Tax Freedom Day – Californians still working for the government

Published with the Orange County Register

As the song goes, everybody’s working for the weekend. But if you are a California taxpayer, you are working for the government until April 30. According to the Tax Foundation, that is the day tax freedom comes to us here in the Golden State.

While most of the country celebrates sooner, in California Tax Freedom Day falls 121 days into the year. It is the day on which the average Californian has finished earning enough money to pay all of his federal, state and local taxes for the year. There are only four other states whose taxpayers have a higher tax burden than we do – Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. On average, our fellow Americans celebrated tax freedom on April 24 – six days before us.

In real life terms, the work you have done and the money you’ve earned from January through February this year is about what you will be paying for your federal tax obligations. The work you have done in March will basically go toward paying your social security and Medicare obligations. And for the entire month of April, you are working to pay off your state and local taxes, which include property, business, utility and sales and use taxes among many other taxes.

Just to give a little historical perspective, in 1900 – when only 5.9 percent of income went to taxes – Tax Freedom Day was celebrated by all Americans on January 22. Later, in 1913, the federal income tax started at a high of 7 percent and tax freedom was celebrated on January 26.

With all of the added taxes and growth in government, it isn’t hard to understand why Tax Freedom Day today has been pushed back by many months since it was first calculated. In just about 100 years, our tax burden has grown over 465 percent. Our government has grown so much that in recent years Americans now spend more money for our government to operate than we spend for our own families’ food, housing and clothing.

With our tax burden so high and taxpayers already contributing more to our government than for the basic needs of their own families, I will continue to oppose any new or increased taxes. And yet, we have state legislators in Sacramento who continue to propose just that – new and increased taxes and ways to make it easier to impose new and increased taxes.

Among the worst tax ideas are ones that will, for the first time in California, impose the sales tax on services that as customers we use tax-free today. If these proposals are approved, we can expect to pay taxes for haircuts, gardening, dental work, tax preparation, legal work, tutoring, babysitting and many other professional services.

And if Sacramento politicians are not inventing new taxes, they are looking to extend taxes they promised would be temporary. Four years ago, voters were asked to approve Proposition 30 – then billed as a quarter-cent increase in sales tax effective for only four years and three increased income tax brackets for seven years. Today, there are efforts to make those tax increases permanent.

California already has one of the last Tax Freedom Days when compared with the rest of the country. We already pay more in taxes than we do for basic needs. If we are not careful, we will see our Tax Freedom Day pushed back even further by days or even weeks. We’d all like to be working for the weekend but, unless we push back, we’ll just keep paying the bill while the government continues to spend.

Michelle Steel is 2nd District Orange County supervisor.