Take some—even if it is microscopically small—comfort in the approaching day of reckoning.
Tax Day is April 18.
If you’re one of the “lucky” ones—so poor that you don’t owe the federal or state tax collectors anything, or fortunate enough to have somehow managed a refund—this day probably couldn’t get here fast enough. In fact you may have already filed your paperwork with the IRS and you have already blown your refund.
But for the millions of others of us who will put more money in state and federal coffers this day has been looming like a visit from the in-laws. During a heat wave. In the midst of ongoing domestic discord. And her parents have never liked you. But they love your twin brother.
Last year more than half of American households did not pay federal income tax.
The majority of non-payers were not a cadre of tax dodgers, pacifists, magical accountants or outer space dwelling billionaires exploiting tax code loopholes. Instead they were average Americans who had been fiscally harmed by the ongoing pandemic.
When COVID-19 slammed into the country and forced businesses to shut down or come to a trickle, millions of people lost their jobs or found themselves working fewer hours. This, in turn, reduced their tax burden. After all, you can’t tax income if there is no income to tax.
In California residents faced similar challenges and the state treasury encountered similar shortfalls. Fortunately, however, the state has been operating with a budget surplus the last few years and Californians were the recipients of state stimulus funds, as well as having received federal funds.
The state and federal government were also able to extend loans to small businesses hurting because of the pandemic thanks in part to taxes that had been collected and diverted in the years before the pandemic.
The money we collectively put into the system via taxes comes back in the form of streets, public safety, education, loans, business development and, in times of crises, life saving aid. It’s for the broader good.
That’s what I’ll be telling myself anyway as I trudge through paperwork and filings and hand over money I barely have to Uncle Sam this weekend, happy to be done with it for another year.