By Chris English
While Monday was Tax Day for many — the last day for filing federal and state income tax returns — it was also Tax Protest Day for a small group of activists.
Standing outside the Levittown Post Office near the Five Points intersection in Bristol Township, members of a group called Keystone Progress held signs and handed out leaflets criticizing what they feel is an unfair federal and state tax structure.
Excessive spending on defense and corporate tax loopholes at both the federal and state levels were two of their major themes.
“The tax structure is upside down,” said Robin Stelly of Lower Makefield. “There is too much waste and fraud and a bloated Pentagon. Seventy-five percent of the corporations pay zero percent in taxes. We need to fix the tax code, invest in education and work to pull the pork from the Pentagon.”
Pointing to people headed into the post office, some of whom were last-minute income tax filers, Stelly said there’s a lot of work to do.
“These people are paying their taxes, but corporations aren’t,” she said. “You and I pay 25 to 30 percent in federal income taxes while a rich hedge fund manager or Wall Street executive gets away with paying 15 percent.”
Gov. Tom Corbett’s budgets continue to underfund education while too readily granting tax breaks to corporations, added Bensalem resident Lynda Mintz.
“State budgets are bad for regular people but wonderful for corporations,” she said. “They’re trying to break unions and the middle class.”
Elizabeth Brassell, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, confirmed that about 70 percent of state corporations don’t pay income taxes, according to the department’s last tax analysis done in 2006. But a majority of those corporations don’t pay because they don’t owe taxes, she said.
“Sixty-five percent of corporations weren’t active in a particular year or reported zero taxable income,” said Brassell. “Companies don’t pay tax on money they don’t make. If there’s no profit, there’s no tax on that profit.”
According to information from a group called Better Choices for Pennsylvania being handed out by the protesters on Monday, Corbett’s latest tax proposal cuts taxes to profitable corporations by 30 percent, creates few jobs and does nothing to close corporate tax loopholes, among other faults.
Brassell countered that Corbett’s tax proposal would make Pennsylvania more competitive in attracting new business. The governor has proposed reducing the state’s corporate tax rate from 9.99 percent — the second-highest in the country, Brassell said — to 6.99 percent over several years.
“By lowering our corporate tax rate, we become a much more attractive business tax climate for companies to locate and grow, thereby creating jobs and growing the Pennsylvania economy,” she said. “Lowering the tax rate would simply make our state more competitive, and by lowering the tax rate, there also wouldn’t be incentives to avoid corporate taxes.”
But there was no convincing the protesters that the tax system doesn’t need overhauling.
“Look at the state and federal budgets and you’d say, ‘I don’t want my money spent that way,’ “ said Bristol Township resident Eleanor Guerriero. She was holding up a sign to cars whizzing by on busy New Falls Road that read “Taxes for education, not weapons.”
“Huge companies like Exxon and General Electric avoid so much in taxes, and then small companies can’t compete,” added Debbie Kavanagh of Falls.