In the United States at the local, state and national level we are seeing the wide spread use of semantics by our politicians. A verbal form of smoke and mirrors to deceive the public into believing that these government representatives are being fiscally responsible and that they are reeling in expenses and reducing taxes when all along they are spending more and taking more out of our pockets. How so you may ask, when taxes have remained flat or in some areas been reduced. It is through the use of fees for services that were once paid for from the revenues generated through taxes.
For example, look at my home state of Colorado where the Tabor Amendment is in place and requires politicians to get voter approval of any tax increase. The idea of the amendment was to get politicians to live within a budget. There is very little chance of that happening so the local and state representatives have found a way to increase revenues without having to get voter approval. They slowly and methodically moved services once covered under the umbrella of property taxes out on their own to stand alone and now charge a fee for the service. The storm sewer bill that shows up once a year in your mailbox is a prime example of a service that was once paid for through property taxes and is now separately billed as a fee. Tax … fee; if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.
As a commercial developer I’m flooded with “fees” on every project attempted. The politicians call them “Impact Fees” and imply that the “Rich Developer” is putting a burden on the local government in order to benefit themselves economically. This is readily accepted by the general public who seems to be fine with the money grab as long as it isn’t from them; but it is. Any costs associated with a development project are passed on to the consumer. “Impact Fees” add to the cost of developer constructing a shopping center, the retailer will have to pay more in rent in order for the developer to be reimbursed for these expenses and the consumer will pay more for goods and services so the retailer can recoup the higher cost of rent. To the developer, retailer and consumer it is an increase in a fee, but is it really a fee. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.
Look at the taxes we now pay and take a minute to think back at what they once covered. Now look at all the fees we pay today and I think that you will agree. Fees are taxes; if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.