Saturday, January 10, 2009

Doing the Math

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

MSNBC reports a scheme in Guyana to avoid $250K in customs duty by importing Venezuelan beer as soft drinks. Reading on we learn that at least one customs official received $350K to look the other way. Doing the math a little, wouldn't you WANT that scheme to continue? "We're gonna give you 350 large but you're gonna have to let us off the hook for that $250K in customs duty." As Willie Nelson sang, "Run that by me one more time" ...

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Virginia checks in: The Washington Post reports "Unpaid Taxes Hurting Virginia". I like how they personalize tax admin there: The governor "hired 55 workers at a cost of $1.2 million to help recoup the unpaid taxes." Maybe they should compare salaries with the new Wisconsin tax collectors. And we read further "Some Virginia legislators acknowledged that the state's method of tax collection and use of private collection agencies deserve further scrutiny during the economic downturn." But before the downturn it was OK to farm out those jobs?

In DC itself, "which is facing a $152 million budget gap, nearly 39,000 taxpayers owed $72 million at the end of 2008. In Maryland, which faces a budget shortfall of $1.9 billion, 182,000 residents owe $530 million as of this week."

Also in DC "When revenues are falling short of estimates, there is nothing like collecting past-due taxes to help out," said Stephen Cordi, the District's deputy chief financial officer. Do you think? Where have these people and their AHA! moments been? Hasn't this been part of their job all along?

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The Nigerian state of Ogun has introduced a novel method of keeping track of who owes what: Taxpayer ID numbers! Hey, that might just work. Um, what did they used to use? They might be a little late to the party but at least they got there.

Unlike, say, Findlay, Ohio. There the city fathers and mothers wrestled with their city income tax. What to do? The used to divide it 75-25, general fund to capital improvements, with 3% of that 25% going for flood projects. Now it's 81-19 EXCEPT for their novel concept of "windfall tax collection". They define that as "business income tax collections that exceed the auditor's estimate". Well sure, EXCEPT that "Such windfall money will be divided evenly, with half going to the rainy day fund and half to capital improvements. But when the balance in the rainy day fund reaches $1 million, all windfall collections will go to capital improvements." ... Does this make sense to ANYONE? I thought of several comments but instead, I'll just let you dwell on this yourselves ... "You just pay the money, we'll figure out what to do with it."

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In Florida, "Polk County Tax Collector Joe Tedder's office, in cooperation with the Central Florida Development Council, will accept payments penalty-free in February ... Depending on the type of business involved, the tax, formerly known as an occupational license, costs between $30 and $300 a year ... During the amnesty there will be a $10 collection surcharge, which means the business owners will pay between $40 and $310." No penalty, nosiree. That there's a "collection surcharge" is what it is.

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An editorial at (PA) tells us of the borough with 70 -- seventy! -- borough property tax collectors and some school districts with their own tax collectors. School districts? They're looking at a proposal to let the banks collect property taxes and do away with the collectors. Banks, free, open regular hours - collectors, commissions, open when they want to be. Hey, that might work.

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If I hadn't already found my tag line, Steve Cordi's brilliance (above) might suffice: "When revenues are falling short of estimates, there is nothing like collecting past-due taxes to help out"

Do you think?

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