It seems apt that the final weekend before 2011 tax returns are due should start with Friday the 13th. I completed our returns and filed electronically last month, although I didn't mail the required checks until this past Monday (no refund here).
Back in January, I wrote about Mitt Romney's 15% effective tax rate. Around the same time, in the Statue of the Union Address, President Obama also talked about how wrong it is that millionaires should pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, or teachers, policemen, or other middle-income earners. To illustrate the point, Warren Buffett's secretary was sitting with the First Lady in the audience.
"The Buffett Rule" was introduced to correct this, with the simple premise that those with over $1 million in annual income shouldn't pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families. To promote passage of the Buffett Rule, the White House has posted a "Buffett Rule Calculator" - just plug in your income and your taxes, and see how many millionaires pay less than you do!
So, how did I do (actually, for my wife and I, filing jointly)? After deductions, we had an effective tax rate of 17% - higher than 37,600 millionaires. Some of our income is taxed at the 25% bracket, but our over-all effective rate is 17% thanks to some generous deductions, primarily the home mortgage interest deduction.
That deduction alone reduced our income by nearly 14% and had a dollar value greater than a full time job at the federal minimum wage. Think about that for a moment. We are not rich by any stretch, and are frankly going through some lean times. Even so, we write off from our income more than many people earn.
With the rich dodging taxes above, and the working poor struggling with a sub-standard minimum wage below, the gap is getting wider. The Buffett Rule is a small, symbolic step, and I support it, but it's just the tip of the iceberg in getting our economy working for everybody again.
(Tell your Senators to vote for the Buffett Rule by clicking here...)