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Paying taxes just part of business, life

As I See It

Can there be a less inspiring subject than taxes? Perhaps not, but tax time is upon us once again.

For procrastinators, it`s time to dump out the piles of receipts, W-2s and deposit slips and try to organize the stuff into some semblance of order. The more disciplined among us have long since done that chore and are awaiting the verdict from our CPA.

I have always been amused by people`s attitude toward taxes. It was my honor to practice as a tax accountant for some 20 years and believe me, I’ve seen it all. From the pinnacle in financial record organization to the hated brown paper bag of receipts (farmers and truckers tend to smear diesel fuel and grease on theirs), accountants have to put up with it all. And clients’ attitudes toward taxes are frequently less than patriotic.

Our society reveres pricey automobiles and expensive homes. If a Mercedes costs no more than a Chevrolet, the demand would dwindle. We want our neighbors to know that we are successful because we can afford luxury automobiles and spacious homes in toney neighborhoods. Notwithstanding the fact that many of us are only one missed paycheck away from losing all our stuff because we’re in debt up to our ears, we still crave expensive toys.

Now cometh the tax man.

It should not stagger the imagination for one living in the lap of luxury to expect to pay some hefty taxes. However, it just ain`t so. I’ve seen Mercedes owners whine incessantly about a paltry tax bill that`s less than their car tag. With our progressive tax system that places the higher burden on those most able to pay, you’d think Mercedes, BMWs and high taxes would go hand in hand.

Does the government spend our tax money wisely? They must. We keep re-electing the same people year after year so we must approve of what they’re doing. In fact, many of us are so complacent that we don`t even bother to vote. So, more accurately, the small minority of us who take voting seriously re-elect the same people year after year. If we don`t like how government is being conducted, it`s our own fault.

Here`s a startling announcement: I wish that I owed a million bucks in federal income taxes.

Undoubtedly, some of you are speculating that the publisher has taken leave of his senses. Let`s think about it. Even though I drive a Chevrolet truck and live out in the country, I would still enjoy the trappings of wealth. And, since Martha Stewart and I share an aversion to doing time in prison, the only way for me to accumulate wealth is to pass it through my tax return. With the maximum federal income tax rate at somewhat less than 40%, if I owed a million dollars in taxes, I would have about a million and a half to keep after I paid the tax bill. I`ll take that deal any day!

I write this column in hopes that my attitude toward taxes will spill over and ease some anxiety among our readers. I doubt it will work, but it`s worth a try anyway.

Just about everything we do costs money. Gasoline, bread, electricity and so forth. These things are a cost of living and must be paid if we want to maintain our style of living. For folks in business, the same is true of salaries, rent and supplies. It`s just a cost of doing business.

Taxes are a cost of living in a democratic society. In years gone by, countries would invade other countries and steal their possessions in lieu of taxation. The winning country looted and the losers became slaves. To a large extent, times have changed and nowadays we tax ourselves to avail ourselves of the services we demand that government provide.

If we’re satisfied, or at least not dissatisfied, with government performance, we have to pay for it. I suppose we could invade Mexico however, I think the looting there would prove less than satisfactory.

So, we’re stuck with paying for our own government.

My suggestion will not be with universal acceptance. Nonetheless, I recommend you pay you bills and stop whining! Estimate how much tax money you’re going to need, set it aside during the year and send it in at the appropriate time. Whimpering, fussing and worrying isn`t going to help.

Thought for the Moment – The grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, but it`s just as hard to cut. – entertainer Little Richard

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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