After spending the last three months as a volunteer tax preparer assisting North Carolinians of modest means in filing their taxes, I can only find one adjective to describe the North Carolina income tax system: mean-spirited.
I’ve helped senior citizens who’ve had to spend thousands of dollars on medical care and told them that they can no longer deduct those expenses for state taxes and now owe more money. I’ve seen their worried looks as they ask when they’ll have to pay and try to figure out where the money will come from.
I’ve helped young people – full-time students who are working hard to pay for their education – and told them that, even though they don’t make enough to file federal taxes, they still have to file, and pay, state taxes.
I’ve worked with people whose income is even below the federal poverty guidelines and told them that they owe taxes to the state.
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Almost no matter how dire the financial circumstances of my fellow North Carolinians, the state requires its pound of flesh.
The General Assembly can continue to engage in high-minded philosophical debate about tax policy but, here on the front lines, the mean-spiritedness is everywhere.