufacture all sorts of goods.

 

TAXES SUPPORT THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT

 

In America, the government, so far, is not permitted to have its own businesses.  It supports some businesses, unfortunately,  but it does not outright own profit-making businesses, at least not officially.

 The purpose of the US government is to protect the people’s rights and that is basically all.  In other words, its purpose is administrative and military, not business. 

Therefore, it needs to raise funds in order to operate, just like any other administrative organization.  The idea was to make this process very transparent so the people could control the purse strings of the government. 

The founders knew that governments always tend to grow larger and fatter at the expense of the people.  So the taxing concepts in the US Constitution were designed to prevent this abuse of power.

Therefore, they prohibited arcane taxes like income taxes, originally, and instead depended on fairly simple, straightforward taxes like import/export taxes or duties or tariffs.  This was standard at the time.  Sales taxes were not used because they were hard to track before electronic money.  Today, however, they offer a real alternative we will explore later.

An older type of tax that was rejected was the poll tax or a tax to vote.  This had been used for years, but is extremely regressive.  This means it falls much more on the poor and America was quite poor at the time.  Import taxes, by contrast, fall mainly on the wealthy and this is easier to collect and monitor as well.

 

OTHER WAYS GOVERNMENTS RAISE MONEY BESIDES TAXES

 

1. Plunder its enemies when it wins a war. When a nation is plundered, it causes great resentment.  It has been used by armies throughout history to raise funds and as a way to “rub it in” that the enemy is defeated.

However, the defeat of Germany in World War I followed by the severe restrictions placed on Germany caused the rise of Hitler Germany and another devastating world war.  This convinced the world that it is far better to rebuild a defeated nation than to plunder it.

As an aside, Russia plundered Georgia in their recent invasion, according to the news reports.  It was relatively minor but was a throwback to the good old days of warfare that are fortunately now pretty much behind us, hopefully.

Iraq, of course, is a little different.  This was truly a war of liberation, which needs to be stated more often.  It is not an “occupation”, as the left wing would believe.  America is getting out as fast as possible, not because we have to but because our resources are needed elsewhere right now, such as Afghanistan and Iran.

 

2. Inflate the currency.  The modern method of stealing one’s own people’s wealth is through inflation.

It works by essentially “diluting” the money by printing too much.  This money the government can use for any purpose.  Meanwhile, by diluting the supply of money, the people’s money becomes worth less, thereby one effectively takes their money and transfers it to the government with very, very few people understanding what is happening. 

As it becomes clear that prices are rising, the people usually blame all the wrong ones, such as big corporations or other nations, leading to anger, wars and more socialism.  This is what is happening in America and all over the planet at this time.

 

3. Nationalizing industry or taking over corporations on the sly.  This is being used worldwide as well, today.  China is well known for owning many corporations secretly.  In America, the Federal Reserve is running more and more banks and other lending institutions that are supposedly broke. 

 

TAXES IN COMMUNIST NATIONS

 

Other nations, especially socialist nations, use taxes for very different purposes. Communist and socialist nations rarely need money to run the government.  This is an important point that Americans often forget. 

Usually, these foreign governments own plenty of businesses so they don’t need money for that purpose.  In fact, nations such as China, Russia, Iran and many others have extremely wealthy governments, as many know.  The leaders of these nations have multiple Swiss bank accounts with billions of rubles or dollars in them. 

Meanwhile, their people almost starve and are given just enough wealth to keep them from rebelling.  This is an ancient formula to control the people. 

It is used in Cuba, too, where the leaders are also extremely wealthy due to sugar cane revenue.  The idea that Cuba is a utopian worker’s paradise, as some believe in America, is a joke.  Castro is very wealthy, but that isn’t stopping his cancer, of course.  That would require natural healing at this point, or a miracle.  He is learning this bitter lesson, of course, as do all people eventually.

However, communist nations still tax their people heavily.  They lie to them that the government needs their labor and their money to operate their paradise, as they call it in Cuba and some other nations. 

