If you think you have a heavy tax burden, just ask S. Orvill Paller. The 14-year-old has started to shoulder his share of the responsibility at a young age.
His father, Orvill Paller, thinks current federal tax laws aren't teaching children the value of work. He said his son is an enterprising kid who earned $437 last year from his paper route and odd lawn-mowing jobs. But because he was self-employed, the teenager had to file the IRS's Schedule C tax form and owes $57.01 in taxes."To me, it's ludicrous. Why should a kid delivering your newspaper, with the few paltry hundred dollars he earns, have to pay Social Security taxes? I think kids need to be encouraged to work. That's the bottom line. Pretty soon you're going to end up taxing babies."
Paller proposes a minimum age limit on taxes. His wife, Judy, said her youngsters had to file a complex, three-part form. "It is like big business. I think we have sent more forms in on the kids than we have for ourselves."
Jan Hadley, the IRS's local spokeswoman, said Social Security taxes have always been required from those who are self-employed and age has no bearing on it.
Don Searle has another problem. His 17-year-old daughter, Amy, has to pay 96 cents in taxes on her interest income. He doesn't think it can be cost-effective for the government to collect such a small amount, because of the processing fee for tax returns.
"I'm probably subsidizing the handling of my daughter's return with my taxes," he said. He and his daughter plan to pay her tax debt with a check, because it would cost another 50 cents to purchase a personal money order.
Hadley said the IRS's new electronic processing system, where a preparer can transmit returns over telephone lines, is not only speedy but quite economical. "It actually costs us about 74 cents to process a paper return. Electronically, it costs us about 3 cents."
But Hadley said tax was imposed on children's interest income under the 1986 tax reform in order to prevent high rollers from shifting income by putting accounts and stock in their children's names as a tax shelter.
"Parents are finding they are having to file tax returns for their children where they have not had to in the past, prior to the law change. That's the biggest question I hear: `Does my child need to file an income tax return this year?' "
Hadley said a child who is claimed as a dependent has to file a return if he earns $500 or more and if he has more than $1 in interest earnings. If a child earns more than $1,000 in interest income he is charged taxes at his parents' rate.
Glade Booth, a local financial planner, agrees that the tax hits young earners where it hurts, and that it doesn't encourage the saving habit. "I didn't realize that it hit these kids on this low income until this morning. I just did one this morning."
He said one young client earned $466 caring for horses, and had $462 in savings his grandpa gave him. Altogether, the 13-year-old boy ended up owing $66 in federal taxes, and another $11 to the state.
His total tax bite on what he earned last year was 16.5 percent, Booth said. "That's a pretty punitive tax on a little kid."
Another local local accountant said the kiddie tax law hasn't raised much of an outcry. "There's only three times that I've seen it," said Ken Allred, a certified public accountant for Deloitte Haskins & Sells. "And even then it didn't amount to very big dollars."