Letters top the editor - 1/13/03

January 13, 2003

Schedule this: Income tax rules keep getting worse

To the editor:

The instruction material for 2002 income tax returns has just arrived in the mail. It confirms the opinion of most citizens that whether it be a flat tax, a consumer tax, or whatever, we should go back to square one and rewrite the law from scratch.

No one living today is to blame for the monstrous existing regulations. For 133 years every Supreme Court ruled an income tax to be unconstitutional. When, in 1913, the 16th amendment permitted such a tax, the law consisted of 30 words. In 90 years the instructions have grown to about 200 pages, and the guidebook of interpretation to about 300 pages. Who knows how many thousands of pages the actual law covers?

Any taxpayer can come up with a list of things proving that further revision of the existing law is impractical. With just a quick look, here are a few:


1. Bias. The instructions list about 20 "what's new for 2002" benefits. Since I'm not in any recognized minority or special-interest group, none of them apply to me.

2. Illogical economics. A. Standard automobile mileage rates are 36.5 cents for business use, and 13 cents for medical use. Does anyone really believe that it costs 2.769 times as much to drive to a job site as to drive to a hospital? A footnote explains that this will be simplified for 2003, when the rates will be 36 and 12 cents respectively, making it exactly 3 times as costly to go to a job site. In the meantime, the deduction for use of a car for charitable purposes stays at 14 cents per mile.

B. If you are an "educator," you can deduct up to $250 in expenses for book supplies and equipment, but not if you are home-schooling your children.

C. The cost of tax preparation, which has nothing to do with earning income, is a deductible expense. Fiduciary fees to a trust bank, which have everything to do with producing income, are not deductible.

D. A young married couple, with or without children, must file a return if their annual gross income is $13,850. An old married couple does not have to file unless their gross income (not counting Social Security) reaches $15,650.

3. Language. Over the years, special terms have been piled on top of other special terms so that almost any sentence taken out of context from the whole law can be meaningless. For example, "New rules apply only if the child meets the condition to be a qualified child of more than one person." Will a cloned human child ever be eligible?

The 16th amendment only gave Congress permission to tax incomes "from all sources" to support the cost of the federal government. It says nothing about using the tax to manipulate people in the way they devote their lives.

Charles M. Webster


Who's your reader du proof?

To the editor:

"Learn a foreign language" advises your paper. I do hope that whoever teaches foreign languages at Hagerstown Community College is not the same person who wrote the article in The Herald-Mail of Dec. 31.

I cannot judge the sentences in German, Norwegian, Portuguese or Spanish. However, the French translation of "What's that you say?" (by the way, why not "What did you say?" It is certainly better English.) is "Qu'estce que vous dtes."

Does anyone proofread your copy? I will be glad to do the job.

Jeanne B. Jacobs


Sometimes our pets are our children

To the editor:

If you could relay this message to all of the Nora Roberts out there, I would appreciate it. Her letter upset me because those of us that don't have any children consider our pets to be our kids.

There is nothing I wouldn't do for my pets. Yes, I would even take them for a picture with Santa. Why not! And you had four weeks prior to Christmas to take your granddaughter to visit with Santa.

I think the pets only got one day! So anyone who doesn't consider their pets as part of the family probably shouldn't have them.

Beverly Ondick

Falling Waters, W.Va.

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