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So, I filed my taxes. If you (like me) are of the "never put off until tomorrow what can be delayed until the next day" school, do check out http://myfreetaxes.thebeehive.org/ , which lets you file both state and federal taxes online for free if your income is under a certain level. I have no special relationship to them, but just used them myself and it seemed to go smoothly.

Also: dunk-dunk saved me a substantial amount tonight! On the score of a few hundred dollars. There's a Law & Order episode in I think the first season where a defendant is given legal immunity in New York county but not from the Brooklyn DA office; that's how they got him to testify and still were able to prosecute him. I rewatched it a few weeks back and so it wasn't too far from my mind. Anyway, when filling out the forms it crossed my mind that maybe I'm not a "New York City" resident - I live and work in the Bronx which is one of the New York boroughs, but isn't legally part of New York. So I was surprised to see I owed a lot of state taxes, and phones up the IRS to ask whether I was selecting the right status and they said that in point of fact for tax penalties I wasn't in NYC. Score one for fandom...

I don't know how a lot of people feel about taxes but in the past I actually liked tax day. Oh, sure, it was frustrating to go through all the forms and a bit depressing at how little I earned until this last year. 2010 was a special treat because I had a state tax bill that was exactly equal to my refund, so I had to unexpectedly pay $139 and then wait several weeks to get a check for the same amount. Idiocy, it burns, precious. But I also feel patriotic about me. I am more for social justice than I am for charity, so if you gave me the choice I'd rather have the government spend my tax money (if they do it efficiently and toward the right kind of things - I know, a big assumption) than get a refund and give that to a private charity. The reason's simple enough; charity puts me in a position of power that I haven't earned, and I also think it's downright Biblical ("when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing"; Mt 6:3).

But this year... well, it doesn't feel this way to me. I still like the social justice work my govt does, and with Obamacare (which I support though I really would have liked a public option to buy into) I have more reason to support that kind of work. The thing is, there are other things the government has done that basically drive home the point that even the "good guys" (from my perspective!) don't respect the rule of law. Government always involves a loss of liberty in one sense; law means there are some things I want to do that I can't do for fear of punishment. But I gain freedom in another sense - I always thought in the past - because there's someone to keep the Mitt Romneys and Donald Trumps of the world from taking advantage of me. I always thought of government as a kind of union, that allowed less powerful citizens to organize and claim their rights against businesses that were powerful enough to crush citizens privately. And I thought it did good, so I could support both the means and the ends that taxes point to. I still support the ends, but now I'm not so sure about the means, and it makes it harder to feel patriotic.

I know, I know. Only I would worry about that - and really, getting $126 back in a few weeks is no small thing; if anything, it's cause to celebrate. But I miss submitting my taxes feeling like I'd done my good deed for the week. :-S

On a lighter note, enjoy this pic of the importance of cooperation. Cute!

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aliana1
Apr. 18th, 2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
Aaaaah great pic!

I've been thinking about this a lot, too. We've been discussing political economy and tax systems in one of my classes. We read a paper by Jeffrey Timmons called "The Fiscal Contract" (not that you probably have any time to read extra stuff right now, but... ;) ) in which he presents strong empirical evidence that states' output depends on where the tax revenue is coming from. That is, countries that get a higher proportion of their revenue from taxes on goods and services (regressive taxes) spend more on basic health and social services. Conversely, countries that get more revenue from regressive taxes spend more money protecting private property rights. So, taxes are "the cost of civilization" in which they represent a contract between the taxpayer and the state. Needs more evidence, but very interesting stuff! I'd never thought of it that way before.

Okay, sorry for hijacking your blog... :p

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