This commentary is by Bob Stannard of Manchester, an author, musician and former state legislator and lobbyist.
“I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share.” — Stephen King
Here in Vermont, right around the time when we become aware of the world, we learn about Town Meeting. Town Meeting Day is that blessed day in early March when all Vermonters who are able and care enough to get up off the couch will join their fellow residents and discuss the town’s business.
Prior to Town Meeting, people will receive by mail a copy of the annual Town Report. This is a great document, as it clearly outlines the expenditures, revenues and everything that is going on in our respective towns. Citizens have a few weeks to read, study, learn and compile questions that they can either run by their selectboard members or ask on the floor of the Town Meeting.
When you pick up any newspaper, you either go straight to the obituaries (if you’re as old as me) or to the comics section. I would guarantee that anyone who has ever received a Town Report will immediately go to pages that list those folks who have not paid their property taxes.
There is not a Vermonter alive who is not irked at seeing a list of people who, for whatever reason, were unable to pay their taxes. There’s a lot of grumbling. “Why should I pay my taxes when so-and-so isn’t paying theirs?” It’s a valid question.
There are many times when there are justifiable, extenuating circumstances why someone missed their payment. Then there are the deadbeats who simply don’t pay.
Inevitably, someone at Town Meeting will ask the question, “What is the town doing about going after these people and collecting the taxes that are rightfully due the town? Why should I pay if these people don’t?” As a rule, we don’t take kindly to those who don’t pay their fair share. That is, until recently.
According to Reuters, “The U.S. Internal Revenue Service plans to hire nearly 20,000 new employees and deploy new technology over the next two years as it ramps up an $80 billion investment plan to improve tax enforcement and customer service, it said on Thursday.” Here’s the entire article.
The IRS expects 12,000 employees to retire over the next couple of years and needs to replace these employees. In addition, it plans to beef up its customer service and enforcement efforts by going after tax cheats.
The New York Times reports that tax cheats cost the rest of us $1 trillion per year. One might think that Americans would damn well want to spend the extra money to get those who find a way to cheat the rest of us and not pay their fair share. Holding the tax cheats accountable would help to reduce our deficit.
During the ridiculous negotiations taking place in Washington over whether or not we pay for expenditures already paid for, one of the demands put forth by President Biden was to close tax loopholes. From The Washington Post: “The White House proposals to close a cryptocurrency-related tax loophole and a real estate loophole were both previously pitched by the administration. The cryptocurrency proposal would ensure that investors could not claim a loss on an asset that they then quickly repurchased — a rule that already exists for stocks and other assets. Similarly, the real estate proposal would prevent investors from deferring taxes on swaps of property — similar to a rule for stock trades.”
The radical House Republicans absolutely reject any proposal that would raise revenue. I get that. Most of us are already paying plenty to support our government. What Biden’s trying to do is to hold those accountable who are either cheating or avoiding paying their fair share thanks to loopholes that you and I don’t get to use.
You’re probably saying, “This doesn’t make any sense,” and you’d be right. At the local level, we insist on going after those who owe even the slightest amount of money to the town. At the national level, one political party has decided that it’s perfectly fine for some, the very wealthy, not to pay their fair share of taxes and have convinced many Americans that any additional IRS funding will result in workers being assaulted by auditors. That, of course, is not true. The president wants the IRS to be more receptive, which is a good thing.
I see ads where an actor will say that he owes the IRS thousands of dollars, called Optima Tax Relief (or a similar company), and they helped to find a way for this deadbeat to not pay his fair share. Lovely.
If the goal is for us all to find ways to not fund our government, then please don’t feign disappointment when you end up with a government that does not work for you.