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Annual tax rant

Tom Clyde, Park Record columnist

So that’s it. Ski season is done. Now it’s time to get people out there with shovels to clear the trails so bike season can start up. Monday would be fine. There are enough driveway-heating boilers around here that we ought to be able to tap into them and get the trails melted off and dried out in a couple of days. Is that too much to ask?

I will take full credit for the powder day on Tuesday. After a lot of vacillation about it, I finally dismounted the snowblower from the tractor over the weekend. That leaves me a quarter mile away from the highway with no working snow-removal equipment. If that didn’t make it snow, I don’t know what would.

When I looked out and saw the powder gods had been busy Monday night, I had to move all my ski gear from the back of the car to the old 4×4 truck, and it was still a bit of a challenge getting out to the highway. It’s been the kind of winter where I haven’t needed the 4×4 more than a couple days. I’ve driven it just enough to keep the battery charged up.

In the process of shuffling the gear into the truck, I found all kinds of stuff I had given up for lost: a missing glove, the less-scratched pair of goggles with the yellow lenses, the cord for the iPod that I had just replaced last week — all kinds of stuff.

Although there didn’t appear to be anybody home at the time, it was obvious that the mice have been making themselves comfortable in the truck. There is something about the foam seat cushion they can’t resist, and there were little piles of chewed-up foam on the floor. Just to be on the safe side, I shook my boots upside down before putting them on.

Given the choice between eating the seat cushions and the insulation off the wiring, I think I’m good with the seat. I had an old snowplow truck with wiring that was insulated with something delectable. It was always a surprise to see what happened if I flipped a switch on the dashboard. The options ranged from nothing to full-on electrical fire, though sometimes the headlights would work without incident. Sometimes.

It’s nice to have ski season end with a bang. We definitely didn’t get our quota of powder days, and no matter how nicely they groom stuff, it lacks excitement. The usual suspects and I made almost every Tuesday morning. The turnout was a little less reliable on the Thursday outing. But the company definitely helped provide the interest the snow conditions didn’t.

Ending on a high note always keeps the enthusiasm up for next season. A couple of friends showed up on new skis this last week, snagging great deals on the end-of-season sales. They are assuming it will snow next year, and the storm this week makes me think it will snow in July.

Monday is tax day. I usually go into a real rant about the tax system, but the fact is that I pay so little, it’s hard to maintain much umbrage. As a self-unemployed person, I never really know what my income will be, or what flavors it will come in. I’m never sure whether it is a regular dividend or a "qualified" dividend until I get the forms from the brokerage. They never get it right on the first try. A dollar is a dollar is a dollar, except when it is a special dollar and gets taxed differently for reasons that nobody can explain.

Of course, if your income is the normal kind money you earn for doing a job it gets taxed at the highest rate. It used to be the conventional wisdom that if the government wanted to discourage something, like smoking, drinking, or pouring toxic slime in the river, they would tax it. Apparently it is the national policy to discourage people from working. The lowest-paid worker pays 6 percent in FICA, even if he doesn’t make enough to pay regular income tax. People with income identical to mine are paying three or four times the tax rate that I do, but they are coasting at some soft job producing something, while I’m slaving away checking for direct deposits of municipal bond interest.

I haven’t seen the traditional list of gigantic corporations that pay no income taxes yet this year — it probably comes out next week. It’s sort of the annual salt in the wound at tax time. But in years past, it was cold comfort knowing that you had paid 6 percent off the top while General Electric or Exxon paid nothing despite billions in profits. It’s a fine system our members of Congress have developed.

Tell me again why we keep reelecting them.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.


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