Of course, they do not but lying to the people is a universal feature of communism that has infected America as well today.  Reasons why communist and some socialist nations tax the people include:

 

1. To keep the people poor so they cannot rise up and rebel, except if it serves the government’s interests as it occasionally does, usually as an excuse to impose martial law.

Recall that most socialist and especially communist nations  have governments that own loads of profit-making businesses.  So they don’t need taxes to operate.  However,  many are still greedy and use the faćade of taxes to take the remaining wealth of the people.

 

2. To reward friends and destroy or punish their enemies.  This is a very common use of the tax code of all nations, but particularly communist ones.  It means that certain industries, certain social programs and other policies will receive tax breaks or subsidies while industries the government does not like, such as cigarette companies, will be forced to pay extra taxes.

Also, in many nations, as soon as a new leader gets in, he or she orders audits on his enemies and mysteriously finds cheating somewhere and this is the excuse to arrest and often execute the person or group.

 

3. To shape “social policy”.  For example, they might tax cigarettes or large automobiles to discourage their use.  Other behaviors or activities are tax-free to encourage them. 

This occurs worldwide, including in America, of course.  However, it is not in the Us Constitution and is therefore technically illegal.

 

4. To redistribute wealth among the people.  Most communist nations, including many European nations that are socialist, but not communist yet, redistribute wealth with the tax code. 

America does this also, but to a lesser degree than in Europe.  European nations often have 100% tax brackets for those who make over $1 million per year, for example.  This is far more confiscatory than America. 

Once again, the Democrats want this kind of taxation for the rich in America to put us on a par with Europe.  While this sounds good, often it backfires and the poor somehow become poorer and not wealthier.  This is a different subject so we will just mention it here and leave it for a later article on wealth redistribution.

Now that we know why taxes are set up, how are they administered?

 

TYPES OF TAXES AND TAX COLLECTION METHODS

 

            Taxes are of many types.  Here are the most common onese, but there are many others possible:

 

Taxes levied against people:

1. Income taxes (tax on earned income and investment income)

2. Estate or death taxes (money owed when a person dies)

3. Poll tax (a fixed amount owed by every person who votes or resides in an area.  This is an old tax that is not used much any more)

4. Duties and tariffs if you bring things in or out of the country

5. Sales taxes on everything you buy retail.

6. Personal property taxes.  In fairness, a little of this is user fees for water, sewage, police and fire services.  However, much of it is a tax to pay for things like libraries, local colleges and other schools and much more.

7. Utility taxes added to phone, water, gas, electric and other bills

8. Taxes on gasoline, car registration and almost everything else today!

 

Business Taxes:

1. Business income tax

2. Business property tax

3. Business license tax (needed to open and maintain a business in many areas)

4.Annual corporation tax in some states and nations

5. VAT or value added tax.  This is used in Europe, Asia and Canada. ( It is a tax at many levels of the manufacture of an item such as a car or television set that is charged to the companies that make the parts or the whole item)

6. Import/export taxes on goods and services coming in or going out of the country.

7. Business property tax and business inventory and furnishing taxes in many states and nations.

 

            This list gives one an idea why people become discouraged today when thinking of starting a business, for example, or even owning a home because their time and money goes for so many taxes.

The point is that taxes have become a way of life and this is not healthful for any society.  It is demoralizing and confusing for people and there is ample room for abuse when there are so many taxes that are not coordinated at all.

 

WHICH TAXES ARE BEST AND WORST?

 

When a government  and people choose what kind of taxes to have, it must consider all of the following:

a) How easy is it to collect?

b) How acceptable is it to people?

c) How hard is it to avoid cheaters?

d) How much revenue can it generate?

e) What is the cost of collecting and enforcing the tax, for the government and for the citizens or businesses?

f) How transparent is the tax?  Transparency is good for the citizens but governments usually do not like it.  It lets the people know just how much their government is costing them.

h) Whom or what behavior or activity does it punish and whom or what activity or behaviors does it reward?

i) How easy is it to manipulate by the congress, by special interest groups or social reformers?

j) How regressive or progressive is the tax?  This means, to what degree does it target the rich and not the poor?  As a principle, it is harder to collect taxes from poor people and it is worse for society to try to get money from those that have the least.  However, that is exactly how some of our taxes work.

All these considerations mean that tax policy is complex in any modern society.  Let us take a few examples of how these questions are answered.

 

PROS AND CONS OF A FEW TAXES

 

            Income taxes.  For example, an income tax is easy to collect by just forcing everyone to keep detailed records of all income and expenditures and file “returns”.   However, this is very costly for the American people, for example.  It is estimated the number of hours and money spent complying with the income tax is in the billions or even a trillion dollars, more than the tax money itself.

Also, cheating occurs quite easily with an income tax, especially with our complex income tax code that is changing all the time, which confuses lawyers, accountants and everyone.

Income taxes also hit people when they make money, which is demoralizing to realize you can’t keep your money.

 

Sales taxes.   A sales tax is also easy to collect by forcing merchants to collect it, and it is a little harder to cheat on.  However, it has the problem that the tax is transparent.  That means it is clear to see on everything you buy.  Thus the people know exactly how uch the government takes and may resent paying it and vote the government out of office if it is too high.

            Another problem with the sales tax is it affects poor people as well as rich.  In contrast, the income tax only hits the rich, or at least the rich who don’t know how to cheat on it by setting up corporations, tax shelters and so forth.

            So all these factors must be kept in mind when designing a tax policy for a nation.  America, by the way, has a very poor tax policy in my view.  This is why this discussion is important.

           

The ideal tax system.  The best tax is one that affects everyone so that all believe they are helping their nation.  It also must be easy to collect and not too obvious, so that it arouses anger.

It also should hit the rich more than the poor, so that the poor do not bear the brunt of the tax.  This is just a practical matter.  It is far easier to collect taxes when the money is there than when someone is starving to death.  The best tax should also be easy to administer at all levels.

Yet America depends today on income taxes for the bulk of its revenue.  This, I would suggest, is a huge mistake.  And why is this method used? 

Because it is easy to manipulate politically for any purpose the senators and congressmen want.  It can be tailored to benefit the black businessmen, the oil people, the medical trust, and any other group that will pay enough payola or bribe to the government.

Also, the social butterflies love it because they can reward all the downtrodden groups such as the blacks, the Hispanics, the homeless and so on.  This, by the way, is the real appeal of the income tax. 

Otherwise it is nightmare for the government and of course, for the individuals who have to decipher the “code”, a very appropriate word for the horror that is the US tax code.  Even Russia has a much simpler tax system than the US.

 

So what is the best tax?  The ideal would be a sales tax.  This is the easiest to administrer by the merchants, who should be paid for their efforts to collect it. 

It is also paid by everyone, which is good.  It is also fair, as it hits the rich much more than it hits the poor.  The poor could be issued a voucher for their food, water, housing and basic expenses to offset any tax they must pay. 

It is also relatively hardest to cheat on of all the taxes, though there are ways around it, of course, if one wants to try hard enough.  One could start a car business and then “lose” merchandise by selling it without paying the tax.  But this is relatively difficult for most people.

At the same time, a sales tax takes no work on the part of corporations or individuals in preparing “returns”.  Isn’t the language wonderful.  This is a joke.  It is not a “return” unless you believe the government owns all your money so you are literally returning some to them.  It is confiscation of wealth of the people to pay for the government so it should be called a “stealing paper” or something like that.

 

So why do few nations use a national sales tax?  Some nations, including America, have discussed going to a sales tax, but none do it that I am aware of.  The reasons, I suspect, are:

1. It is transparent and would show the people, and any other nation that uses it, just how much money the government takes every year.

2. It is harder to manipulate politically to favor certain groups, certain businesses and so forth.  For this reason, the legislators and lobbyists don’t like it, even if it is best for the people.

3. It is harder to manipulate for social engineering projects.  This means it can’t be tailored to reward certain behaviors and punish others, such as the opponents of the current administration. 

