Note To Naifs, Annual Tax Topic

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - June 01, 2005
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Why do some people gather at the state Capitol or City Hall to chant “no new taxes”?

They are well-meaning citizens too naive to know that tax decisions inside are not influenced by chants outside. There will be new and more taxes because the cost of services demanded by citizens keeps going up.

The only way to have no new taxes is to live with fewer government services. Like that $1.1 million TheBus smart-card fiasco.

Some are waste. The harbor dredging boat that never worked. The paving machine that never worked. The useless Waikiki Memorial Natatorium. The Kuhio Avenue excess of trees.

Some things are lack of vision. We’d not have that horrific railtransit cost if we had not allowed unlimited importation of cars.

Some things we could do without or cut back. We pay people to inspect barber shops and license people to cut hair. We hire inspectors to make sure a bartender pours at least a one-ounce shot of booze. We insist on home garbage collection at least twice a week. Now we’re paying for guards at the UH executive offices.

We don’t want to wait in line at any city or state office. We don’t want public workers striking, so we bindingly arbitrate wage increases.

We’re paying 800,000 tax dollars on Oahu for a one-time seatbelt- use campaign by police.

Many of us would work tending to park maintenance in our neighborhoods. But you know where that would go with the UPW union. We’re going to pay $30 million this year and next funding UPW and HGEA pay raises. But we won’t allow government to move workers where they’re most needed unless that’s negotiated in the contract.

We want low UH tuition, more tax credits, better transport, better roads, more and better parks, bikeways, recycling and pay nearly a hundred grand a year for the Royal Hawaiian bandmaster to be a city cabinet officer.

We want more, not less, from government and we want it with “no new taxes.”

Sorry, naifs. It doesn’t work that way.

I propose this equitable tax about once a year. So far, neither our Legislature nor Congress has awarded me the Stroke Of Brilliance Medal.

Neither does anyone explain to me why we cannot have a progressive flat tax that kills most all deductions and brackets us according to our income from all sources. There’s no good reason to set tax rates high and then grant a mortgage deduction or declare some income non-taxable.

Almost every business faces different taxation rules — corporations, partnerships, small business — and a myriad of ways to dodge taxes. I don’t understand why we maintain all those rules and pay so many people to enforce them.

We could end most of the tax forms by going to a national consumption tax — not unlike our state excise tax, which would have to be increased if we dropped the state income tax. That scares you because you fear it will hurt the poor the most. Well, we increase the exemption for people with low household incomes, giving them a credit that refunds most of what they’d paid in, based on a model of an average low-income family with “x” number of children.

If we want a simplified tax system, we have to kill the deductions. Tax brackets would be much lower.

In my case as a columnist and tour leader, I’d forfeit all my deductions for my business expenses in return for a simplified state and federal return that asks how much I got paid and billing me in my income bracket.

But the biggest interests in this tax thing are the people and companies hauling in the most cash. The tax laws and codes give them dozens of ways of squirreling away the loot without paying much tax, if any.

The current system — state and federal — has been broken for years and to fix it is really not hard. Lawmakers have to ignore the squeals of the richest, and those who stage-manage the best loopholes.

OK, so I’ll bring it up again next year.

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