No one gets a pass from the IRS, even teens.
I don’t love paying income taxes.
Or Social Security, or anything else pulled out of my paycheck.
But I’m not a knee-jerk anti-tax person. Hey, I like to drive on decent roads and have a strong national defense as much as the next person, and I know that if I want any government services, paying at least some level of taxes is necessary.
Try telling that to certain virulently anti-tax people.
Like my son, who turned 16 this week.
When he got his first-ever real paycheck a year ago, from detasseling, he looked at the deductions and solemnly declared, “The federal government has stolen $3.57 from me.”
Worse, he had to file a tax return. When he found out he had to pay in $7, he protested.
“I don’t remember anybody from the IRS sweating out in those cornfields with me.”
My son isn’t as bad as my dad, however.
When I was a kid, Dad must have taken me aside a hundred times to show me his pay stub and all the injustices wrought upon it.
He would begin by showing me the first number, what he should have made.
Then he’d go down a long list of the deductions -- taxes, insurance, union dues, etc. -- one by one until he got to the final number, the completely unjust reduced amount he actually got to keep.
It’s been 30 years and I still remember the exact style of his yellow paystubs. I certainly reviewed them often enough. Maybe that’s why I have always been pretty much resigned to the fact that I won’t get to keep much of my money.
Other kids not exposed to my dad’s paystubs have to learn about money some other way.
There’s always the game of Life, but I had to quit playing with my son years ago because he would get so frustrated when he drew a small salary, had to pay a huge tax bill or experienced any other kind of monetary bad luck that would cause him to part with a pile of play money.
“That’s how Life is!” I’d tell him. “And I don’t just mean the game!”
I’d try to explain to him that in my experience, getting a small raise at work means your car’s transmission will soon go out, getting money back on your taxes means somebody in the family is about to rack up some significant medical or dental bills, and finding a $50 bill on the sidewalk means you’re going to have to call a plumber to fix the bathroom sink.
“That’s just how it is, kid, so get used to it.”
But he’s not used to it. He believes fervently, as do all young people with no rent, car payment, credit card bills or any other monthly bill, that all cash that makes its way into his sweaty little hands should stay there until he decides to buy something fun.
He enjoys having real money the same way he used to enjoy having piles of pastel play money from Life or Monopoly. He counts it and recounts it like Ebenezer Scrooge, before finally peeling off just enough bills to buy a video game he’s had his eye on.
I can imagine how irritated he’s going to be the first time he has to hand over a bunch of it for a non-fun purpose like a power bill.
If nothing else, maybe he and his grandfather can commiserate.
Michelle Teheux can be reached at (309) 346-1111, ext. 661 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.