Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Taxing Subject

I wrote this after I heard about the VA Tech shooting. I just could could not compose myself to address the shooting, other to say that I am praying for the families of the victims. I read an interesting blog at ~Dr. Deb's page. She has a lot more experience in this than I ever will. Something else I am thankful for.

April 17th – Tax Day in the US this year. This was a weird day for taxes because it normally should have been on April 16, which was the Monday following April 15. But April 16 was Emancipation Day1 in Washington, DC, so the day was moved one day.

That in itself made limited sense. I mean, no taxes are processed in Washington DC. That's the place they spend money, not collect it. Well, the people who live in Washington DC probably did not have mail service, but since the area is surrounded by Maryland and Virginia, both places that had mail service, last minute taxpayers could travel to these nearby states to drop off their tax returns. And it sounds worse than it is. People from DC travel to these states to shop – DC is small, and you can mistakenly drift into Maryland or Virginia when making a wrong turn. Dropping off taxes – not so much of a problem.

Anyway, I was thinking about taxes today, and yesterday, and a few days ago. Not that taxes were not completed, but scraping up the little bit extra to pay Uncle Sam this year. And, no, I was not doing a 20% tip for a job well-done. The Church only wants 10%, a bargain considering Federal Taxes for me were at a much higher rate this year. The Federal Government gives me, what, roads and national defense. The Church – donuts on fellowship Sundays and the saving of my immortal soul.2

The IRS and Christian religion have a lot in common, when it comes right down to it. First, there is the compensation piece. The IRS administers a voluntary tax code, which some take to mean you pay the Government what you want to pay them, adjusting your tax obligation by filling out various forms. This year, people with phones or hybrid cars get a bit of a break. People who manufacture alternative fuels get a break. For the Church, they say to tithe 10%, but you know, you don't send in your check stubs or copies of your tax returns. And 10% of what? "Off the top" is the most common answer, but does that include interest income, gambling income? Do hookers have to pay for their income? Seems a bit hypocritical?

Then lets look at the guiding principals. First you have the Bible – where smart people read the same things and interpret them differently. Part of this has to do with the Bible being translated so many times, part of it has to do with the Bible being copied from generation to generation, and having differences in the oldest surviving copies of the scrolls. Jesus did not have a book. People were read scrolls at that time, scrolls that were copied and saved.

The IRS has their IRS Manual – I think it is called the IRM (Internal Revenue Manual). Congress passes laws, it gets incorporated into this book, and reasonable tax preparers disagree as to the intent of the rules. One of the money magazines sends mock returns to 50 (I may have the number wrong) tax preparers, and they all do the tax returns differently, some of which are very different than others. We are talking CPAs, accountants, whatever, reading the same stuff and coming up with different answers. Discouraging.

And then people's reactions when reading either the Bible or the tax code – people pray or their eyes glaze over. Hardly any other reaction. Interesting.

As a Catholic, I would get extra points for having children (part of the point of marriage). I also get points for being married. With the tax code, I get preferential treatment for having children or having a spouse (this was not always the case, in the spouse area – darned marriage penalty).

And if you think of this, now the Government/IRS does not recognize homosexual marriages, and most churches don't either. Mine doesn't, and I wish it would. But that is a topic for another day.

Today I am crying over the tax code. Happy Tax Day!

1On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia, and in 2004, the mayor of Washington DC signed this holiday into law.

2Tongue-in-cheek people. And, yes, a vengeful God would send my soul to hell for this, but I don't think She is vengeful.


Kat said...

I thought moving the tax deadline for a holiday in Washington was stupid too. That they're even having a holiday in Washington that isn't shared with the rest of the country is stupid. But since it's the day before taxes are due and mine aren't done...pretty much everything is stupid today.

RWA said...

A local band recorded a song talking about how if 10 percent is enough for God, it ought to be enough for the government.

That is a good point, though.

Prata said...

You don't think your deity is vengeful? Hah. I scoff at thee. Scoff I say! Not really...I just have to give you trouble.

Concerning the shooting. I still call everyone that speaks out about this sort of thing hypocritical. You do not talk about the daily violence that kills kids and innocent people on a regular basis in our own country and definitely in your own state (this is a general statement not specifically to you Leesa) and yet a bunch of students get axed at one time and it's flippin' tragedy.

