Anti-tax Tea Party activists have plenty to fuel their fires this week.
Tuesday marks the day when Virginians will have earned enough money to pay this year’s tax obligations of the federal, state and local government, according to an annual study published by the nonprofit Tax Foundation.
Staff economist Kail Padgitt said he reached his calculation by figuring out how much of their incomes Virginians pay in taxes and then translating that percentage to days in the year. Last year, Virginia residents paid 9.8 percent of their incomes in taxes, putting the state’s “Tax Freedom Day” on April 16. This year, higher unemployment puts the day three days earlier, Padgitt said.
Virginia falls near the middle of the spectrum of states’ “Tax Freedom” days, according to the study. Workers in Alaska generated enough revenue to meet tax obligations by March 26, while Connecticut workers will labor until April 27 to pay their tax burden.
While tax obligations vary by state, federal tax revenue is still the most important determinate of when “Tax Freedom Day” falls because the federal government collects about two-thirds of all taxes, Padgitt said.
Nationally, “Tax Freedom Day” fell on April 9. Two weeks earlier than in 2007, the day has been coming sooner due to the recession, temporary income tax cuts under the Recovery Act and repealing the estate tax and some limits on exemptions for high-income earners, Padgitt said.
Still, Americans will pay more taxes in 2010 than they will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined, according to the study by the anti-tax group.
Padgitt says he expects to see “Tax Freedom Day” shift later over the next few years. Not only will a recovering economy generate more tax revenue, but new taxes will come into play, he said.
“The other things that are going to come down the line are the Bush tax cuts—[their expiration] will add five to six days—and the healthcare bill will add two to three days,” Padgitt said.
Coming a few days after “Tax Freedom Day,” tax day falls on Thursday. After kicking off protests in Powhatan and Stafford counties on Saturday, Tea Party groups have several events planned on April 15.
Last year Virginia protesters held nearly a dozen tax day rallies, joining a national movement of activists who began protesting high taxes and big government in February 2009. Since then, hundreds of local Tea Party groups have organized around the country.
The largest event this year will likely be a march in Richmond, says Jamie Radtke, president of the Richmond Tea Party and organizer of a new federation of groups from all over the state.
She says the Richmond group is adopting a different strategy than last year, when protesters mainly voiced their discontent with government spending. This year, they’ll focus on successes in the last year—like the Healthcare Freedom Act passed by the General Assembly this year, which asserts citizens’ independence from federal mandates to buy health insurance—as well as legislative goals for the upcoming year.
“It couldn’t just be people holding signs and ranting this year,” Radtke said. “Last year it was all about venting and what I think you’ll see, at least at our rally this year, is we’ll be talking about some of the successes we’ve had.”
Virginia Tea Party organizers are also planning marches in Fredericksburg, Prince William County, Woodbridge, Hampton Roads, Norfolk and Washington, D.C., according to the federation’s Web site.
Priding themselves on grassroots activism, Tea Party groups in Virginia have just in the last few months become more organized. Until last December, they were mainly disconnected groups that spring up wherever there was someone willing to plan events and enough people to attend them.
While they still operate independently, Radtke said leaders now discuss state-wide strategy and legislation during twice-monthly conference calls.
A move toward more cooperation can also be seen with national Tea Party groups. Last week, a coalition of 23 organizations announced the creation of the National Tea Party Federation for coordinating media strategy.
Radtke says that despite the new organization of tea party groups, they intend to remain independent.
“It really is exactly what a federation is,” Radtke said. “I think it will stay as a federation. Everyone’s desire is for it to stay grassroots and independent, but you need to have collaboration and coordination on issues that affect everybody.”