Taxes, taxes, fees and more taxes

Lee Schmidt

They are everywhere and I’m sure you’ve seen them too: Newspaper articles, billboards, yard signs and mailers, all telling us to vote yes on Measure A. After all, it’s only $33.66 per home and it supports our local libraries.
I like libraries, and have enjoyed taking my children there over the years. And yes, I did vote “yes.” What got my brain churning was a quote I read from the mayor of Morgan Hill. He said, “We’re not asking them to pay anything more, just to keep paying what they are.”
He’s right, but that’s exactly the problem. I can’t remember a time when a tax expired. There has always been a compelling reason to continue them while adding new taxes. And, we often disguise taxes by calling them “fees” or “surcharges.”
Let’s go back 400-plus years and remember that the United States came into existence because many people were tired of paying taxes to a nation on the other side of the Atlantic. Thousands shed their blood in order to win our independence, in large part to prevent an oppressive government from taking so much of their hard-earned dollars. The limited tax model our country once had has evolved into one where taxes and fees have infiltrated every part of our life. Almost every tax is sold to us as, No. 1: A tax on the rich who can afford to pay more, No. 2: A one-time tax to pay for something (think Measure A), or No. 3: A tax to pay for a crisis.
I got out my property tax statement just to see how many line items appear. They include the aforementioned County Library tax, Fox/Murphy tax, Mosquito Abatement, SCCO Vector Control, SCVWD Clean Safe Creeks, SCVWD Flood Control, County Bond For Hospitals, County Library Retirement, Community College Bonds, Unified School Bonds and the SCVWD State Water Project. Eleven additional taxes added to our property tax bill.
What about gas? Every gallon of gas includes 39.5 cents of state excise tax, 18.4 cents of federal excise tax and 1.4 cents of underground storage tank fees plus sales taxes. What disturbs me is the hypocrisy of our government forcing automakers to make more efficient cars, encouraging us to buy hybrids and electric cars at an increased cost, and then raising gas taxes to offset their income loss.
It’s gotten to the point where we only keep 45 to 50 cents of every $1 we earn. I checked on the Internet and the following is an abbreviated list of taxes we pay: Federal income tax, state income tax, local income tax, employee social security tax, employee Medicare tax, property tax, sales tax, driver’s license renewal fees, cable/satellite tax, telephone surtax-excise and universal surcharges, gas/electric fees and taxes, water/sewer fees and taxes, cigarette taxes, alcohol taxes, gas taxes, federal inheritance tax, state inheritance tax, gift tax, stadium tax, health insurance mandate tax, gas guzzler tax, state/local school tax, hotel tax, dog permit fees, bridge tolls, hunting licenses, fishing licenses, state park permits, bike license fees and more.
If you happen to own a business there are more: Federal corporate tax, state corporate tax, tax registration fees for new business, employer social security tax, employer Medicare tax, federal unemployment tax, state unemployment tax, workers’ comp tax and the list goes on. Just this year I paid an additional $127 for my business license because we moved the office, plus $164 in occupancy permit fees so we could occupy the new office. It never ends.
I like libraries and for $33.66 per year, I did vote yes. My concern is that we are taxed when we’re born, we are taxed while alive, we are taxed when we die and whatever money we leave behind is taxed again.
I think Ronald Reagan said it best: “The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
Lee Schmidt is the broker/owner of Realty World South County and can be reached at 782-9933 or [email protected] Send your real estate questions to him and they could appear here. His column runs on the fourth Friday of the month.
Info below shows the city, median price, percent change, sales volume and percent change
Morgan Hill: $634,500, +16.6 percent, 56, -21 percent
Gilroy: $506,000, +15.4 percent, 72, -2.7 percent
San Martin: $535,000, +4.9 percent, 4, -50 percent
SC County: $650,000, +15 percent, 2,244, +26.1 percent
Source Data Quick, sales through June 2013


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