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How people feel about the 'T' word
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The nation's No. 1 expert on taxes, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C., has released a new report on American attitudes about several tax issues based on a recent nationwide survey. The Tax Foundation finds that tax complexity, tax fairness and tax burdens remain areas of concern for American taxpayers.

Not surprisingly, 56 percent believe the amount of federal income taxes paid is too high while 33 percent believe the amount is just right. Yes, there is a percentage of Americans that claims taxes are too low: 2 percent.

Taxpayers living in the Great Lakes region are most likely to say their federal income taxes are too high, 61 percent. Also most likely to make this claim are those aged 45 to 54 (67 percent), those earning between $35,000 and $50,000 (63 percent), those earning $75,000 and above (62 percent), and married couples (60 percent).

When asked, "What is the maximum percentage of a person's income that should go to taxes - that is, all taxes, state, federal and local?" the average response is 15.6 percent. The average adult with a high school diploma supports a low average tax rate of 12.6 percent. The average adult with a graduate degree or more supports a high average tax rate of 22.9 percent. However, the key point to ponder, as the Tax Foundation emphasizes, is that the nation's actual average total tax burden is 28.2 percent of income.

The Tax Foundation asked Americans how much they would be willing to pay for every government service they use in a year. The average figure given is $7,635. The average male adult is willing to shell out just over $9,500 for all government services. The average female adult is a lot thriftier, only willing to pay about $5,700. Taxpayers in the Farm Belt would be willing to pay just over $2,700 for government services while those who live on the Pacific Coast would be willing to pay just over $10,000. Compare these figures with overall government spending. The Tax Foundation says during fiscal year 2006, total spending from federal, state and local governments amounted to over $4.7 trillion, or nearly $16,000 per capita.

Conclusion: the federal government is taxing far more than most taxpayers are willing to pay. Those with taxing authority in Washington place more value on government services than taxpayers do.

So, should government do more or less? Two years, the last time the Tax Foundation conducted its tax survey, 41 percent of adults thought that taxes and services should be kept about where they were. Today, only 36 percent feel that way. During 2007, 32 percent said the federal government should decrease services and lower taxes. Today, 34 percent want to see services decreased and taxes lowered. Are you paying attention, Washington?

On the issue of tax fairness, respondents said that at the federal level, the estate tax was the least fair, followed by the gas tax, federal income taxes and corporate income taxes, and Social Security payroll taxes. At the state and local level, the gas tax is considered the least fair followed by local property taxes, motor vehicle taxes, state income taxes, retail sales taxes, and cigarette, beer and wine taxes.

A record 85 percent say the federal income tax is very complex or somewhat complex. Only 1 percent of respondents say that federal taxes are not complex at all, and 8 percent say they're "not too complex." A record 82 percent say the federal tax code should be completely overhauled.

Major tax and fiscal issues are under review by the Whiter House and Congress. Washington officials would be wise to seriously consider the prevailing attitudes of those who pay the bills.

- State Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, can be reached at,, Senator Mary Lazich, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882 Madison, WI 53707 or 1-800-334-1442.