You Be the Judge: Which Example of Tax Collectors Running Amok Is Worse?
January 16, 2011 by Dan Mitchell
Let’s now shift to the world of taxation.
We all know governments routinely make life hard for taxpayers. The IRS, for example, is a rather brutal bureaucracy, as explained in this video. But I’m not sure the IRS can match either of these two examples of reprehensible taxation. And I’m not sure which one is worse.
Our first story comes from Switzerland, which normally gets high marks for modest taxation and respecting individual rights. But the municipality of Reconvilier is going to extraordinary lengths to pick the pockets of local dog owners. Her’s an excerpt from an AP report.
Reconvilier — population 2,245 humans, 280 dogs — plans to put Fido on notice if its owner doesn’t pay the annual $50 tax. Local official Pierre-Alain Nemitz says the move is part of an effort to reclaim hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes. He says a law from 1904 allows the village to kill dogs if its owner does not pay the canine charge. Nemitz told the AP on Monday that authorities have received death threats since news of the plan got out.
But if you think threatening to kill Rover and Fido is brutal, brace yourself for the next story. The government in King County, Washington, is taxing a family for an infant that passed away shortly after birth. Here’s part of the report from a local TV station.
Olivia Clark lived for only one hour. Doctors didn’t even expect her to survive birth. Now her family has a hard time understanding why the King County Medical Examiner has to review her death and charge $50. …Although her parents were from Yakima, they came to the University of Washington Medical Center for her delivery. As a result, Olivia died in King county. Her family soon learned the impact that would have when they received the funeral bill. “There was a little line on there near the bottom of the bill that said ‘King county death tax: $50.’ And we looked at that, and looked at that and looked at each other and said ‘what is that?’ Couldn’t believe that a little girl that lived for an hour has to pay a $50 tax,” said Larry. …The medical examiner instituted the $50 fee for cremations three years ago. This year, it included the fee for burials as well.
To be fair, the government didn’t impose a tax on the family because their child died. It’s a fee imposed on all funerals in the county. But it still is a bit macabre for the government to impose such a levy.
And we shouldn’t forget that the IRS has a 35 percent death tax for people who make the mistake of saving and investing too much money before they die, so grave-robbing by governments is not an unknown phenomenon.
So which example is worse? Normally, taxing a dead baby would trump everything, but the tax – while horrible – doesn’t actually target infants. The bureaucrats in Reconvilier, by contrast, are dusting off a 1904 law and threatening to kill people’s pets.
How do you vote?