The Cost of Cowardice

When last we saw Nancy Pelosi and her merry caucus of Profiles In Courage, they were fleeing Washington without deciding the fate of the Bush tax cuts, or even submitting a budget for next year.  Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would open a billion bleeding wounds in an already battered economy, so the Democrats thought it best to put off a vote until after the elections.  It will become one of their top priorities in the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress… right after they figure out a way to siphon enough taxpayer blood to keep union pension plans alive. 

Americans have already paid a heavy price for the cowardice of Democrats, through skyrocketing unemployment.  Hiring people is a long-term decision, which businesses don’t like to make until they know exactly what their tax liability will be.  Well-run businesses avoid the Democrat model of putting off 2011 budget decisions until after the office Christmas party.

You’ll be glad to know you’re not done paying yet.  Income tax forms are released in mid-January.  Last-minute revisions to erase the scheduled Obama tax hikes will cost a fortune, even accounting for the rising popularity of electronic filing.  The IRS spends over two billion dollars per year on “taxpayer services.”  It estimates the cost of downloading forms from at just under one dollar apiece, while distributing forms through Taxpayer Assistance Centers costs about $9 each, and preparing such a form with IRS assistance costs $46.  Over 115 million tax returns were filed last year, about half of them electronically. 

An awful lot of expensive overtime will be required to process lame-duck changes.  Luckily, the IRS has been beefing up its staff to handle the demands of ObamaCare.  The Congressional Budget Office projects budget increases of up to 50% over the next decade for America’s favorite bureaucracy.  Costs might come down a bit once IRS agents develop a way to transmit their minds through telephone lines, and take over the bodies of nearby bystanders.  Until then, you’d better hope there are no last-minute revisions to reporting your mandatory health care benefits, Mister Anderson.

The cost of distributing our complex tax code is tremendous… and that’s nothing compared to the cost of complying with it.  The next time you hear a flat tax proponent wax poetic about filing your returns on a postcard, remember that postcard would have to be made of platinum to cost as much as the government currently spends on mummifying us with fine print.