Conservation of Blog-energy

Posted April 11, 2006 by Evan Tishuk

I've noticed a distinct blogging slow-down in the past several days. It started with our comment spam problem and now my Bloglines page reports a lot fewer new posts.

It appears large amounts of creative energy, previous earmarked for writing, has been changed into frustration, head scratching and disgust. Tax-time has undoubtedly siphoned a lot of blog-juice from the internet. The energy is still there, only it's being transfered to the US Government so they can piss it away redistribute it and make our great country a freer smarter better more frustrated (and bloggable) place.

I expect a renewed vigor after the 15th people.


Adam Gautsch ~ April 11, 2006

During the NCAA Tournment there were all these news stories being run about some stupid study that said filling out brackets cost America 3.5 Trillion (or something close to that) dollars in lost productivity.

That study was, of course, crap. But where is similar study with taxes. Think of how many people would be more productive if they didn't have to worry about taxes.

A couple of my friends would be out of a job but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Come on National Sales Tax.

nobrainer ~ April 11, 2006

My tax experience led me to further believe a national sales tax would work.

My conclusion was reached despite having wasted numerous hours try to calculate $4 in late fees and get credit from Virginia for Ohio income so that I could save $8. When I got the lines about use taxes I was pretty pissed. I'd never paid attention to them before and really had no idea how much I owed.

The point is, though, if there's a way to avoid a sales tax -- buying from foreign locations or through the black market -- it will be done, and it will be done a lot. We'll be creating new breeds of criminals and losing tons of revenue. I doubt it would be worth the switch.

Evan Tishuk ~ April 11, 2006

Hmmm... I can definitely see there being a growth in black market trade. Is that a deal breaker? Would it be worse than current tax evasion strategies? Smarter people than myself can debate and model this scenario, but several things will happen if we went to a national sales tax:

  1. IRS budget: decreases
  2. Accountants: decreases
  3. Human productivity: increases
  4. Time for citizens to think and create and stay globally competitve: increases
  5. Motivation to build wealth: increases
  6. Motivation to overconsume: decreases

This all sounds pretty good. I say black market schmack-market.

ihatetrucks ~ April 12, 2006

The Fair Tax book that is out right now is a great read on this subject. The fair tax would level the playing field in multiple ways. Yes there would be a black market for goods but that takes two people to cheat, a buyer and a seller, right now it takes just one person to cheat (not paying taxes). With a fair tax, anyone who does not currently pay taxes (illegal immigrants, drug dealers, rich people putting money in tax shelters) would have to pay on goods consumed. I really like the fair tax idea, I think it would solve a lot of problems. It would attract more companies to make products in this country instead of shipping them over seas. Just my two cents, pick the book up some time, it will make you mad at the current system.

Chris P. ~ April 12, 2006

Pretty astute observation...I've noticed a slowdown as well, but I figured it was just my site slipping back into oblivion.

Nice comment thread you've got running here, but sadly, we're all beating a dead horse. Look at it this way: if you want to earn $200,000, then you better generate $400,000, and you better generate it during the time you're not spending calculating the fact that you only really made $200,000.

So. Rock. Dumb.

Adam Gautsch ~ April 13, 2006

You can also think of it like this. None of the money you've earned in the first 3 and 1/2 months of this year is yours.

None of it. All those long nights and weekends in the office were for the government and not for you.

Just puts a smile on your face.

Evan Tishuk ~ April 13, 2006

Not sure who said it first but, you shouldn't work for the government the government should work for you.

olivier ~ April 13, 2006

Sounds like JFK.

You know... the whole "no taxation without representation" thing doesn't work for me as a foreign national: I pay taxes like everyone else, but can't vote.

Bear, that last comment of yours puts it all in perspective. Damn.

Evan Tishuk ~ April 13, 2006

Jimmy (a Yeti founding father) just forwarded me a recent Economist article. I thought the following was pertinent to this comment string:

The tax code's complexity is notorious. Overall, Americans spend around 3.5 billion hours doing their taxes, an average of about 26 hours per household. Around $140 billion is spent on tax preparation and compliance every year, according to Joel Slemrod of the University of Michigan, as desperate households seek professional help. Tax rules were horribly complicated, of course, long before the Bush presidency, but during the past five years things have got much worse. The number of pages of federal tax regulations has risen by over 40%, from 46,900 in 2000 to 66,498 this year, according to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute. The number of different tax forms issued by the Internal Revenue Service has soared from 475 in 2000 to 582.

