Tax Day is over, but Virginians are still toiling to pay Uncle Sam

PAY UP: Virginia’s Tax Freedom Day is four days later this year than it was last year.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — April 15 has passed, but Virginians still have to work a few more days to placate Uncle Sam.

Old Dominion residents must work, on average, four days longer this year than last to pay off their federal, state and local taxes. Tax Freedom Day, when your average citizen has finally earned enough to pay off that tax bill for the year, doesn’t fall until April 24 this year for Virginians.

That’s three days later than the national average, meaning the Old Dominion has the 11th-latest Tax Freedom Day in the nation, according to U.S. Census and Bureau of Economic Analysis data analyzed by the Tax Foundation.

This year, Connecticut has the last Tax Freedom Day on May 9, while Louisiana residents enjoyed the earliest Tax Freedom Day on March 30.

Americans haven’t always labored so long to pay Uncle Sam. In 1900, they paid only 5.9 percent of their income in taxes, so they only toiled for the government until Jan. 22, according to the Tax Foundation.

Not to worry though — all those taxes are being put to great use.

Here are five things your federal, state and local taxes went towards in 2013.

1. Salary for a commonwealth’s attorney facing DUI charges

Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood collected three charges related to driving under the influence last fall, and managed to keep his cushy annual salary of $157,308. Underwood’s day in court, which keeps getting postponed, is set for April 25. Still, Norfolk residents can’t exactly complain. When Underwood ran for reelection in November, just after the charges became public, voters still picked him over his opponent.

2. Time for librarians to throw away books

Yes, last year taxpayers in Fairfax County paid for the time it took county workers to throw away some taxpayer-funded library books — more than 250,000 books over 19 months, actually. Of course, there were other options, like donating, selling or even recycling those books. Too late.

3. A $1.1 million bus stop

Arlington County officials decided spending $1.1 million on a bus super stop was a great idea. Somehow, taxpayers disagreed. The public outrage forced officials to back away from their plans to build 23 more such stops.

4. Technology to spy on you

Police departments around Virginia are using automatic license plate reader technology to take pictures of passing or parked vehicles at random. That’s what one Watchdog.org reporter discovered when she filed a request under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act for her records, and received 16 photos of her plates back from the Alexandria Police Department. Not to worry though — the funding for those particular cameras came from the federal government, a.k.a., your tax dollars.

5. An ungrateful congressman

Retiring Northern Virginia Congressman Jim Moran didn’t get much sympathy when he said members of Congress are “underpaid.” Moran, who makes a base salary of $174,000 a year — five times the average per-capita income in the commonwealth — had the nerve to say it’s hard to live “decently” in the Washington, D.C., area on such an income. Of course, that’s lots more than most people who fund his paycheck.

– Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia bureau, and can be reached at kwatson@watchdog.org. Or, follow her on Twitter @kathrynw5.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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