Tax laments come a little too late

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If you notice an uptick in ticked off writers lately, thereís a simple reason.

Taxes.

Happens every year about this time. In November, the county sends out its tax notices, which itemize the amounts that will go to the various taxing agencies. Payment is due by Dec. 20, but the alarms and complaints start to stack up almost immediately after the notices are mailed.

For some reason, taxpayers are often shocked when the value of their property goes up, which leads to an increase in their taxes. Itís a truism that the only time you want your property to be really valuable is when youíre trying to sell it, but unfortunately, thatís not the way it works. (It also is sadly true that when the economy tanks and your property loses, say, 20 percent of its value, you do not see a 20 percent drop in your taxes. Most of the time youíll see little or no drop in your taxes because governmental budgets rarely mirror whatís happening in the real world.)

The problem with tax complaints now is that theyíre too late. The taxing entities all held public hearings and sought residentsí feedback months ago. That feedback ostensibly helps shape budgets and keep tax hikes under control. But when there is no feedback, there is less incentive for budget decision-makers to hold the line. And there is even a sense of moral, not just fiscal, fulfillment when decision-makers take something less than the maximum possible tax increase allowed.

Schools serve as handy tax-hike whipping posts, in part because many of the people paying those taxes donít have kids in school and therefore believe theyíre being charged for a product they didnít order. Again, the time to complain is when school districts seek voter approval on the levies and bonds that comprise a big chunk of residentsí tax bills. Vote them down and you will see a significant drop in your tax bill, as well as the quality of life and local education in your community.

While itís easy to sympathize with the elderly and others who donít have kids or grandkids in school here, please keep in mind that our system of governance is based in part on a strict socialistic model. Everybody pays for police and fire protection, even if your house never catches fire, you never call the cops and never need an ambulance. Same goes for public education. These have been deemed basic societal needs that everyone in that society, not just the direct users, benefit from and therefore must support. Consider these taxes the admission price in the game of American life.

Meantime, Idahoís annual Tax Burden Study was released last week. It shows Idahoís state and local tax burden ranks 48th of 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Thatís 30 percent below the national average and lowest among the nationís 11 western states.

It should be noted that Idaho isnít quite as unburdened as the study suggests because those figures donít reflect tax burden relative to income. When that bigger picture is viewed, Idaho ranks 37th nationally and 10th among the 11 western states. Thatís still a pretty good deal.

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