Taxes: freedom, fairness and females

For Oklahoma taxpayers and small business owners – including women – there’s good news and bad news.
The good news? “Tax freedom” day in Oklahoma is today — Friday, April 11. That’s four days before income taxes are due and 12 days sooner than national Tax Freedom Day, April 23.
The average American works nearly four months to pay all their taxes. Oklahomans get the job done in less than three-and-a-half months. The Tax Foundation’s analysis finds that in an eight-hour day of work, the typical woman (and man) works 51 minutes to pay her/his state/local taxes, and another 1 hour and 37 minutes to pay federal taxes.

Oklahomans get it done a bit quicker. So, if you get rolling at the office or production plant by 9 a.m., by lunch time you’ve paid your taxes. But don’t stop: the rest of your bills need attention, too. 

The bad news? Our relatively low tax ranking doesn’t mean we don’t have problems. Our corporate income tax is slightly lower than most neighbors – except fast-growing Texas and Colorado. Their gross domestic production is outpacing ours by 2 ½ and 3 three times, respectively.

The 6 percent corporate income flat rate tax is just part of the story: Although the business franchise tax generates a miniscule 0.4 percent of state revenues, the hassle of calculating it gives small businesses an incentive not to grow. The Tax Foundation rates Texas with the 6th friendliest business tax. The Sooner State ranks 21st.

As for personal taxes, Oklahoma’s top rate of 5.65% is ranked 30th among the states, but the top rate is paid when a person earns just $11,950. And in Texas, there is no personal income tax. Ouch. One more item: Since 1980, state spending, adjusted for inflation, has grown 100% while the population has grown by only 18%.

This matters to working women and female business owners because female-owned businesses account for 41 percent of all privately-held firms in Oklahoma, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. The Sooner State ranks 25th among the 50 states in the number of women-owned businesses. Those firms generated more than $20 billion in sales, and employed 176,741 people, as of 2006.
What women want and need is fairness – in taxes and in other policies. A fairer system for two-earner couples would allow taxes to be filed in whatever manner reduces tax liability. People need a level playing field under tax law, so those who save for retirement, purchase insurance, pay for long-term care and other benefits receive just as much tax relief as those who obtain such benefits at work.

Women who work for even modest wages outside the home pay effective tax rates higher than Bill Gates! That doesn’t argue for higher taxes on Microsoft’s founder, but it does focus the mind on the complexity of state and federal tax systems.

Women need not only fairer tax policies, such as flatter tax rates, but also flexible benefit systems, work systems that fit child care and elder care, equal treatment for retirement, insurance portability, Social Security taxes that do not raise marginal rates, and no earnings penalty for seniors.

Oklahoma needs policies that work for people who work. Women, and all workers, need fairness, flexibility, portability and security. They deserve no less. After all, they pay the bills.

About the Author:
An Oklahoma City business owner, Terry Neese is Distinguished Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. An advisor to Congress on issues effecting small business, her analysis is often featured on television news programs, most recently on Cable News Network.