« April 2004 | Main | July 2004 »

June 30, 2004

Filing Federal Tax Returns, but Paying No Taxes

According to the March/April 2004 newsletter from the Tax Foundation (requires Adobe Reader), a new study by the organization finds that "44 million American tax returns are filed by people who owe nothing for the whole year." Who are these people who have no tax liability? This is important since their numbers are increasing. In 1980, there were 18.6 million 'zero tax filers' (19.8% of all filers), but the estimated number for 2004 is 44.0 million (33.0%).

The Tax Foundation also reports that about 14 million individuals and families "will earn some income but not enough to be required to file a tax return." They add, "Even 58 million is not the actual number of people because one tax return often represents several people." They estimate that as many as 122 Americans (44% of the U.S. population) are outside the federal income tax system.

Their 'demographic profiles' present an interesting picture of the non-tax filer and the non-paying populations.

June 29, 2004

U.S. Congress: Not Walking the Talk

In a report earlier this month, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) reported that 2003 was the third consecutive year in which no member of Congress voted for net reductions in Federal spending. NTUF reported that "words were abundant, but deeds were in short supply on Capitol Hill" despite invoking "the rhetoric of fiscal responsibility at least 1,046 times in the Congressional Record." By comparison, in 1996, 512 members of Congress voted for net reductions in Federal spending. The analysis uses NTUF's landmark VoteTally cost accounting system. Arlington's Congressional delegation didn't distinguish themselves this year:

Senators. The average senator voted for $302.2 billion in expenditures. In comparison. Senator George Allen voted for $271.8 billion in spending and $197 million in cuts while Senator John Warner voted for $271.7 billion, and just $97 million in reduced spending.

Representative. The average House Member voted for $231.7 billion in spending, but Representative Jim Moran voted $292.3 billion in spending and $10.7 billion in reduced spending.

The link above takes you to the June 17, 2004 NTUF press release where links at the bottom of the press release take you to the detailed policy paper (#151) and to detailed member reports.

June 25, 2004

Another Tax Fight in 2005 General Assembly?

In a speech in Charlottesville yesterday, Senator John Chichester (R-Stafford), who was primarily responsible for ensuring the largest tax increase in Virginia's history in the recently completed 2004 General Assembly, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that "Chichester hinted that lawmakers might consider new taxes for the highway program -- perhaps as part of a sweeeping package -- in 2005." The paper also quoted the Senator saying, "As we return to the transportation discussion in the not-so-distant future, I believe we will focus initially on the link between who uses and who pays, said Chichester, who is reviled by conservative Republicans for breaking with the party's anti-tax orthodoxy."

June 24, 2004

Will Arlington's Convention Center Start a 'Rat and Cat Farm'?

In ACTA's fall 2003 newsletter (requires Adobe reader), we pooh-poohed the Arlington County Board's plan to build a $128 million convention center in Crystal City as nothing but an effort to add to its trophy case. Two recent stories do nothing but highlight the fiscal foolishness being played by the Arlington County Board. In the Spring 2004 issue of City Journal, Steven Malanga talks about the convention center shell game. He notes that Boston's new $800 million convention center has booked so few conventions that "it will need a $12-15 million annual public subsidy . . . and may not reach its full booking potential for a decade." He also talks about the Javits Convention Center in New York and its hotel scheme as merely "a version of the rat and cat farm: we use tax money to build a convention center that supposedly will stimulate the hotel industry, and then use tax dollars to build a hotel that supposedly will stimulate the convention industry." The second story, from Bloomberg, talks about the need to rethink convention center hotel financing. Both stories cite the work of Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at UT San Antonio, who criticizes municipalities "for going where the private sector fears to tread." Thanks to Virginia News Source for bringing these stories to our attention.

June 23, 2004

Why Limit Government?

A central tenet of the anti-tax movement is the concept of limited-government, but what does it really mean? In a speech to the Heritage Foundation's Resource Bank in Chicago a few days ago, Lawrence Reed, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, spelled out some of the reasons for limiting government. According to Reed, government should be limited "to certain minimal, but critical, functions and otherwise leave us alone." He notes that "Government has nothing to give anybody exept what it first takes from somebody." The speech is worth reading both by those not yet familiar with limited government as well as a refresher for others.

June 16, 2004

Baghdad Has One, but Arlington County Does Not

According to the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador Bremer accepted the recommendation of Baghdad Mayor Dr. Alaa al-Tamimi and named an Inspector General for the City of Baghdad. He is charged with preventing, deterring, and identifying instances of fraud, waste and abuse of authority and illegal acts that occur. ACTA has long advocated greater accountability for Arlington's financial operations, including establishment of an Inspector General's office.

June 11, 2004

Arlington Poohbahs Backpedal on Library Promised in 1998

Arlington's County Board constantly talks about the county's AAA bond ratings from three separate rating agencies as the great guarantor of the effectiveness and efficiency of county operations. Unfortunately, the truth is a far different story as described in the weekly section of yesterday's Washington Post. In 1998, Arlington voters approved a $4 million bond for a library in the county's Westover community. However, they've now spent $450,000 to design it, are several million dollars over budget, and the school district has pulled out of the project because they found it too expensive. Wayne Kubicki, a member of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, notes the county is nearly back to square one after five years of planning. The Arlington Journal reported on September 7, 1998 that county officials thought the project could be completed in two years. The Journal also noted that voters in 1998 also approved $4 million for the Shirlington library, which is still in the planning stage. It's also worth noting in the Post story that the county poohbahs claim to have learned a valuable lesson, and will begin asking for planning and design money in one bond cycle and then ask for the construction money in the next bond cycle two years later. That could be a valuable lesson, but not one they plan to use on the $50 million North Tract project where they will revert to their old habits.

June 03, 2004

"(E)verybody knew what was going on."

Today's Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reveals how the Orange County schools stashed away almost $214,000 to keep it from the county's Board of Supervisors. The school system wanted to build a wireless/broadband system, and the technology department wanted to have the money readily available. So a scheme was devised to stash the money in a high school activity fund until it was uncovered by an audit ordered by the Orange County Board of Supervisors. But not to worry. According to the school's former finance director (now Fairfax County's budget director), "We didn't want the money to revert back to the Board of Supervisors . . . (b)ut there was nothing underhanded, everybody knew what was going on." Added the schools superintendent, "It was all done in the open. The money was earmarked for the wireless project and was never touched." Apparently, he forgot about the taxpayers right to know. As political scientist and author William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) said, "The Forgotten Man works and votes--generally he prays--but his chief business in life is to pay. Guess the Superintendent forgot about the Forgotten Man!