Thursday, April 15, 2010

Massachusetts – High Court rejects $5.00 “fee” on inmates’ allowance – Ruling: “Taxing Inmates Unlawful”

The Man behind the Tax on Mass. Inmates Taxpayer Funded Allowance - Sheriff Hodgson - image

From, Springfield, MA. One rarely finds a tax or fee in Massachusetts one can actually agree with, however, in the interest of fairness, there is one set of “fees” that may be worth putting on the books. As Massachusetts taxes everything from your dogs to pre-paid cell phone usage, to your Dish TV, to cover the costs of the massive entitlement programs the Bay State is known for, one tax that appears to rub the wrong way is a tax on certain items and services for inmates at the State’s correctional centers. Thomas Hodgson, a Bristol County sheriff, had charged inmates a $5.00 per day fee for services such as haircuts to offset the Burdon on the taxpayer. The Massachusetts Supreme Court decided that it was “unlawful” to tax the incarcerated. Sheriff Hodgson disagrees.
He has askedthe State Legislature to take up a bill by State Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, an Attleboro Republican, which would allow for such charges. According to Hodgson, the state is losing millions of dollars each year by not assessing a charge on inmates who receive an allowance from the State. The premise is twofold, increase state revenue and teach fiscal responsibility to those who are incarcerated.

Hodgson’s logic:

“We’ve gotten to the point in the commonwealth where we need to start looking at alternatives, and one that is particularly important to me, and I think most of the people in the commonwealth, is the issue of charging inmates fees for their cost of care,” Hodgson said. “You talk about raising taxes on candy and soda, so now you’re taking from kids’ allowance to help pay for government to run these institutions like prisons by taxing, basically, their allowance. But these people that are stealing their computers and bikes and commit crimes in their neighborhoods continue to come to prison with no responsibility.”

From 2002 to 2004, Hodgson collected $375,000 per year in inmate “taxes” before the court stepped in noting he had overstepped his authority. On the one hand, the excessive taxes levied on the inmates (residents) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts bears scrutiny, especially with the Federal government poised to add a VAT (Value Added Tax) to the plethora of Federal taxes in place. A VAT would place taxes across the board and affect every level of income. A Fair Tax, or Consumption tax on its own is a legitimate alternative to the income tax, however, with our Federal Government on a growth spree, the introduction of a VAT would not replace any taxes, rather necessitate the hiring of more IRS agents to oversee the collection (similar to the 16,000 being hired to collect fees on those not complying with the Federally Mandated Health Care Reform Act – Massachusetts DOR is the Commonwealths “arm” for levying and collecting fees on those Massachusetts citizens who do not have proof of health insurance coverage attached to their tax returns.) Therefore, all things being equal, the state and federal deficit growing in leaps and bounds, why not tax those who are using tax dollars as income? One can understand the growing frustration of the middle income taxpayers, as those paying taxes represent approximately 50% of the population.

In fact, the several state and IRS videos are available that encourage those who earn less than (now 48,000) to file for the Earned Income Tax Credit Must See Video (embed disabled) here The premise of these Public Service Announcements which play during the tax season, suggests that even those who do not pay taxes could receive an additional $5,000 from the Federal government. The end of the suggested video (Must See) notes “You Earned It!”.

Therefore, if the Federal and State Governments hand money out tax over fist to those who may not necessarily have “earned” it, and take it away from those who have, it makes perfect sense that the Commonwealths Court felt inclined to slap the wrist of the Sheriff who suggested that inmates learn fiscal responsibility by paying a $5.00 fee (tax). It goes to the mentality of the lunatics who believe that tax dollars are similar to monopoly money.

As we watch our income shrink due to higher taxes on fuel and a rise in the cost per barrel of crude, as we watch the price of hamburger and other food items increase 26% over last year (one must save receipts and compare it is astounding), (Note: This increase is due to rising costs of food delivery, and other state and federally mandated programs on grocery stores employers and union contracts - the cost of which are added to that gallon of milk), it is no wonder that the individual who is working and paying taxes to the Commonwealth and the Federal Government (State, Federal, Medicaid and Social Security Taxes) might resent others who do not pay taxes. Of those who receive an allowance for committing crimes (taxpayer funded), one has to wonder, if these individuals also file taxes and are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (which would not surprise).

Although generally and vehemently opposed to taxes, this one appears to be as fair a tax as any, and the Sheriff deserves a round of applause from the Citizens of the Commonwealth. One cannot expect, however, the Massachusetts legislature to follow through on any bill that would impose this particular tax.
Even the States Jump in – Get your Earned Income Tax Credit

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