Monday, January 9, 2012

The old fishing license trick to the nth power

For my first blog of the New Year, I thought I'd rail about all those tricks that our elected officials use to impose and collect taxes while still engaging in the usual blather about how Americans are taxed too much (and, of course, how they wouldn't even think of raising them -- or coming up with new ones).

Several years ago, when I went to the town hall in East Hampton to get a clamming license I received clarity. You fill out a three-by-five card and pay a fee, and you can now take legally take shellfish out of designated areas. The fee, of course, is a tax, and not a "license." A license supposedly deems that you have a achieved some certification or expertise; the only certification this -- or most any other fishing license -- requires, is reaching for your checkbook.

I'm going to use my cell phone bill from AT&T to make my point. I just calculated the government fees, taxes, and other usage charges, and it added more than 17 percent to the monthly statement. They include "usage charges," unspecified "other charges," a "911 charge," plus another local wireless "911 surcharge," a state "Telecom tax," a city "Telecom tax," and even a "City District Telecom Tax." Oh, I forget to include the "Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge," the "County Gross Receipts Charge," the "MTA Telecom Surcharge," the "Federal Universal Service Charge," and the "State Telecommunications Excise Surcharge."

I am surprised there wasn't a "Special Cellphone Fishing License Surcharge." But that will come, I'm sure. Come to think of it, it's pretty hard to come up with a name for a new tax. But I have confidence in my elected officials.

It's not the taxes themselves, or even the amounts (sometimes) that gets me crazy. It's the gross hypocrisy factor -- what will the American public swallow? I'd rather have a bill that said, "Look, it's a 17 percent vigorish to run all the various agencies. Breaking it down will just get you even angrier."

Remember George H.W. Bush? Sure you do. "Read my lips. No new taxes." When I was working in government and I heard that I had a good laugh. I knew what old George was thinking... "But that doesn't mean I won't raise the old ones."

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