Tax Freedom Day

Thursday will mark West Virginia’s Tax Freedom Day, according to independent tax policy research organization The Tax Foundation. Only eight states in the country reached the mark faster. Tax Freedom Day is the date on which our state’s residents have collectively earned enough income to pay off their total federal, state and local tax bills, meaning that, in West Virginia anyway, we get to spend more of the year working for ourselves than all but a few other states.

This year’s national Tax Freedom Day is even later than it was last year – three days later, in fact. The stalled economic recovery is blamed for such a delay, but it is more than just a few days on a calendar. It is an enormous sum of money. Americans in 2014 will pay more in taxes – $3 trillion for federal, $1.5 trillion for state and local – than they do for food, clothing and housing combined.

Incidentally, those figures do not include annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed. That number would push national Tax Freedom Day back a whopping 15 days.

While we in the Mountain State may complain a bit about the taxes we are asked to pay, we can at least be grateful we do not live under the tax structures in states such as New Jersey and Connecticut, where they will not have worked long enough to cover their tax burdens until May 9.

There is, of course, no turning back from the monumental changes this country has seen over the past few generations, but it is worth considering that in 1900, Tax Freedom Day would have come on Jan. 22. There is more room for debate than the powers that be care to admit about whether we are proportionally better off as a nation.

Again, it is gratifying to note that West Virginia has remained relatively rational in the degree to which it taxes its residents. Frankly, we do not get ranked as top-ten in the nation often enough. But the larger picture painted by The Tax Foundation’s numbers is disturbing, particularly because those same powers continue to spend as though it will not matter to them if Tax Freedom Day arrives on Dec. 31.