 

It is not a coincidence that the counties surrounding Washingon, DC are among the wealthiest in the nation, though there is little industry there.  The industry is bureaucracy and the bureaucrats of America are among her wealthiest citizens. 

This is a shame, as they are also among the least productive people in America.  This is all truth that needs to be shared widely.

 

TAXES FOR WHAT?

           

            The next topic is what should taxes go for?  Today they are used for war, for energy policy, medical research, welfare, (the biggest cost by far in America and other advanced nations) and for roads, infrastructure and much more.

            It is tempting to say that taxes should go for everything that is needed in society.  However, the US Constitution is very clear about what taxes are to be used for.  This is because the founders knew how governments abuse the taxing power, so they were very, very clear.

Most of the taxes in the US are thus unconstitutional.  Here we must applaud Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas with a reputation for being called “Dr. No”. 

Dr. Paul is a doctor, actually, and he votes no on most legislation because the authorization for it is not in the US Constitution.  This is very courageous, by the way, and we wonder how he stays in office.  However, he is persuasive with his constituents.

I would have loved him to be vice president.  However, Sarah Paylin, too, will be excellent and in some ways she is stronger and younger and more idealistic than Ron Paul ever was.

Ron Paul has the right idea.  If it is not authorized, it is illegal, basically, no matter how wonderful the program is.  With this in mind, let us examine the correct use of taxes in America.

 

USA one of very few with tax restrictions.  Before doing this, just a note to say that no other nation has such restrictions on the use of taxes.  The others just leave it up to the parliament or president or whatever.  This is an open invitation to abuse, though America is now full of abuse as well because they ignore their constitutions, federal and state, and the states even worse in some cases.  This, by the way, would be treason in the old days.  Today it is business as usual, which must change to reign in spending.  Nothing else will do it, I am afraid to say.

 

 Legal use of taxes in the USA.  The legal uses for taxes in the USA are listed in the US Constitution.  They include the military, making treaties with other nations, the post office system, building roads and other needed infrastructure, salaries for government employees, forts, docks, operations of Congress and a few other jobs that government is decidedly better at doing than any individual or state, for that matter.  All else, however, is not the business of the federal government.

Equally important is what is not in the Constitution as government’s legitimate activities for which taxes may be used. This includes education, welfare, health care (a huge government expense today), Social Security (the other huge expense) and most of the nation’s research and scientific expenses, which are also quite large. 

So you can see why Ron Paul is Dr. No if he follows the US Constitution.  In order for these to become legitimate government expenditures, a constitutional amendment is required and none has been passed.  Especially troubling is the idea of taking over the entire health care industry.  Let us look at this current Democrat proposal.

 

Health care nationalization.  The word to use when a government takes over an entire industry and runs it, whether for profit or not, is nationalization.  We read this word often in the news because this is what dictators do all the time.  They just take over factories, refineries or whatever because they feel like it.  It is wholesale stealing and nothing more.

This is what the Democrat party is advocating for health care in America.  They use all sorts of fancy words such as “universal care” national health care and so many more.  But it is all the same.  This must be clearly understood.  It is totally illegal and we salute ron Paul as he is the only voice in Congress, very, very sadly, who has come out and said this is illegal, not just a bad idea.

It is also totally immoral.  Let us explain.  Health care is and always will be a personal matter.  What you eat, how you live and more is a matter of personal choice and can never be delegated or given to an administrative agency. 

Yet that is the effort – to control how people eat, live, sleep and more.  This is why we say it is immoral as it violates privacy totally and completely.  This is the way it works in Canada and Europe already and America’s HIPPA regulations do the same here – namely, take away any privacy between doctor and patient.  The American people are so stupid they accept these regulations as good, when they are terrible.

 

CONCLUSION

 

This will conclude this introduction to taxes and how they affect your life.  Future articles may elaborate on many of the ideas, but these are basics that I have found are hardly ever taught in high school, where they should be taught, much less college or even graduate school.

 

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