I recently filed my Federal and State Tax return for 2011. We filed it on Leap Day, and the running joke was "If you file your taxes on Leap Day, does that mean you won't have to do that again for four years?" To which my reply was "Not if I was getting a refund!"
Yes, my wife and I just about broke even on our tax return for 2011. And as I was mailing my return yesterday, I felt as though I was sending off a small novel to the IRS. When I was younger, didn't own a home, didn't have investments, and didn't have much interest income, things were much more easy and simple. Now I have all of those things, and on top of that, my wife owns a small business, so we need to file taxes for that too.
The instructions were complicated, and something I used to do myself—with the help of Turbo Tax—I now hire an accountant to complete. It's worth the extra money to me not to have to worry about our tax code that seems to get more complex for me as I get older.
The word "tax" generates a lot of emotion for many of us. It's difficult sometimes to realize the value of the return on our tax dollars because we sometimes don't see tangible evidence of those dollars being spent in a productive way. I think just about all of our local news organizations have weekly segments of tax dollars being spent in a questionable manner, and all one has to do is look up our national debt counter to become depressed about the state of our economy.
However, I consider it my patriotic duty to pay taxes, rather it be on my income, real estate, personal property or on the goods and services I enjoy. So, in this time of paying taxes, I'd like to offer up a few positive things that our tax dollars do for our community.
In St. Louis, some of our tax dollars support our public schools, libraries, police and fire departments. I've lived in South County for most of my life, and honestly, when I think of all the services these entities provide for our community, I think I am getting an outstanding return on my tax dollar. I am proud to live in Oakville and I have no doubt that my tax dollars are well spent in my local municipality.
As a larger community, we are one of the few cities that offer a zoo that is virtually free and open to the public. Our tax dollars support having this resource for our community, and all one would have to do is visit zoos in other cities to realize this outstanding treasure we have right here in St. Louis. Our state and local parks are great family-oriented places to visit during the spring, summer and fall months. Those are just a couple of examples.
I also have a friend who serves in the military and believes that paying his taxes is a way to provide safety and security for our nation.
The bottom line is that I think that sometimes we need to change our thinking on paying taxes. The media loves to find examples of when tax dollars are being "wasted" but there are examples of when tax dollars are spent wisely—it just doesn't make it on the news, perhaps because it's not as sensational of a story.
Wise government spending just doesn't make for good "You Paid for It" segments. Is there wasteful government spending? Of course. But I, for one, am reasonably confident that my tax revenue (especially state and local) is being spent in a wise, responsible manner. If I have a gripe, it's about federal tax breaks and/or subsidies given to corporate America. That, however, is a story for perhaps another blog.