Seriously, what is with people that do this? What is wrong with these people. And no, you can not say that because it's such a large scale that it is more important. EACH individual life is worth exactly the same. No matter how many die at one time it's all worth the same. Put it into terms of money. One life is worth a penny. 25 people get axed at one time....that's 25 cents worth of life. The next day one person gets killed, his life is worth that same 25 cents. Think of it as a variable scale and no matter how many you put together at one time they don't equal more than that one on the corner in some bad neighborhood. They are always the same. People should really stop doing that...it's degradation of human life.

Pittchick said...

I did my taxes so long ago, I didn't even realize they had changed the deadline.

Leesa said...

kat: just try filling out a Shedule D without a calculator and a slide rule.

rwa: 10% is good enough for agents as well.

prata: okay, you and I were thinking, more of less, the same thing. Not about the vengeful deity - He's gonna kick your ass. No, the rest of the comment. But I will ask forgiveness for us mere mortals. You see, we don't really think about people who die, day after day. When I worked on one of the squares in Savannah, I thought about it more. It touched our lives more. But having 33 people die in 2.5 hours on a campus is no different than having 33 people die in different places throughout the US. But, you know, it is a little different because people take more notice. Not that it is right.

pittchick: yeah, I have been sorta busy.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Leesa, everything gets tainted or corrupted thru time.

Temple Tithes (or charity) was meant to pay for the upkeep of the Temple (later to build cathedrals, and now days to maintain or 'preserve' them) to pay for the upkeep of the priests and bishops (in varying degrees of luxury and decadence) - and the crumbs from the table to pay for food for the hungry, the unemployed and the sick

Though at various times certain sicknesses or disease were viewed as punishment for sin, and in the old days they didn'y have the decadent hospital or medical fees we have today. It is not the churches and priests, but the hospitals and doctors that are the Modern day Priesthood.

They can look at your entrails and predict how long you have to live, and whether you like it or not, if you fall ill, they'll bleed you dry - no matter what your sin may be.

QUASAR9 said...

PS - The taxes for armies and wars were collected by tax collectors, and any profits from plunder and pillage went to the generals & senators - not much changed here either - Paul Wolfsonofabitch (wanna be governor of Iraq, and President of the World Bank) Dick Cheney (President of Iraq Oil & Texaco, and arms industry) Son of Bush (US President and Commander in Chief of US Military)

Prata said...

My deity can kick your deity's ass!

Oh wait...=-/

Anonymous Boxer said...

You are a smart one.

Dr. Deb said...

I can never wrap my mind around the Tax process. But I did enjoy reading this post!

RWA said...

Wow, Leesa, you have an agent, huh?

Advizor said...

Your comment about hookers paying tithing made me laugh. I flashed back to my college days. I went to a Christian college and a rumor was floating around that a group of girls were kicked out for running a prostitution ring out of one of the residence halls. Apparently they were caught because they were paying too much tithing.

I have a feeling that if I were turning tricks for cash, paying my share to the priest wouldn't be high on my list, I would probably just give him a discount and call it even

I, for one, am glad they change the deadline. I paid my taxes on the 15th, but knowing that I had two more days made me feel like I had finished early.

Leesa said...

quasar: temple tithes were meant to do many of the things that the government now does. Over time, priests and others became corrupted, and this lead Martin Luther to tack up his list (and flee for his life).

prata: yeah, bring it on.

boxer: and you are a complex one.

dr. ~deb: I think they do that on purpose. After a while, we are just supposed to give the government all of our money in frustration.

advizor: actually, prostitution is a complex issue, and I was just making a joke. Most priests have extremely high morals; a select few give all priests a bad name.

QUASAR9 said...

lol Leesa,
in Martin Luther's world
you may no longer be able to buy 'indulgences'
but Money will get you an Ivy League education
and Money will get you your own wing at some hospital (or hotel)
Money even affords you to marry and divorce as many wives as long as you can afford the divorce settlements.
Money will get you IN just about anywhere

But hey, buying indulgences and places in heaven - naah! no chance - lol!

richmanwisco said...

indeed, the parallels are uncanny...right down to having faith