Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth For The Taxes You Pay?

potholeOne of the reasons why I dislike taxes is because I frequently don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Let me highlight a short story of absurdity to illustrate a point.

There’s been a loose manhole a half block away from my house which has persistently gotten noisier over the years. What once was a dull thud turned into a CLACK CLACK as each car passed over.

The journey to fix the noisy manhole began on June 3, 2011 when I first called in to report the problem.

Would you like to leave a name and number sir?” asked the operator.

Sure, please just have someone fix the manhole, thx!” I responded.

One month later, still CLACK CLACK.  “Howdy m’aam, I’m calling back regarding the noisy manhole.

Ah yes, we have a record that you called a month ago. The ticket is open and we’re getting someone to work on it.” said the operator.

Little did I know the process to fix the manhole would make my 100 day mortgage refinance seem like Usain Bolt winning a 100 meter dash!

WAITING AND WAITING FOR THE CITY TO DO SOMETHING

How Tax Collectors Like The IRS Cleverly Rob You Of Your Money

Action Figure In HKEvery IRS person I’ve spoken to has curiously been kind. Yet, despite their kindness, I still feel my heart drop every time I get a letter from them. I’m not sure whether it’s because the movies always portrays the IRS agent as a bad man in a rain jacket, looking to shake down individuals for all they are worth. Or, perhaps it’s the fact it’s little ‘ol you vs. the omnipotent government that presents a no way out scenario. Whatever the case may be, dealing with the IRS sucks.

Those who work at the IRS or State Tax Collectors agencies are actually on your side. Sure, some have mandates from higher ups to milk you dry. However, most are willing to help you resolve your issues because they know how complicated taxes are in America. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many citizens have decided to just call it quits and not work!

One acquaintance I know worked for the IRS so of course I peppered him with questions to extract all the juicy details. I am against anybody paying more taxes than they need to. It’s just not right for the government to tax more than a typical person saves a year. If the government could show they can efficiently spend our money, then fine. But, they can’t even come up with a darn budget so forget it!

For all you conspiracy theorists out there, I think you’ll really enjoy this post.

AN INSIDER’S VIEW OF THE IRS

How I Beat Economic Armageddon Using a 1031 Exchange

Pacific Heights MansionThis guest article was written by Shilpan of Street Smart Finance, Common Sense Personal Finance.

Armageddon is viewed as a spiritual battle or struggle in the present age between the forces of good, i.e. righteousness, purity and virtue, and the forces of evil. Well, my battle wasn’t spiritual, but it certainly was righteous as it involved saving hard-earned money from the hands of our wasteful government.

Let me end the suspense here. It all began when I wrote an email to Sam asking if I can write an article for Financial Samurai. I wanted to write about why most people can’t retire early. Soon I received a samurai like response from Sam, “Maybe your $500k in tax-free profit in the depths of Armageddon? How anybody can make money anytime and the boon of real estate as a great tax shelter for singles and couples?” How can I say no to the guy who has uncanny ability to find catchy titles?

Let’s rewind back to 2004. The commercial real estate — especially hotels — market was doing well. Lehman was still considered a major financial institution. I bid on a Comfort Inn that was owned by the Laselle bank. This hotel was doing well, but the owner recently refinanced it, took over a million dollars cash out and happily handed the property back to the bank. It was ridiculously easy to screw banks back then.

I knew that hotel required a few hundred thousands in improvements. But, I calculated that in the price that I bid to make sure that I can run it profitably from day one, should I get to buy it. I knew that there were many bidders, so my hopes weren’t too high.

Luck knocked on my doors

You Can Count On Social Security Benefits In Retirement

Seafood Buffet Funny FishDespite mentally writing off the value of my Social Security benefits, in the bottom drawer in the way back of my cob-webbed mind, I know it will be there to fund my early bird special seafood buffets when I’m retired.  Sure, the eligibility age for withdrawal might rise from 62 to 67, but we’re all hopefully living longer too.  Besides, who really needs Social Security benefits if we’re saving over half our after-tax income for some many years anyway?  Don’t get greedy now!

The Middle Class of America has given me a tremendous boost in conviction that Social Security benefits will be around for all, forever.  If you read the comments on my post, “Disadvantages of The ROTH IRA: Not All Is What It Seems“, people have come out in force defending the virtues of the ROTH IRA, even though I clearly telegraph why we should not be contributing to a ROTH IRA if we haven’t maxed out their traditional IRA and 401K yet.  To pay more in taxes to an inept and corrupt government that shirks on its promises is an atrocity.

We should ignore the fact that people comment on things even if they know they are wrong, to justify why they did something to make them feel better.  Instead, we should take comments at face value.  Those who support the ROTH IRA most likely have opened a ROTH IRA.  Because they’ve opened a ROTH IRA, they believe that the government will do better with their money than they can on their own.  Remember, only middle class people are allowed to contribute to a ROTH.  Higher earners be damned!

As you know, I have an open mind and always look at both sides of each debate.  My conclusion from the comments in my ROTH IRA post is this: Because so many people support the ROTH IRA, the people of America believe in the efficiency of the government and the fact that Social Security will be fully guaranteed at the age of eligibility.  If people did not believe the government would make due on its promises to fully pay for Social Security, there’s no way people would give the government more of their money to manage!

People Vote With Their Pocket Books 

The Average Tax Refund And How To Spend It

The average tax refund is roughly $2,750.  With the US per capita income at around $48,000, that’s 6% of one’s income they’ve overpaid to the evil empire.  Everybody knows that getting a refund is like giving the government an interest free loan.  But, with interest rates the way they are, who cares?!

If you were to ask people to put aside $230 a month to save $2,750 a year, I bet most would fail due to the lack of discipline.  As a result, I think it’s fantastic most people are getting refunds.  The key is not blowing your refund on some splurge you wouldn’t otherwise spend money on if you didn’t get a refund.

In 2011, I had to pay about $1,000 more in Federal taxes, but I got several thousand back from the state of California.  For the past 10 years, I’ve saved or invested every single refund I’ve received, and this year was no different.  Boring!  At least a philosophical post came out of it entitled, “Is Paying Taxes A Form Of Charity?

Here’s a neat infochart with more ideas of what to do with your refund.  I like the rocket ship chart of investing your refund every year until you retire with a 7.5% return.  Buying a nice Macbook Pro would be sweet too, however, that’s a corporate expense, baby!

If you are like me, you should be motivated to invest and pay down more debt with your refund, rather than spend it on superfluous things.  Although buying 1,000 lottery tickets sure sounds like way more fun!

Make Money with Your Tax Return Infographic
Via: Your Local Security

Recommendation: I’ve been doing my own taxes with H&R Block At Home for the past eight years. H&R Block is so easy to use, anybody can do their own taxes with their step by step guide. The program has consistently found thousands of extra dollars in tax savings I did not realize I could have. Why bother paying an account hundreds of dollars when you can learn more about your financials, find extra tax savings, and do it all from the comfort of your own home? Get the H&R Block At Home Online Free Edition!

Regards,

Sam