Nobrainer ~ April 14, 2006

There are certainly good comments here to get me thinking a lit bit more in favor of the sales tax. On the other hand, many comments come from some dream world.

A lot of the comments seem to opt for simplicity, which I completely support. But even a flat tax without all the deductions and exemptions can get tedious. Most of my time spent this year was figuring out how to keep income from two states separated, then figuring out penalties I owed in Virginia. The net result was a $4 savings.

Fortunately my federal return was a breeze. But even if we get a national sales tax, we have to convince all the states to switch over completely, too. (but no I haven't read the fair tax book and I'm sure it beautifully and simply addresses the issue.)

So many man hours and dollars will be saved. Maybe. With a 30+% tax rate (don't give me this 23%BS), consumers will spend more time seeking deals and bargains. I'd bet that the time we spend currently trying to save money on income taxes will be equally spent trying to save money on sales taxes. (and drug dealers who don't pay income taxes? Something tells me that people who smuggle and sell illegal items for a living will find ways to not pay smuggle regular items and not pay taxes on them.)

It still seems like no one is clear on the plan. Will employers slash wages to keep take-home income the same in order to decrease prices? Does salary stay the same with higher prices?

But we'd better start saving because once our income is gone with retirement we'll be getting killed with sales tax. And if we're saving and investing all this money, and not consuming, how many companies go belly up?

Higher prices cannot be good for tourism. There goes that industry.

Plus the government is going to want the same amount of money. We'll still be working 3 1/2 months each year to feed that beast.

Maybe I'm wrong, but count me skeptical.

ihatetrucks ~ April 14, 2006

The book addresses pretty much all of those concerns. It is a quick read, pick it up some time. The bottom line is that an item will not be 23% more expensive once the Fair tax is enacted. Every item has built is taxes now, think of a car door, the door is made in multiple steps. First, metal is pulled from the earth, The company that mines the ore has payroll and other taxes that it has to pay, it then sells the ore to the foundry with those embeded taxes in ore price. At each step the embeded taxes are added and passed up the food chain. Yes you may see items a little more expensive but you will also be taking home more income therefore you would have the same buying power.

Evan Tishuk ~ April 14, 2006

Here's an IM Message from Clemson Economics professor, BB&T Scholar and cretified great American, Bobby McCormick, when asked about a consumption tax:

It isn't what it is cracked up to be.

Here's the deal. Why do you work? To consume, right? So what does it matter if you tax work, which you do to consume, or when you actually consume?

There are minor distortations one way versus other, but not enough to spend anytime worried about.

He went on to cite Director's Law.

Jimmy ~ April 16, 2006

Personally, I am a fan of the steve Frobes approach to Taxes. When he was running for president, he proposed a new taxing method. because he has no personality, everyone forgot about his tax idea. He proposed a flat tax. I think the tax rate he proposed is like 20%. Now my first thought was what about poor people? Well he had that figured out too. He also said that the first $20,000 of your income is untaxed, after that the 20% income tax kicks in.

My numbers might be a little off from his but he had it all worked out. There are a lot of great reasons to have a flat tax. Enforcement is a breeze so we should collect more taxes. Everyone is treated fairly so it increases the incentives to work harder. A company can just send in a percentage of their overall payroll since they would no longer need to figure out what they paid each specific person.

The real problem with taxes isn't whether we decide to tax based upon income or based upon what we buy. The real problem is that we try to use taxes to enforce social policy. We like marriages, children, and homeowners and so we change the tax code it changed to create incentives for those things. The problem is that politicians use the tax code as weapon and a way to get their constituents benefits.

If we could get away from using taxes to enforce socail policy, we would be much better off.

Nick ~ April 17, 2006

If we could get away from using taxes to enforce socail policy, we would be much better off.

Well put. It is just another bargaining chip for politicians.

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