Hippocrates and Taxes

‘Tis the season of giving and receiving. What? No, not Christmas: tax preparation. As I go through too many different tax forms to count and answer hundreds of questions (once I combine tax paperwork for my wife and me with the tax paperwork for my largely non-functioning small business) I am reminded of the Hippocratic Oath, which is often summed up in the statement “first, do no harm.” (Though, I must say that the oath doesn’t put it quite so neatly.)

You and I and every other adult in this country understands that taxes are necessary for a government to survive. That’s not in question. What is most assuredly in question is whether the government (local, state, federal) shouldn’t seek to minimize the harm of taxation in an effort to do right by the citizenry. Is not all of the work (time and money) which millions of us put into annual compliance with the tax code also a tax? We can’t spend that time or money on anything else–not if we wish to ensure that we are not visited by folks who wish to read all of our receipts.

President Coolidge is remembered as having said “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” He was right then and he’s still right today. A corollary to his statement is as follows: keeping the tax process complex and convoluted is legalized robbery. If our current Congress wanted to do something which would jump-start our sickly economy, then the implementation of a flat tax or fair tax or something of the sort would do it.

I realize that there is an entire industry which is built around tax law compliance (both for individuals and businesses). Doing away with the current tax code would put these people into other jobs where they would have to work with businesses doing useful and profitable things with all the money which they (the businesses) would not be spending on compliance. I’m thinking that’s a good thing.

But where does this leave me today? Someone hasn’t finalized all the forms I need to file, so I guess I’ll just have to wait until they are ready. At which point I’ll go through my entire return again to make sure I’ve done my best to answer all the questions accurately–spending yet more time which could have gone to something not so. . . well . . . so taxing.