Anyway, David and I have been volunteering at a community tax center (http://www.claimandsave.org) where we do people's taxes and file them for free. It's a really neat service, and I've learned a lot about the tax code. Some random thoughts that I've had about it:
- The tax code can indeed be complicated, but it doesn't seem in such dire need of "simplification" as some think. Situations in real-life are complicated, and it does a decent job of dealing with that.
- The IRS isn't evil, as far as I can tell. In fact, they sponsor the community tax center, when the vast majority of people get a refund.
- The Earned Income Tax Credit is a wonderful thing for those who qualify. It apparently has pretty wide bipartisan support - Democrats like it because it gives money to the poor, and Republicans like it because it encourages people to work (if you don't earn any income, you don't get the credit). It's a refundable credit, which means that you get a refund even if your tax is reduced to zero (most credits are non-refundable, which means that if they would reduced your owed tax to less than zero, it is just reduced to zero). My only big complaint is the disparity in income limits - if you have no qualifying children, the income limit is $11,490, which is really really low (and the credit declines as you get close to the limit), while the income limit with one qualifying child is $30,338.
- The Child Tax Credit is pretty good too, especially because there can be a refundable portion (the "Additional Child Tax Credit").
- Poverty is real - I'm amazed at how little some of these people can get by on.
Um, that's mostly it. Anyway, it's good stuff.