Paid the Taxman

Today I rode over to the county seat and had a conversation with a man I know only by face, who recognizes my face in return even though he only sees me twice a year. Once I year I ride over there and pay my tag fees for the various vehicles registered in my name. The other time I come to pay the taxes on my property here in the county. He and I have to talk every time I come because it is his job to physically search me before I am allowed into the building.

The conversation turned, ironically I thought, on his desire to lament just how much of our money the government takes in taxes. He is of course paid out of those taxes, and is fully employed as a cog in the wheel of the tax-collection machine. His job is to protect the taxman from me, and to ensure that said taxman only encounters people like me after we have been carefully checked for arms.

It always strikes me as strange. The same government licenses me to carry arms, has my fingerprints on file and has itself investigated my background. They know who I am. The same government pays for its operations out of money that I or people like me provide. In fact, the reason I ever go there is just to provide them with that money. I always show up and pay my bill as soon as it arrives even though I could wait months to pay it.

Of course, the reason I pay it so quickly is that if I should forget, the government will sell my house and land at auction and evict me. Perhaps that's why they are so unwilling to trust me with arms around them, even though I'm coming -- as I always do -- to pay them what they ask at the earliest opportunity. Their own deep-set bad faith undermines our relationship. They cannot trust their citizens not to use force against them, even the ones who have always played by the rules and who have volunteered to be investigated, because they know how quickly they intend to resort to force if I miss a payment.

Seems like there's got to be a better way. The relationship between the citizen and the state should be a kind of friendship, ideally. You watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and you can see how the citizen used to participate in local government, indeed how citizens to really be local government.

Even in this very rural corner of a fairly rural state, we've gotten far away from that ideal.


raven said...

The government figured out a long time ago how to get protection money from the citizens. The idea a man had to pay the government to remain on his hard earned land, or to pay the government a cut of his hard earned money, would have been anathema to our founders. The revolution was fought over much smaller issues. We do not have a representative republic anymore- we have a crime syndicate masquerading as a democracy.
I take issue with the idea that the government employee pays any income tax- this is sleight of hand designed to give the impression they are "paying their fair share". In fact,they are simply paid a little less than the gross would indicate. To issue with one hand and extract with the other is by no reasonable measure a "tax"

douglas said...

Eh, I think the founders understood well, and many before then did as well, that the relationship between man and his government is the acceptance of a necessary evil, at best. It's those who genuinely believe the government can do good beyond facilitating common burdens be distributed that really worry me.

MikeD said...

That's so incredibly odd to me. I have literally never been searched or so much as metal detected when I go to pay property taxes in person (an uncommon event, to be sure, as most of that can be handled by mail).

Grim said...

I've never seen a guard or a metal detector at schools, although lately they've started locating police precincts or "resource officers" in them, even out here. At the tax office, though, they have metal detectors and guards.

I could of course pay by mail. Indeed, you can pay online now. They're happy to collect their money without ever having to come into contact with you at all. I go in person because I want a hand-stamped receipt from the tax office. If there's any dispute ("our online server malfunctioned that day"), I want to be able to present the strongest possible evidence that I did my part. Tax seizures are not uncommon out here, times being hard, and for some reason it being the first resort. It's a rather brutal first option, given that you could file a lien or garnish wages or even retain a real estate agent to sell the property on the market rather than selling it at auction for much less than its ordinary value.

Ymar Sakar said...

When you get rid of the Left, there might be time to focus on a better way. Until then, there's a more pressing concern: the timer is ticking down.

Ymar Sakar said...

I've never seen a guard or a metal detector at schools

California and Democrat fiefdom cities would experiment with that first, since they are gun free zones.

It's a matter of distance and cultural differences, not solely political.

A lot of the Left's experiments seem like smoke dreams to people elsewhere in the nation, because they don't see it around them. Human experiments are first conducted on their homefield, with the home field advantage. Later on, the consequences are felt and then people "forgot" where it all came from.

Texan99 said...

No guard, no searches, no metal detectors at our tax office here.

