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Published: Saturday, 4/27/2002

Aah! Tax freedom day is early this year

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

It's not as thrilling as getting a large tax refund check, but today marks Tax Freedom Day - the point when the average U.S. citizen who has worked since Jan. 1 will have earned enough to pay off his or her upcoming 2002 federal, state, and municipal tax burdens.

After April 27, every cent a person earns for the rest of the year is equivalent to what he or she keeps, according to the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a nonprofit group that monitors fiscal policy.

Don't look for any parades or celebrations, however.

``I don't think it necessarily means a whole lot,'' said Kevin Gilmore, a partner in the Toledo accounting firm of Gilmore Jaison & Mahler Ltd. ``I might have had one person mention it over the last 20 years.''

Because tax laws vary from state to state and city to city, Ohioans' actual tax freedom occurred Thursday, while Michigan residents won't be free of their tax burdens until Monday. Both, however, are improvements over 2001, when tax freedom was April 27 for Ohioans, and May 2 for Michiganders.

Other than a footnote for trivia experts, the significance of Tax Freedom Day is to illustrate to Americans in simple terms how much in taxes - roughly four months of employment - they pay annually in taxes, said Bill Ahern, a spokesman for the Tax Foundation.

``The U.S. is the only country in the world with significant taxes at all three levels - federal, state, and city,'' Mr. Ahern said. ``Some of those taxes are quite obvious to the average taxpayer and worker, such as income taxes that he pays on April 15 and payroll taxes.

``Tax Freedom Day adds all of them together and comes up with a simple fraction: a third. That is, the price of government is about a third of what we make. That's more than we spend on food, shelter, and clothing combined.”

Toledo attorney Mike Regnier said the whole subject ``is too depressing to think about.”

Kathy Taylor, a worker at LaSalle Cleaners downtown, agreed. ``I probably still won't have any extra money next week. And if I do have any extra money, my daughter will probably get it,'' she said.

David Baymiller, a tax partner in the Maumee certified public accounting firm of William Vaughan Co., said people in higher income-tax brackets won't be free from taxes for several more months.

“But whether [the actual date] is right or wrong, Tax Freedom Day is a day to just sit back and think, `Well, somebody is finally giving us some positive news about taxes,'” he said, noting the date is earlier this year than last, spurred by tax cuts and an economic stimulus package.



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