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Oglesby: A Christmas bowl of potpourri

POSTED: February 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.

It isn't often the day this column appears on Christmas Day. I wish each of you a merry Christmas and a happy 2008. May it bring to you more than you ever expected, perhaps at least partly in unexpected ways.

Now, a potpourri of topics that come to mind and have come earlier but without time or space to use.

It was gratifying to see the honors bestowed upon longtime Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy following his death. I was among those who believed he had served his state well and time to step down was overdue. I still have a picture of him and my son at the Speaker's rostrum, courtesy of Joe T. Wood for whom the son paged. Murphy was the longtime family lawyer for my aunt's husband's extended family.

Murphy was heavy-handed and dismissive and went out of his way to punish Republicans and any Democrats who criticized his leadership. Some was understandable since he was a confessed outspoken, totally partisan "yellow dog" Democrat. To his credit, he recognized the need for metropolitan projects his beloved rural Georgia scorned and pushed their development.

I mourn the passing this year of many citizens who served and contributed much to the progress of our county during this past year and hope their service and contributions are long remembered.

It reminds me now of an observation I've made on several occasions, that while I sometimes disagreed with their decisions and actions, they acted in what they saw from their differing vantage point as the best decision or action for those they served, which included me.

It's good though to see a number of now retired community-building giants still very much among us and enjoying the fruits of their labor. It's equally good to watch the current generation of similar leadership still active and watching approvingly the coming leadership generation finding and earning their places.

The questions most frequently asked me these days are in general, "Who are you picking as winners of the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees?" and "Who are your candidates?" The honest answers are, "I nor any political pundits I know can honestly predict now," and "I still haven't settled on my own choice for either party's nomination."

A number of my esteemed friends in the tax preparation business have kidded me about the recent column on the alternative minimum tax. As this is written early, Congress finally has passed and the president is expected to sign a temporary fix for this and next year. I haven't seen the details.

Warning: tax preparation software now on the shelves won't cover AMT but should be fine for those below the qualifying range. Professional preparers must wait on their program manufacturers to program the changes and provide updates. Bottom line: Don't expect any refunds until spring.

Besides the inability of Congress to act in time to prevent such inconvenience and taxpayer frustration, all this points also to the need for meaningful tax reform. When I say meaningful, I encompass the whole myriad of taxes that hit us, not just income tax. Exactly what all are we taxed upon? Here's just a sampling:

Of course, our income, including on most other taxes we pay. Many states impose income taxes and taxes on most sales. Lesser jurisdictions impose additional sales taxes. The feds and all states impose gasoline taxes ( Georgia has one of the lowest rates). We are taxed on the property we own including our homes and other real estate, vehicles, equipment used in our business, inventories our businesses use. Many state impose taxes on the value of intangibles we own such as securities and accounts receivable.

Those who use corporations as the business form are first collectively taxed on the profits as the corporation and then again on those same already taxed profits when they are distributed to us as dividends. Our estates are taxed on what we have managed to accumulate when we die and at rates higher than the income tax rates. The utilities we use including natural gas, telephones, electricity, etc.

Other disguised taxes are raised as fees and licenses such as business licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, marriage licenses, vehicle registration, tobacco and alcoholic beverages.

You could add to this partial listing, but you get the idea. The problem is it's so complex we clamor for a quick simplistic solution, many of which (such as fair tax, value added tax, etc.) have been proposed but huge flaws remain. The good news is as the debate on these proposals continues, many of those flaws are being worked out.

One of our New Year's resolutions ought to be continue that debate constructively and perhaps find a way to gradually make our tax system so simple everyone could do their own taxes without having to pay people like me and other tax professionals to do it for them. We ought to put people like us out of business.

In the meantime, my wish and motto for you these final days of 2007 is "Make 2008 Great!"

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663 , Gainesville , GA 30503 . His columns appear biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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