February 28, 2014

Editorial: Income taxes, our civic duty

People are getting ready to do one of their most important — and least liked — duties as Americans: File income-tax returns.

Though many dread income-tax time — which, unfortunately, comes right when local property taxes are due — it is what allows America to care for its people.

Everyone falls under the jurisdiction of federal taxes, and most states also operate by income tax.

Seven have no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. And seven have a flat rate that everyone pays, regardless of income: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Utah.

Everyone else must file state tax returns, as well as federal. New York, by the way, has some of the highest personal income taxes, along with California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Oregon.

Our state’s highest tax, according to information culled from the Tax Foundation, is 8.97 percent on income over $500,000.

But income taxes are the foundation for services, programs and amenities that make our lives easier. That is why it is frustrating when some people cheat the rest of us by working under the table or not reporting all their income. We make up for what they don’t pay.

Everyone hopes the tax payments they have made throughout the year, as payroll withdrawals, are more than is required, so they can get a refund. If not, we have to pitch in the rest of our share by April 15.

Some people prepare their own returns; others seek the help of professionals. Either way, the Internal Revenue Service is encouraging people to file online. The government gets its money faster that way, as do consumers who have refunds coming.

But the Better Business Bureau warns people to be aware of the growing threat of identity theft. One scam being employed these days is for someone to file a phony tax return using personal information — such as your Social Security number — to get a tax refund.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Cheers and Jeers

Letters to the Editor
In My Opinion

Recent Columns