Like most of you, this week I am dealing with filing my taxes for 2016. I am not a U.S. citizen, but like most of you reading this today, I also file and pay income taxes each year. As a self-employed individual, in addition to the income tax, I pay an additional tax, the self-employed tax, that most of you do not have to deal with. Imagine that, an immigrant paying taxes! Yes, it happens more often than most care to admit. Even the undocumented immigrants contribute to the tax base of the United States. What is worse, and much to my chagrin, as a Mexican citizen, my taxes will help pay for Trump’s wall.

However, today’s post is about the pain of paying taxes.

For 2016, my total tax liability is $34,313. Of that amount, $19,477 is for personal income taxes and the rest, $14,836 is the self-employment tax. Self-employment tax is the Medicare/Medicaid and social security tax you all pay; however, your employers generally pay half of the tax while the rest is paid by you. Texas teachers pay nothing towards the social security tax because they are covered by a Texas teacher plan.

I underestimated my tax liability for 2016 so I’m on the hook for almost $10,000 that I am short. I’ll be making monthly payments to make up that amount.

But here is the most disheartening thing about the whole thing for me. If my income remains the same for 2017, for each dollar that I pay towards the $10,000, I must set aside almost 33 cents towards what I anticipate my taxes to be for 2017, in addition to my original estimate.

Look at it this way, as a self-employed individual, I can somewhat control my income by how many jobs I am willing to take on. For this year, I must increase my income by $10,000 to pay off what I owe in taxes for 2016. But, because I am increasing my income by $10,000, I am also increasing my tax liability by about $3,260, in addition to what I would normally be liable for.

So, for me, it is not about $10,000 but rather it is about making another $15,000 in 2017. You see, as my income increases, so does my tax liability. To satisfy the $10,000, I owe for 2016, I must make $15,000 more money in 2017. The first $10,000 goes towards what I owe and $4,890 goes towards that taxes I will owe on the additional amount for 2017.

It is a vicious circle of paying taxes on money that I am using to pay taxes.

Want to know the most disheartening thing? An individual who earned $72,363 in 2016 working for a company paid $5,772.20 for social security and Medicare/Medicaid. The employer paid the rest. I paid almost $15,000 on a salary slightly higher than the $72,363. The income tax for the individual was $6,699. We both have similar deductions. Where I am paying $34,313, the other individual is paying $12,471.20.

The difference has nothing to do with my citizenship. It has to do with a tax system that encourages dishonesty, manipulation and discourages working for one’s self. These figures do not include the corporate taxes that I also must pay.

Donald Trump has promised to pass legislation to remedy the exorbitant taxes forced upon workers in the country. Unfortunately, like almost all of Trump’s other promises, substantial tax reform is unlikely to pass through the Republican-controlled congress. Yes, the Republican president is unlikely to pass tax reform, although his party is in control of both houses of congress.

The sad truth is that there are only two ways for Trump to pass legislation offering tax relief to the taxpayers of the country. The first is to offer cuts on the tax rates for corporate and personal taxpayers. Whether it is a ten percent cut or more, any tax rate cuts will have to be offset by an increase in the country’s deficit. The Republicans will not allow that.

The second option is to impose a new tax scheme, like a value-added tax (VAT) on products or the border adjustment tax (BAT) that Trump has previously floated. Neither of the two tax schemes will be acceptable to the Republicans. A value-added tax on products is feared by the Republicans as a tempting cookie jar to future governments that can be used to impose additional benefits by simply increasing the tax. The Democrats look at a VAT tax as regressive and thus they oppose it as well.

The border adjustment tax is opposed by the Republicans because it would impact their largest base, businesses who see the BAT tax as detrimental to their bottom lines.

Put aside for the moment on whether Donald Trump can be blamed on the lack of tax relief and consider that the tax system is unlikely to change because of inherent self-serving interests that continuously discourages small business entrepreneurs while encouraging child deductions and other schemes that make a simple tax return a complicated matter that few truly understand. Of course, there is much cheating included. Too bad that I can’t cheat because although many cheat on their taxes, I can be deported if I were to be caught cheating.

Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.

9 replies on “The Tax Pain of 2017”

  1. Taxes, taxes, taxes. When the government spends more that takes in something has to be done. That’s spending cuts and programs. So either way it catches up to you.

    The city,county and schools taxes every six months at the price of a pop and bag of chips. So no big deal. Utilities do the same for another pop and bag of chips. However wages don’t keep up with these “low” increases. Worse, should there be an increase in benefits via cola the taxing entities take that increase. Add all the “little” tax or fees, you’re finances are in a shabble and if you live on a fixed income, who cares. Cat food isn’t that bad.

    This is one reason taxpayers get angry when see noncitizens getting benefits. I don’t mean the homeless type. I mean the ones with 50,000 dollars or higher cars. They will knock people to get in the WIC office and race their kids to their free education. Too many students and not enough taxpayers.

    Now before you shed a tear for uninvited people paying taxes and no refund. Sounds good until the person that was issued that SSN has inherited a chore to screen employer and wage information then prove or disprove the wages. It’s a lot of work. Then you go for a loan or apply for a license. You discover that your credit is screwed and YOU have to prove it wasn’t you. Can’t get a special license because the record shows you did time, didn’t pay fines or are a fugitive. That’s a huge mess to clear.

  2. Martin
    Even if Trump passed tax reform on his first day in office it would not take effect for most people until 2018. It not like you can just snap your fingers and change the tax code. Maybe this happens in the dream land paradise of Mexico but it takes real time in the U.S..

  3. Martin, I agree that taxes are way too high. But I find one thing interesting. You have said a number of times that you don’t buy health insurance because you can cover your healthcare costs. Yet you are making monthly payments on your miscalculated tax liability. I own a business and don’t cheat on taxes simply because it is the right thing to do. That’s why the last time Inwas audited I got a no change return. But back to the original point, the few times I’ve miscalculated taxes because sales went up, I’ve paid at tax time with my return. If you have so little in reserve that you have to stretch the IRS out, how can you cover an unexpected medical bill? Just pointing that out, because one of the reasons the rest of pay higher premiums is because we are covering the costs of uninsured folks who can’t pay unexpected medical bills. We get a double whammy in a place like El Paso because our property tax includes UMC.

    1. Good point Anglocentric in regards to the medical expenses. I manage my savings and cash reserves by keeping separate amounts for different purposes. I do not mix or use my medical reserves to shore up shortfalls somewhere else. Also, to be clear, the medical decisions that I may have to make, and have made in the past, are made based on what I can afford. I won’t accept an MRI just to make sure because of the expense. I have cash to pay for emergency medical expenses from accidents and/or sudden illnesses. I also have access to credit for those medical expenses that are not minor. But, it is important to understand that as I get older I avoid things that could lead to serious injuries, like sky diving, although I miss it. I know that I cannot afford the medical expenses for an accident and as such I made the decision to stop. But what about a car accident? I still drive. I carry automobile insurance that covers medical costs. I expect other drivers to as well but understand that is not always the case. So, I am extra careful. Accidents still happen, I was involved in a car accident in January and I am still paying for it. My cash reserves and insurance covered that. Bottom line, it is the choices we make in our lifestyles. As for the cash reserves for paying off the IRS, it is ultimately my fault for not being prepared. It will cost me in penalties and interest. I am making the decision on how to deal with it by what my immediate needs are – business cash reserves, personal cash reserves, family needs and wants and other factors. Sure, I could get a personal loan to pay it off or I could use cash reserves that I have earmarked for other needs. I just spent about $8,000 of my cash reserves because of the car accident so that is another factor that played into the decision I made. I plan on paying off the amount due within the next three months, assuming that my business forecasts remain the same. Because of that I decided that it wasn’t prudent to go for a personal loan. Credit card cash is financially wrong so I didn’t even contemplate that. I can still fall back on personal loans or using cash reserves allocated to other things, if things change fundamentally in my business forecasts. Also, I should note that the amount I owe was a surprise to me that I just found out late last week. I assumed that I had made enough quarterly deposits to cover about 80% of what the final bill would be. However, I made a mistake in calculating my P/L, which the accountant caught and corrected. I made much more then I though I had in 2016. Normally, that is a good thing. There might be a better way to deal with it but it is the decision I have made.

      None of that however, negates the fact that taxes are outrageous and that the system is rigged to favor the high income earners and/or the scams of child credits and others. Taxes should be equal across the board. Tax tables should not exist. I favor VAT taxes because it empowers the consumer to make the tax decision and keeps out the scams. Or, a flat tax across the board 30% on all earnings, corporate or personal, regardless of income.

      Thanks for your comments and for reading my posts,

    2. Anglocentric
      The problem with medical care is the government refuse to restrain the industry in any way,shape or form. Look at Texas they told the people let’s have tourt reform and it would lower medical cost . It wasn’t even a good speed bump to slow down raising medical cost. All it did was let off the hook bad Doctors and hospitals. Yep between the Doctors and the Hospitals in America kill off on average more than four hundred thousand people a year which these deaths were all preventable.
      Show us one metro transit system in America that pays for it’s self. Much less a public sector hospital system.

  4. Anglocentric
    In Texas every property tax payer pays into county Hospital or Hospital district it’s just not El Paso.
    Martin with you on the flat tax but think a flat tax of 11 % would be more than enough with no one getting out of paying this rate. Also strong enforcement of not allowing people to hide taxable income off shore or the use of ghost tax shelters. You are right the tax system is a scam.
    In El Texo the biggest scammer of them all is the El Paso Central Appraisal District which is one of the best example of true taxation with out representation you can find in America. EPCAD needs to be put out of business they are thugs that rape,loot and pillage the tax payers of El Taxo.

  5. Yeah, Thomas, but like Sun Metro, UMC is expanding beyond its ability to generate compensating revenue. Not all hospital districts are that stupid. And, Martin, I agree it is a lifestyle choice. But having watched my husband’s heart attack generate $200k in hospital expense in five days (fully covered by insurance), I question the ability of anyone who believes that they can fund their own medical care in catastrophic situations. He’d had a perfect EKG the week before his heart attack. I personally that medical costs like taxes are out of control. But part of the reason is we have a lot more folks who expect the rest of us to ante up when they can’t pay their bills or find a way to earn a living wage.

    1. Anglocentric
      My wife heart attack in 2016 cost nearly a quarter million and she still had to pay some out of pocket. Three of the Doctors nearly killed her in the process for that quarter million dollars worth of care.

  6. I’m up in Canada for a spell and high taxes are all everyone here grouses about. That and the rising cost of nationalized medical care and its shrinking quality and accessibility. You’re not alone.

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