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Tax Time in America

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

This year, April seventeenth is the last day for Americans to pay federal income taxes for two thousand five.

Most taxpayers have had enough income tax collected by their employers during the year. So they do not owe any more money. In fact, most Americans get some money back. Last year, the Internal Revenue Service returned at least some money to more than one hundred million Americans paying individual income tax.

The United States has what is called a progressive tax system. Tax rates increase as earnings increase. This year, people earning more than three hundred twenty-six thousand dollars are taxed at the highest rate.

Earnings above that amount are taxed at thirty-five percent. Earnings below that amount are taxed at lower rates.

Individuals who earn less than seven thousand three hundred dollars pay no income tax. But they do pay Social Security, Medicare and other taxes.

There are many different ways for people and businesses to reduce their federal income taxes. Most homeowners, for example, can reduce their taxes a little by reporting to the I.R.S. the interest they pay on a home loan. This is called a tax deduction.

Companies deduct many costs involved in doing business. And many industries can deduct costs of research, exploring for natural resources and the use of property and equipment.

In two thousand four, personal income taxes provided the government with most of its money: thirty-five percent of the budget. Social security and other retirement taxes provided thirty-two percent. Other forms of income include business income taxes, money borrowed to cover the deficit and special taxes on trade and property.

But income from taxes did not provide enough to pay for government spending. The I.R.S. says the budget deficit for two thousand four was about four hundred thousand million dollars.

Preparing tax documents can be complex. The I.R.S. estimates that taxpayers need an average of about thirteen hours to prepare tax documents. And that is just for the basic tax form. For businesses, the I.R.S estimates an average tax preparer needs more than fifty hours. This is why a lot of Americans pay professional tax preparers to complete their tax documents for them.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. Our reports are online at I'm Steve Ember.