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Business licenses, insurance fees equal death by 1,000 taxes

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Cold checks, shoplifiting signs of tough economy

By BEN CARLSON

Column as I see ’em …
It was disappointing to learn that the fiscal court won’t do away with its ridiculous business license requirement simply because it includes an equally ridiculous insurance premium fee.
Frankly, magistrates should get rid of both.
The first is an inexplicable tax on local businesses put in place, apparently, because some people have the audacity to open a business in our fair town. The second is equally inexplicable and in place simply because people own things they either want or are required to insure.
The first generates a paltry $70,000 a year; the second upwards of $1 million that is earmarked each year by the fiscal court to fund the jailer’s office.
Masquerading as fees instead of what they really are — taxes — the above are just two in a long line of government money grabs hidden in everything from utility bills to cell phone statements.
Take a look close look at your next electric bill and notice that money you fork over the school system goes well beyond what you pay in property taxes.
These types of fees also allow taxing agencies such as county, city, schools and others to keep what appears on your property tax bill artificially low.
Were taxing districts to be fully open and honest, they would do away with extraneous taxes and set a property tax rate commensurate with what they think they need to provide services.
Doing so would necessarily increase the property tax rates, but funding government with one-stop paying would give people a much better perspective on what they’re actually paying for.
Besides, unlike insurance and utility “fees,” property taxes aren’t nearly as regressive and, like vehicle taxes, allow individuals to purchase homes and cars with a full understanding of the level of taxes they’ll pay when doing so.
Conversely, a poor person living in a drafty house pays a larger percentage of his or her income for school taxes on an electric bill than a rich person living in a home with tight windows and thick insulation.
And all this time you believed President Obama was actually going to make the rich pay their fair share. Sort of gives that notion a swift knee to the groin, does it not?
And it would certainly be better than the current system of death by 1,000 cuts disguised at taxes, which accomplishes nothing but to keep taxpayers guessing.
That much clarity, however, would be just a bit too revealing for most politicians at every level, so don’t expect it to change anytime soon.

Speaking of business licenses …
Knowing full well the fiscal court isn’t going to kill them, here’s hoping a plan to turn enforcement and collection over the sheriff’s office pans out.
That office already collects property taxes and is among the state’s best in the percentage of bills collected each year.
Ideally the sheriff’s office could do what the county cannot and join forces with city government to create a dual permitting process.
The city is far superior in enforcing its business license tax. For example, the city has roughly 950 business licenses sold in 2013, hundreds more than the county despite the fact that every business within city limits is supposed to have a county license, too.

When it comes to gauging the relative health of the local economy, real estate and the number of businesses opening/closing are generally the barometers most frequently used.
Bounced checks and shoplifting charges are others, and most likely a better reflection of the economic woes experienced by those without the means to purchase a home or open a business.
By those measures times are most certainly tough.
On March 7, 10 people are to be arraigned in Anderson District Court on cold check charges, including two who allegedly each wrote more than 10 cold checks. Three more people will appear for disposition hearings on their cold checks cases, and two for shoplifting charges.
To gauge the significance of that, those 15 people comprise a full third of the number who will appear that morning in court and of the remainder several will be there on child support charges.
Tough times, indeed.