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Another Tax Freedom Day passes

Barry Smith

It’s April 16, and you don’t want to think about taxes for another year.

But I have some good news that you may not know. In fact, according to an Associated Press poll that appeared in the Appeal earlier this week, only about 13 percent of the public knows it.

Your taxes went down.

Well, your federal taxes, anyway.

Tax Freedom Day – the day when the average American has made enough money to pay his tax bill for the year – has moved all the way back to April 11. So, congratulations, you’ve been working for yourself all week instead of the government.

I was amazed, because the last time I checked (in 2000), Tax Freedom Day didn’t arrive until May 2. It’s been going backward since then. Last year, it was April 14.

The Tax Foundation figures Tax Freedom Day, and it says it makes the calculations based on federal, state and local taxes. That’s why most people don’t think their taxes have gone down, because most people think their state and local taxes went up.

In fact, according to the foundation, Nevada’s Tax Freedom Day didn’t occur until April 13 – two days later than the rest of the country’s average. That puts the state in the top 10 for heaviest tax burden, the foundation says.

Since you just got done filing your tax return, you should know that your federal taxes went down. It’s trying to figure out all the other stuff that gets to be confusing.

For example, we know that taxes went up in Nevada on a bottle of whiskey and a pack of cigarettes – you know, practical stuff.

Taxes also went up on businesses, banks and casinos. So a few pennies of every transaction you make with one of them is probably going to help them pay their taxes. You don’t see it because you don’t calculate it. But you’re paying at least some of it.

It’s just like the gas pump. I was standing there Tuesday trying to watch the numbers flicker past as I filled up the car. At $1.99.9 a gallon, it’s going so fast you can’t even see it. But the gallons – oh, they creep into the car ever so slowly. I put in just over 13 gallons for $26.65.

On the side of the pump was a sticker for how much of the cost was in taxes, but none of the blanks were filled in. I happen to know that about 52 cents of every gallon is in federal, state and local taxes in Nevada.

I think they need to fill in the blanks so everybody can do their own calculations. In fact, if I were running a gas station, my pumps would have gauges that show price and taxes separately. That way when I fill up my tank I can say, “Holy cow! I just paid over $6 in taxes!”

Certainly when you go to a store and they hand you the receipt, you can look and see that if you spent $100 on some stuff, you’re paying about $7 in sales taxes.

And even though gas taxes and sales taxes haven’t gone up here, that’s why people still have the impression they are paying more in taxes. When prices go up (or through the stratosphere, as in the case of gas), people are paying more in taxes, too.

Then there are increases in utilities like gas and electric, cable TV and telephone service. They tell us they are simply “passing through” the increased costs of doing business. Some of those are taxes, some of them aren’t.

And some of them are only disguised as taxes. Phone companies are notorious for labeling things as a “federal fee” or “regulatory provision” on your bill, tacking on an extra 32 cents or something, and making you think it’s another tax they’re passing along. Some of them aren’t. It’s just their way of promising you a locked-in plan of $29.99 a month, then finding a sneaky way to raise the price.

After a recent column about a la carte television, I got a phone call from a reader, Frankie Finlayson, who noticed an extra penny on her cable TV bill. It was a “fee” increase by the Federal Communications Commission – the people who are supposed to be keeping an eye on cable rates. And the regulators tacked on an extra penny!

“They seem to be very good at tacking on an extra fee,” said Frankie. Of course, the cable company just “passed it along.”

No wonder we feel besieged.

I’m blaming the FCC, but apparently Congress told the agency last year that it needed to recover more of its budget through regulatory fees, so the FCC increased them by 23 percent.

These are the kind of stealth taxes that eat into our paychecks, our Social Security checks, our savings account (what’s left of it) and our hopes for retiring comfortably.

In that Associated Press poll I talked about earlier, people were asked which they prefer: Balance the budget, or cut taxes?

Several Nevada Appeal readers immediately saw the flaw in that question. Can’t we do both? The obvious answer: Limit government spending.

There’s no bigger drain on the economy than government spending. It’s pretty obvious that if we all worked to April 11 (or April 13 in Nevada) just to keep the government running, we weren’t working to keep the economy running.

Tax Freedom Day, indeed.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.