I'd argue that the government is not noticeably quicker to enforce its legal claims against me by violence than are any of my other creditors, all of whom eventually will send the sheriff out to attach my assets if I don't pay up. The difference is that I've entered into voluntary contractual arrangements with my creditors, whereas my government (or, if you prefer, a majority of my fellow citizens) imposes my tax obligations on me according to their own views of "what the government should do to help."

Grim said... attach my assets...

I think the state's claims are of a different order, at least for real property. It's the fee simple concept: the state as sovereign deems itself to be the 'real' owner of real property. As long as you pay your taxes, it recognizes a duty to defend your feif against others. As soon as you don't, it feels entitled to seize the land (which, after all, it owns and you don't) and sell it to the first person prepared to pay the tax instead.

A private creditor might attach your property in special cases -- a repossession of your car, say -- but it has to be a case in which they have an analogous proprietary interest in the property. But it's only an analogy: you borrowed money from them to buy the thing and didn't pay it back, so if you pay them off in full their right goes away forever. The state's 'property rights' in your real property never go away, no matter how much you pay them.

Your point about the nonconsensual aspect of the relationship with the state is, of course, valid. Semi-consensual, I guess, since you have the right to a representative for whom you can vote, but it is a much more attenuated sort of consent.

raven said...

First Principals-
Who owns you? If they do not own you, then how can they claim to your property, because that property is the direct result of your effort. Same question about a tax on income, boiled down to it's very essence, it is a form of slavery. the state says it owns you, by way of owning your labor.

Ymar Sakar said...

That income tax was supposed to be "temporary". At least, that's what the Patriotic Democrats said.

William said...

I have been wondering about the myth of property ownership for a few years now...
If I have to pay someone else every year in order to retain control over "my" property, how is this different from rent?
If I have to pay someone else yearly in order to retain control over "my" property, who actually owns that property?

William sends.

MikeD said...

On a first principles level, I actually have less trouble with "property taxes" than most would assume that I would. If you wish to look at it strictly as "you pay the state to keep living on that land" then sure, it looks awful and compulsory. If you look at it instead as you paying for fire, police and other governmental services, then it becomes less onerous. Sure, you don't have a choice in participating in those services, but frankly I'd rather not rely on the fire department looking up to see if I'm a subscriber before coming to put out my house fire on account of the time they'd lose doing so, compounded with my lack of trust in the government to accurately keep such records. "Well, gee... looks like you actually did pay this year. Well, sorry about your house burning down."

Texan99 said...

Our volunteer department goes to all fires, regardless of whether the owner has contributed--and regardless of whether they've paid ad valorem taxes, for that matter. For one thing, no one wants to keep track or to withhold services in an emergency, and for another, fires need to be contained, not ignored.

Some other VFD's, though, to my knowledge, answer all fires but send a bill afterwards if they determine that the property owner hasn't paid up, which strikes me as fair. It's pretty much the way ambulances work. Or you can look at it more like police protection, and assume that all citizens are covered regardless of payment status.

There was a time in our lives when our ad valorem taxes were peanuts compared to our federal income taxes. Now it's the reverse. What the heck--it's mandatory either way.

Grim said...

William --

The king owns the land. Fee simple is a feudal title, so that a noble holds the land from the king, but the true ownership belongs always to the king. That's the system Edward I Longshanks set up in the 14th century, and it's the system we've inherited.

So, you may own yourself (as Raven suggests), but you never own your land. You hold it from the sovereign, in the manner of a feudal lord.

MikeD said...

Tex, I'll also assume you pay a lower millage rate than communities where the fire department is government funded. This is specifically what property taxes go to pay for.

Texan99 said...

We pay $1.10 per $100 assessed value, which seems like a lot to me. They are that high mostly because of Texas's "Robin Hood" school financing system. I don't quite understand how it works, frankly, because this is not a rich county, but it has some rich pockets, and someone it ends up that we have to transfer a ton of local school taxes to other poorer districts in Texas. Under the Robin-Hood rules, counties like us are prohibited from lowering our school taxes. Really bizarre.

We do get considerable funding every year from the county budget for the fire department, maybe 30% of our budget, something like that. In town, they pay city taxes that support their own volunteer fire departments, which are much larger and more active than our little super-rural one.