April 15th is the day in the United States when most individual income taxes are due. I mailed mine last Friday, as I am concerned about internet security. (According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) identified more than 1.8 million tax-related identity thefts during 2012, more than four times the number from just two years ago.) So I had the weekend to relax and remember that our Founding Fathers objected to taxation without representation. Yet, as some have wryly observed, the Founders should only see what taxation has become with representation. For 2013, our federal government is on track to reap the highest amount of taxes in our nation’s history. I think that you can learn a great deal about someone from how they arrange their tax affairs. For 2012, President and Mrs. Obama only paid an income tax rate of 18 percent on an adjusted gross income of $608,611. (Didn’t the Romneys “only” pay 15 percent? Those wily and shrewd Romneys.) Further, during 2012, Vice President and Dr. Biden paid an income tax rate of almost 23 percent on an adjusted gross income of $385,072. Even though he gets government housing, $26,400 of Vice President Biden’s income was derived from renting out part of his private property to the Secret Service. (No, I am not making this up, but wouldn‘t you be ashamed if you were to charge the government for providing your own protection?)
You may have noticed that the income tax system is complicated. Even Albert Einstein ruefully observed that the “hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” The present income tax code contains 3.8 million words, written on 73,954 pages. This is 57.7 times longer than my nice Bible, which contains 1,281 pages. The typical modern, English-language Bible contains approximately 775,000 words. The tax code is so challenging that many federal employees owe approximately $3.5 billion in back taxes. In fact, a recent report from the IRS indicates that 40 of the President’s key White House aides owe back taxes of $333,485. However, this is an improvement from the prior year when 36 White House aides owed back taxes of $833,000. (I guess some of the big increases in White House salaries helped to pay down the back taxes.) In fact, for 2011, the last year for which the final tax filing deadline of October 15, 2012, has now passed, 107,658 individual federal government workers had an “unresolved” federal income tax delinquency. At the House of Representatives, 454 tax delinquents owed $8.9 million for 2011, while at our venerable Senate, 234 individuals owed the IRS $1.9 million. Sadly, the IRS does not disclose the names of the deadbeats. (Why don’t those names ever get leaked to the media instead of licensed gun owners?) And why is indifference to compliance with federal tax laws not a firing offense for federal employees? Why doesn’t the President simply issue an executive order to that effect since he frequently bemoans that some are not paying their fair share?
As we see in Matthew 17: 27, our Lord Jesus and St. Peter had to work miraculously to pay some of their taxes. But most of us don’t necessarily have that privilege. But I am reminded of one of Arthur Godfrey’s aphorisms, who once observed, “I’m proud to be paying taxes to the U.S. The only thing is that I could be just as proud for half the money.” Happy Tax Day Everyone!