"I can't believe it. The wife and I owe the IRS again!"
"You mean you aren't getting a refund this year like millions of working Americans?"
"Refund? The wife and I run a small business. We are crushed by taxes. We can barely keep up with what we owe."
"It can't be that bad."
"We pay 28 percent federal, 3 percent state and 1 percent local. Then we pay 15.3 percent for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. All told, it's like we're in a 47 percent bracket!"
"That's almost half. Surely you have deductions."
"You mean the money we spend to run our business? Even when you factor the deductions in, the amount of money we pay in income taxes is astronomical. What is killing us more is the time and cost of completing our tax return."
"What is so hard about filing?"
"The tax code is incredibly complicated — so complicated that, according to the National Taxpayers Union, Americans spend 7.64 billion hours and $227.1 billion complying with the tax laws every year."
"How did filing become so complex?"
"It's not hard to understand. When the income tax became law in 1913, the tax code was 16 pages long. Now it is nearly 75,000 pages long!"
"How did it get so big?"
"Because the government uses the tax code to do everything from redistributing wealth to giving taxpayers incentives to buy homes, have kids, save money, spend money and so on."
"Sounds like we need tax reform!"
"You got that right. Everyone agrees that our complex tax code is hurting the economy. Tax reform could unleash America's pent-up economic energy and increase revenues to help us reduce our deficit."
"Maybe we can scrap the whole income tax system and replace it with more simple and sensible ways to acquire the revenues the government needs to operate."
"You mean something like the Fair Tax, a national sales tax concept that would allow us to keep our whole paychecks and pay taxes only on what we spend? Great idea, but good luck making it happen."
"Why wouldn't it happen?"
"You really think that all the groups that make their livings off a complicated tax code, and all the politicians who acquire power by promising special tax breaks, are going to let that happen? Complexity is king in Washington."
"That's a shame."
"It's more than a shame. Despite all the money the wife and I pay into the system — despite all of the agitation and lost hours — our country isn't even close to paying its bills. Americans now spend more on their taxes than they spend on food, clothing and housing combined."
"I did not know that."
"Tax Freedom Day is on April 21 this year — three days later than last year, says the National Taxpayers Union. This is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total federal, state and local tax bill for the year."
"Almost one-third of the income Americans earn is what it costs to pay for government? I didn't know it was so high."
"What's worse is that it is not high enough! Our federal government is still spending more than a half a trillion dollars beyond what it is taking in."
"You're depressing me."
"Here's what's even more depressing. If you factor in all the borrowing and money we owe, Tax Freedom Day is May 6. The only time America had a later Tax Freedom Day than that was during the thick of World War II, when it would have been on May 21, 1945."
"Now it makes perfect sense."
"What makes perfect sense?"
"Why you and the wife owe the IRS again!"
©2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact [email protected] or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at [email protected]