Be Entrepreneurial! Be Self-Employed! Be a Job Creator! Be Broke.

by Shaker BrianWS, who may or may not become a full-time contributor someday based on whether Dwayne the Magical Groundhog sees his shadow three fortnights in a row.

I don't mind paying my taxes. I, personally, am something along the lines of what Republicans accuse President Obama of being – super far left, and I think the government can do quite a bit of good work with the social safety net and infrastructure with my taxes, so I'm happy to pay them.

What I still don't understand is how our government's tax code continues to penalize people for being self-employed in an economy where there are no jobs to begin with. I'll wheel back around to that later.

Personal disclaimer: I have a job I love. I get paid what would likely be considered a little bit more than a fair wage for the work I do. I don't have many business expenses, so I don't get to run down a Schedule C and Romney out my taxes to a microscopic percentage of what I make. I don't intend this post to be about my financial misfortune – I understand how privileged I am to be doing what I do and making what I make. Trust me.

I am able to live comfortably for the most part in the sense that I can pay my rent, I don't generally want for nourishment, I don't get behind on my bills, and I have a little bit of spending money left over every month.

But today, I went back into the 2011 tax year and looked into a couple of things. What I found shocked me, even though I already knew there was a high cost to self-employment, as Liss has noted on several occasions.

For those unfamiliar with how this "penalty" comes into play, there are a few ways in which being self-employed will increase the tax owed – the most glaring of which is the self-employment tax. Basically, in a traditional employer-employee relationship, the employee's payroll tax (that is, Social Security and Medicare taxes) is split evenly. The employer pays half, and the employee pays the other half. Self-employed people must pay both halves, a percentage that can be up to 15.3% of total income.

I found that overall it cost me $5,500 in taxes to be self-employed last year. That is no small sum of money, especially when compared to my overall yearly income. What could I do with that kind of money? It would pay my rent for nearly seven months. In just one year's taxes, that sum equals a third of what I paid for my car five years ago. I could put a down payment on a home with that. Even better for me, someone with an almost non-existent savings base because I have never had the kind of income that allowed me to seriously live any other way but paycheck-to-paycheck, I could save it!

But no, I'm self-employed. The thing that bugs me the most about it is not so much just the principle that it cost me $5,500 to be self-employed last year, but that had I been making the exact same total dollar amount working in service to a gigantic corporation, the government would say I was entitled to that $450+/month.

So there's the problem. We are all aware of a pretty serious unemployment situation in this country. Giant corporations, who reap all the benefits of a tax code increasingly designed to privilege them and their focus on the bottom line, hold all the cards here. They don't offer enough jobs for everyone – but those of us who wind up working for ourselves, rather than for them, are penalized for it.

I couldn't help but think about the guest post I wrote last summer after attending CGI with Liss. The entire system, from the very start in our education system, is designed to cater to corporations and those who help build their bottom lines. I always understood that in the abstract – but it hadn't been so personal for me until this morning, when I realized, thinking about what I could do with an extra $5,500 a year, how that money would legitimately change my life and financial security.

And it's not just about me at all – I know more than a few self-employed people who struggle much worse than I do. This is about them, too, and everyone else who is self-employed, and it's also about the way corporations are treated better than the fucking citizens of this country. But hey, corporations are people now, too, and they're richer than me so they get treated just like the mega-rich in this country while we all fight for scraps underneath.

It's a huge injustice that giant corporations and the very wealthy have hundreds of tax loopholes to exploit in order to pay a much smaller percentage of their total income in taxes, while everyone who bucks the system, intentionally or not, and doesn't play by those rules pays the price.

A price that I can put a real number on now.

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