Tax and budgets

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Even when I am getting a refund, filing my taxes makes me cranky and I put it off. While having to pay extra is certainly painful, getting a refund reminds me that the government has been using my money instead of me for the last year. This year was fun because I bought a hybrid car last summer. That gave me a $525 tax credit. To claim it, I had to use a full Form 1040 instead of a 1040–EZ or even a 1040A, because not all credits are available on all forms. I also had to file a Form 8910 pursuant to the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit. That form required my Tentative Minimum Tax from Form 6251, Alternative Minimum Tax—just to make sure that the $525 credit was not going to eat my entire tax burden. Add to which that it took me a couple of hours just to figure out which forms I needed in order to claim this credit.

There is an important lesson here. I like the idea of more vehicles with better fuel efficiency on the road. And if one is into top-down social engineering, a tax credit sounds like a fine way to provide an incentive for it. But the aggravation of claiming a credit—really, when was the last time you had to figure out your AMT?—makes this incentive vastly inferior to simply saving money on gasoline and feeling smug each time I buy a tank at the four hundred mile mark.

I filed my federal taxes on-line, but had to make my final payment to the California Republic via the postal monopoly. I was pleased to see that Seacoast Peace Response was out there. I was a little disappointed that their “penny poll” didn’t include an option for cutting taxes to allow private charity and free choice, but it was an effective outreach tool. I briefly considered pocketing the pile of pennies they gave me and walking away, since that really is my vote, but I don’t think that would have been a good way to make friends and influence people. And then whoever received the pennies in an envelope at the Red Cross or homeless shelter would probably have been insulted, rather than grasping the symbolic significance.

Locally, it is still (still!) budget time. The Portsmouth Herald has the full schedule of meetings posted in an editorial. I am remiss right at the outset; I was wiped out from staying up all night Monday to figure out my taxes, and then this morning from taking a house guest down to Logan Airport, so I took a nap instead. But this is an important process, and the more you can get your local neighbors to think about taxation and non-government solutions to problems, the more likely they are to apply that thinking all the way up the chain. We do need a revolution; a mental one, a counterrevolution to the New Deal that made the government the solution to all of our problems and caused our community support structures to atrophy.

On the up side, it feels like spring today, and I had a lovely walk around downtown Portsmouth after submitting my tithe to the Governator. And I didn’t have any New Hampshire tax paperwork to file. I like it here.