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Pennsylvania Tax Freedom Day is fast approaching

Published March 31. 2012 09:01AM

Gosh, I can't wait for April 14. That is the day we start working for ourselves instead of the federal and state governments.

Every day we work prior to April 14 is to pay our annual taxes. Since this is the same date as last year, it is safe to conclude that any additional tax increases were small enough that we do not have to work an extra day for the government. After doing my 2010 taxes, I realized that continuing to work only increased my tax burden without making a significant difference to our finances.

At the end of 2010 I retired with thoughts of sugarplums and simpler tax returns for the 2011 year. Boy was I wrong!

It still took me a full two days go through our records and complete my analysis for our tax preparer. This was the same amount of time as it took in 2010 when I was working. So much for retirement being easier when it comes to taxes. Tax season is a good time to analyze income and expenses so we can see how well we did last year. This year, I decided to start going through my bills to find taxes that are hidden on invoices.

I won't bore you with all of the details but I did find over $20 of taxes on my phone bill as well as an interesting hazardous waste tax of $8 on my propane invoice. I don't understand why there is a hazardous waste tax on propane as I always thought it burned clean. It better not be hazardous as I use it for cooking in the kitchen.

Do the taxing authorities know something I don't know about propane? I also noticed that there is over 32 cents per gallon tax on gasoline. I assume there are other hidden taxes that are included in the price such as sales tax and maybe a hazardous waste tax.

In addition to income taxes that can turn a fine spring day into a dismal tax-preparation event, there are many other taxes that we pay. The revenue from gasoline taxes is supposed to build and maintain our highways.

Our state government decided they can double charge (or tax us) through tolls to pay for the same highways built and maintained with gasoline taxes. As an added bonus, they get their cash in advance if you use E-ZPass.

I consider my license plate on my car a tax. I have to pay to license our vehicles every year for the right to drive them on highways that I already paid for with the taxes mentioned above.

I'm surprised they haven't charged a mileage tax on our vehicles. Whoops! I forgot that last May President Obama tried to implement a vehicle mileage tax that would require the installation of an electronic device in everyone's vehicle. The taxes would be collected electronically at gas or electric filling stations.

It did not get off the ground in 2011, but watch out for it in 2013 should Obama be reelected. He will need more money for his social programs and what better way to get it than from poor people who are driving to low-paying jobs.

The Social Security tax is often sold as a prepayment of future benefits. As a business owner, I paid over $400,000 over my working career into Social Security through payroll deductions and the employer matching payment. There is no way I will live to collect the $400,000 let alone the interest that has accrued over my lifetime.

Over my forty year working career I paid unemployment insurance out of each and every paycheck. Fortunately I was never unemployed so I never collected on it. But I question that unemployment insurance is a form of insurance. I believe that it is a tax on those lucky enough to find and keep a job to support their family.

When we purchased our house there were transfer taxes and deed taxes. There are plethora of excise taxes and import duties embedded in many of the goods we buy. Here in Pennsylvania our property and education taxes are quite high while our state income tax is reasonable when compared to other states.

This places much of the tax burden on property owners. I have several friends who rent apartments. When it is time to pay my property taxes I envy them. This is a tax they are able to avoid.

Fortunately for me we don't drink or smoke so we don't pay sin taxes on these items. We don't bet the horses so we can avoid the horse race admission taxes and gambling taxes. We don't give our children large cash gifts so we avoid the gift taxes. Our children will have to pay inheritance tax on our estate once my wife and I die. Since I will soon be on Medicare, the government can decide what treatments to withhold should they need me to die sooner rather than later.

Giving the government control over who lives and who dies through Medicare is a definite conflict of interest as the government has a financial gain upon a taxpayer's death. That said, I'm sure they will keep me alive until they squeeze the last nickel from my hand, then they will confiscate my estate through death duties and inheritance taxes.

Instead on using a plethora of taxes on just about every financial transaction we do, how about eliminating all taxes and replacing them with a single tax. This tax could be based on a percentage of our earnings.

Oh, I forgot! That has already been proposed as the Flat Tax by several outstanding but unelectable candidates (such as Mike Huckabee).

I wouldn't mind paying taxes if so much of the money was not wasted on foreign wars and financial bribes to foreign dictators. In addition to those items, I am distressed that our taxes are used to surveil American citizens. The new Utah Data Center being built by the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on American citizens is an example of $2 billion of our tax dollars used to spy on us, the American people. (

This massive NSA spy center will be used to intercept phone calls, e-mails, Internet activities and even Google searches. The NSA has established listening posts in or under major telephone switching facilities so that they can listen in on cell phone and landline telephone calls as well as intercept other forms of electronic communication. This is being done without warrants and in my opinion is a clear violation of our constitutional rights.

It is bad enough that we are taxed almost to death. The government using our tax dollars to monitor all of our electronic activities, and all of our telephone calls is something I would expect from a communist or socialist regime. Has our government sunk so low that they have to spy on our citizens.

Next, I expect the government to reward our neighbors for spying on us. Will my neighbor report my suspicious activities, such as taking groceries out of the car? Maybe not, but there may be an NSA camera on my lamppost watching me. I will wave at the camera as I cut our grass this weekend.

Is Big Brother really watching us? Am I paranoid or prudent?

I leave that for you to decide.

© 2012 Gordon Smith All Rights Reserved

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