*April is financial literacy month. And with less than two weeks before the deadline to file your 2010 income tax return I think its only fitting to focus on the amount of financial intelligence – or lack thereof – that most people have.
The saddest part is those with the least financial intelligence are elected officials. The fact that we elected them to their posts could say more about us and less about them, but I digress.
Federal and state lawmakers have reduced education programs, cut health-care services and raised the eligibility age for social security benefits to address budget deficits.
It’s a financial disaster that legislators would have seen coming decades ago had they not been trying to win friends and influence people instead of being fiscally responsible.
Take corporate income tax loopholes as an example: Bank of America, ExxonMobil and General Electric earn billions of dollars every year, yet have avoided paying any federal income taxes in recent years. And all of them have received huge tax refunds from the IRS.
In Texas there are more than 3,500 payday loan storefronts. Despite the millions of dollars payday loan companies earn every year by selling products and overpriced services to Texas residents, they pay no corporate income taxes. It’s a tax loophole that could mean a half million dollars in lost income every year for Texas and other states.
Current tax laws allow corporations to forgo paying taxes in states where they have little to no physical presence, even in states where these companies make most of their money. And some corporations avoid federal tax liability by claiming international status on paper, even though they do most of their business in the United States. Lawmakers prefer to overtax the underpaid instead of taxing the overpaid. And they come up with creative ways to separate the overtaxed from their money.
I e-filed my 2010 tax returns a few weeks ago. And upon completion I was given the option of receiving my refund via paper check or on a reloadable debit card. Of course paper checks are old-school and take at least six weeks to arrive. For some people six weeks is a lifetime. The reloadable debit card is new-school and could arrive in as little as two weeks. Given the option most people probably would choose the latter. The price of impatience is $16 per tax return. And for your convenience that charge is deducted from the tax return. If only half of the American population wants the new-school instant gratification and is willing to pay $16 to a bank to issue the card, which most likely will be split with the IRS or some other unnamed government entity (there I go digressing again), collectively those Americans would have spent (150 million people x $16/each) $2.4 trillion dollars for a piece of plastic. But it’s probably bio-degradable plastic. So that makes it okay, right? It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.
When legislators and tax payers commit reckless financial mistakes, we lose opportunities to make our money work for us when it matters most. Do yourself a favor: Commit to learning something new about money. If you do you could change your financial destiny.
Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanierivers.