Taxes (What else on this day?)

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There is not a better topic on this day to talk about other than taxes.

 

Yes, taxes.

 

However, this is not about those taxes due today.

 

This is about taxes that could happen here in Maine in the coming months.  Even though these are happening in Maine, some of them may apply to other parts of the country as well.

 

Some of these taxes are disguised as fees.  One such fee (tax) applies to a new one that just started today in Portland, which makes me glad that I don’t shop in Portland.  A 5 cent charge has now been implemented on every plastic and paper bag that a shopper uses also the Styrofoam cups have been banned as well.  While I don’t have a problem with the latter, I do have a problem with the bags.

 

When I go shopping, I always try to use the self-serve checkouts whenever possible.  The reason for this is that I like to have things bagged my way, which can’t be done if some rude cashier rings you up.  I always at least double bag all my purchases as the bags never seem to be strong enough to hold much of anything before they start giving way.  So on average, I would be using about 6 bags or at a cost of 30 cents per purchase.  Do this a couple of times a week every week and it adds up quickly.

 

Of course, I hear those of you say “why not just bring your own reusable bag?”.

 

As someone who worked in retail for about 25 years, I have seen that many of these reusable bags are nasty looking.  Many look like they have been rolled in a mud puddle for hours.  Do people even ever think about washing their bags?  I don’t think so which is why I use a clean new plastic bag.  It is certainly more sanitary even though it may not be environmentally friendly.

 

This is what it all boils down to.

 

That point of being environmentally friendly.

 

Don’t these people realize that much of the garbage around town may come from those people who don’t even live in town?

 

While it may make them have that “feel good feeling”, in reality the real polluters are countries like China and India, which dump thousands of pounds of garbage into the water every day.  Portland, Maine is just a small dot in the big problem.  It may be a right step, but I feel it is a step in the wrong direction and hurt more people than it helps.  I certainly would not want to be behind someone in line who is using a dirty bag, germs are spread to easily nowadays.

 

Now while this fee (tax) has been implemented, the governor of our state has decided to create his own nightmare legacy by wanting to implement some sweeping changes to the tax bases.

 

Here are just a few of them and my comments about them:

 

  • Eliminate the state income tax. While this is a great idea in concept, how he plans on making up for it will hurt more than help.
  • Putting a tax on services like plumbers, haircuts and repairmen. Consider that some of these people rely on tips; many will see their tips reduced or disappear completely because taxes will be added to their services.  End result will be less money to those who perform services and more money to the unneeded state system.
  • Expanding and raising the sales tax to between 6 and 6.5%. This would be great if it would not hurt the ordinary state resident unlike what governor thinks that tourists would pick up the bulk of this increase.  Also doesn’t he know that tax-free New Hampshire is right next door?
  • Remove the homestead exemption tax on everyone over 65 years old. This would be great except most homeowners are younger than 65 and will get no benefit from this change.
  • Eliminating sales tax exemption for non-profits. This has been abused for years by those so-called non-profits, mostly churches and charities.
  • Lowering the corporate tax rate. This only gives company’s a fatter bottom line and unfortunately the money is not passed along to employees as a pay increase.

 

Overall, the governor’s plan is to shift the tax burden from business to its residents.  Is this a good idea?

 

Not if you want to live in Maine.

 

So if I was governor what would I do?

 

In the order listed above, my solutions would be:

 

  • Keep the state income tax. While it may seem like an outdated burden, it still raises revenue where it needs to.
  • No tax on services. I think that those who provide a service should get a tip and most who pay for those services take the tip from what they give the person at time of service.  Just a bad idea period.
  • I would lower the sales tax back to 5% or better yet lower it to 3%. Lowering the tax rate will allow more money in people’s pockets and will allow people to purchase more therefore.  The state needs to be more competitive in its rate.
  • Keep the homestead exemption for everyone. Since many homeowners have mortgages, giving them a break would be more than desired.
  • I support the taxing of non-profits. In my 25 years in retail, I saw this abused by those who were buying personal items and calling it a non-taxable business expense.  But since the information is submitted to the state regarding every tax exempt transaction and those rejected by the state are subject to the business to pay not only the applicable sales tax, but a fine as well.
  • Raising the corporate tax. While many may say this would be counterproductive to business, the truth is that many businesses have been given reductions in everything from real estate to employee benefits.  It is time that businesses really pay their real fair share.

 

 

While some may disagree with some of my plan, I think that it creates a much fairer playing field as I don’t cater to the special interests of businesses or any group.  Even if you live in another state, I think you will find that my suggestions would make for a more fair system.  If you agree with what I have written, let your representatives know or better yet run for political office yourself and influence the change of our tax system.

 

After all, shouldn’t taxes be fairer even though death isn’t?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Formspring and Charity Don’t Belong Together

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Imagine it being around the winter holiday season and you are heading to one of your favorite stores.  Out front of the store is one of those bell ringers with the big red kettle.  You walk by the person without giving any money.  Suddenly the person chases you, hits you to the ground, and beats you with the bell.  Chances are that this person would be terminated from being a bell-ringer anymore.

Well, a similar thing happened to me recently on Formspring.  As many of you may know, Formspring is a question/answer website where you follow people similar to Facebook and answer questions from people you follow and vice versa.

Usually there is never a problem with the site for me.  However, last summer I had a guy named “Bill” who endlessly asked me political questions to the point that they got downright annoying.  Some of the questions that “Bill” asked were even flagged by Formspring as being possibly “unsafe”, meaning that they could be insulting or produce some sort of bullying.  After about 3 weeks, “Bill” disappeared and I haven’t had a problem with the site since.

That was until last week when this guy who was heading up a “charity” wanted people to donate to someone because they were facing “hard times”.  First off let me say that there are thousands of people facing “hard times” and the real possibility of people honestly donating would be expected to be fairly low.  Since I had no idea who the person was that the person wanted to help, I kindly said as I do when anybody asks for money: “I don’t give to charity.”

I thought that this was a simple and kind answer and I would be left alone with the comment.  But NOOOOOOO!!  This was not the case at all! The person went absolutely ballistic using foul language to me saying that I should have said nothing than say what I did.  However, I would have felt that it would have been rude if I didn’t respond.  I feel that anybody who runs any charity should be respectable to all responses no matter what.  By ticking off a person with this response, the charity representative made himself look like a jackass.  After all, who wants to donate to a charity where somebody goes off the deep end when they don’t like a person’s response?

It really makes me wonder how legitimate this charity really is.  If you really didn’t want a response then the person should not have used Formspring as his forum to solicit money in the first place.  I believe that solicitation of this type is in violation of Formspring’s Terms of Service, but it is not my place to decide.

Before I go on, let me explain why I don’t give to charity.  The first reason is that I am poor and unemployed.  The second reason is that there are way too many fake charities out there.  It is hard to separate the legitimate ones from the fake ones at times, thus to be fair I donate to none of them.  In future posts on this blog and my Staples blog, I will discuss charity in much deeper detail, including some fake charities that I discovered along the way.  Guess what giant office supply store created them!  I will discuss more on this later!