A real taxpayers bill of rights

by YES! Staff

Earlier  this month, the Republicans in the NC House took some time off from denying science, creating a shadow educational system, fetishizing firearms and making life better for dogs to introduce what they touted as a Taxpayer Bill of Rights to be added as an amendment to our state constitution.

It’s no such thing, of course — the NC House Republicans’ TABOR amendment reads almost exactly like similar efforts in other states: a limit to government spending that caps growth at 4 percent, regardless of catastrophe, inflation beyond an annual 1 percent factor or proverbial rainy days.

But instead of using this space to ream the House bill and the right-leaning shenanigans of our errant reps, we should be talking about an actual Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. And unlike the cur rent TABOR bill, this one probably should be enshrined in the state constitution. First, we must agree that everybody pays taxes — every household, every individual, every busi- ness and every corporation. The government needs some money to run on, and it has to come from us.

No more using the tax code to pit us against each other.

That being said, tax law needs to be equally applied to all parties — no loopholes for “job creators,” no preferential treatment for high-rollers, no tax-based incentives for anyone, anywhere in the state.

And groups that claim tax-exempt status need to be thoroughly audited every single year.

A sound, commonsense proposal is that everyone pays 6.5 percent of everything — income, capital gains, inheritances, pensions… everything. This will apply to everyone making more than $15,000 a year.

This simplification of the state code would address the next issue in our bill of rights: No more using the tax code to pit us against each other. Right away this would eliminate any candidate from either party who uses the tax code as a cudgel or a cookie. Put this item in the state constitution and we will never have to listen to another stump speech about taxes ever again.

We have a right not to go broke in order to pay our taxes. That means that the state cannot commandeer an exorbitant amount of our money for itself, and also it cannot impose usurious late fees and interest charges against people who cannot pay on time. The government should not charge more than a bank in interest.

And for that matter, if you are owed a refund, the state should pay the same amount of interest it charges late payers. Fair is fair.

We also have the right to benefit in some way from the expenditure of our tax money. We need roads and a DMV. We need to care for our poor and sick and elderly. We need to teach our children to read and write and count. We need a healthy university and community college system to train the next generation of leaders and workers. We need law enforcement and public transportation and affordable utilities. We need support for vital economic and cultural functions. There’s more, but this is a good start.

And it’s also a complete pipe dream. Both parties have been resisting real tax reform for decades, all the while crowing about the rights of the people who pay and vote to make this whole government run, resulting in bogus legislation like the current TABOR bill the House is flogging.

It’s scheduled to go up for a voter referendum in November 2014. Demand better.

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