Why Are Taxes So Complicated? (The Musical?)

Why Are Taxes So Complicated? (The Musical?)

In which Hank intended to just make a video about tax policy and why it’s so complicated and then ended up singing a bunch and repeatedly falling out of his chair.

I also once made a video about why rich people often pay lower tax rates than middle class people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuhYRZRfTuY

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99 Responses

  1. Grant Shueh says:

    Hope you get better John!
    love from Frogland 🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸

    I’m a frog btw

  2. Eman Abunada says:

    I know this is long but please read through to the end.

    A couple months ago I found out about an incredible org. that helps refugees in so many ways like educating, funding & feeding them. I began volunteering by teaching, photographing, filming & editing (for social media pages). I was pretty much alone since there wasn’t really anyone to help or guide me and I never took any courses on how to advocate for stuff like that. That’s why I was so unconfident when I started working on a fundraiser for the school at Al Hayat. Once I launched it, I had a couple friends supporting me but didn’t know where any other funds would come from. All until my very awesome sister wrote a comment on one of the vlogbrother’s videos (like this one) and I was incredibly shocked at how much love and support I got from all the amazing nerdfighters out there. Seriously, I can’t imagine a more amazing community on YouTube. I wanted to Thank each and every one of you, but also wanted Hank to see the video I made for all the donors from the kids at Al Hayat. I really want him, Hank, to know how much his donation meant to not only myself but to so many refugees as well. Please like this comment so Hank might see this! Hank, if you’re reading this, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
    Here is the link to the video: https://youtu.be/9WT0p14focA
    (Also, to any prof. video editors out there, I would love some feedback or commentary on my videos, thanks!)

  3. Abinash Basabanuja says:

    You explain it so beautifully

  4. Marie Mcmullan says:

    This is my second favorite musical about the American economy.

  5. Zoe Oro-Hahn says:

    Vlogbrothers: Doing a better job of educating people than the American School System

  6. Grant Shueh says:

    Why did I think that a head tax taxed people on if they had a head or not? 🤔

    • marie wikiwaka says:

      Grant Shueh I mean, not technically wrong…

    • Professor Politics says:

      That Headless Horseman, always managing to dodge his tax liabilities!

    • Cupcake Without The Icing says:

      Protip: If you don’t wanna pay tax, just chop your head off!
      It really works!!! (because you’ll be dead)

    • sander heutink says:

      Your heirs will still have to pay your inheritance tax though.

    • OriginalPiMan says:

      sander
      No they wouldn’t, because the head tax would mean the amount of money/wealth/value received would not impact the raw amount of tax they’d have to pay.
      (And in real world terms, they probably wouldn’t have to pay an inheritance tax because the vast majority of American people are worth less than the $5 million threshold.)

  7. 2VNews says:

    Production or consumption tax?
    Which is harder to do?
    Get someone to stop working.
    or
    Get someone to stop buying things.

    • finalbossd says:

      Hans Nesse I recognize your argument, and I agree that consumption taxes disproportionately impact lower income earners, but I must respectfully disagree with the idea that the wealthy should pay more of a percentage of their income in taxes.

      I do agree that some degree of taxation is required to run a society (we are well beyond the point that would be ideal for everyone because of our irresponsible degree of spending), but I would argue that everyone should pay about the same proportion of their income in taxes at some equally low rate.

      My argument is one of efficacy, that it would be inefficient for society since it would incentivize people to produce less. We need not argue about principles or morality here since you are not arguing that taxation be used as a means of punishing the wealthy, or for enforcing a set of beliefs against accumulation of wealth.

      Either way, I am glad we could at least have a nuanced conversation here instead of bickering about an irrational fear of a 1% bogeyman or entertaining a pernicious notion of greed and the need to force equality of circumstance. I give you props to that, and I find it to be unrepresentative of most of YouTube.

    • Benjamin Abruzzo says:

      Hans, you said “Thus a poor person pays, as a percentage of their income, more tax than a rich person. This is why consumption taxes are generally regarded as regressive. All your justifications that money is eventually spent is meaningless; quantifiable and in no uncertain terms, poor people pay more of their income in tax than the rich. It is that with which I take issue.”

      Where I take issue with this in that percentage of income is a meaningless metric used more to divide people than to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I am firmly in the camp of monetary velocity. Money moving is more important than money sitting. but I also recognize that it isn’t in relation to what a person owns.

      A wealthy person can have $1000 or they can buy a 4k TV for $1000. The purchase of the TV doesn’t change the person’s wealth, but it does move the money in a voluntary manner.

      But I do see your point, which is why I brought up the possible need of a pre-bate or a deduction for everybody that fills in the spot of the basic needs. Again, it is playing with tax codes and can get political, but if you want the basic needs of all people met up to poverty, then make the first $16 per person untaxed or the tax refunded at the start of the year. That’s a check for $1600 for a family of 4 at the beginning of the year, assuming a 25% tax rate. That covers all the taxes for a poverty level expenditure (currently). the debate would be to raise poverty level or to change the tax rates. but realize that the guy who makes $10 million will get that same check to cover taxes.

      “Taxes are necessary for a functioning society, and those who are most able to pay it should be the ones to pay the greatest share.”

      I don’t hold to the communist or Marxist thinking. I personally would rather the government stick to only doing what the US government was set up to do (protect the very small from the very big) and not play around with moving money from one person to another, be they a corporation, a political organization, or a individual that chooses to be poor (I say it that way because those who don’t choose to be in the position of poverty or ailment should be helped… we just need to figure that out rather than just pass out cash).

    • Benjamin Abruzzo says:

      Hans and finalbossd, if I come off irrational or emotional, I apologize. I am doing my best to remain in an open mind. I do find that morality does play a role in this a lot more than we’d want as do other emotions and I don’t wish to come across crazy on one position.

      That being said, finalbossd, I think it would be better to encourage to produce more rather than less, as abundance is what creates lower prices and improves quality though competition.

      Still, the way the United States tax systems is set up, a combination of taxing income, wealth, investments, and consumption, it would be very difficult to unravel it, like trying to straighten the Gordian Knot. It is nice, however, not to hear people hurling accusations of “evil government hater” or “thieving socialist”, as there will always be a bit of all types of philosophy in real practice.

    • Hans Nesse says:

      Benjamin, I appreciate your thoughtful reply. However I can’t agree that income is an arbitrary metric. Your income is what you use to keep yourself alive, and it is what you pay your taxes out of. I further disagree that the consideration of ones ability to pay while maintaining some standard of living is somehow communist. Communism is worker ownership of the means of production; that is not a part of income tax.

      Like it or not, taxes have impacts on people. It seems wise to consider those impacts. While I appreciate your pre-bate idea, I can’t imagine a justification for placing the heaviest burden of taxes on those least able to pay. Nor can I fathom how taxing spending increases the velocity of money; if anything, I would think it would decrease it.

    • Benjamin Abruzzo says:

      Hans “However I can’t agree that income is an arbitrary metric.”

      let’s remind the readers that I said “percentage of income is a meaningless metric” when measuring how much you should take compared to other people. In fact, all that should be taken is based on what is used, not how much a person has and if a percentage of their income is a different ratio that another person’s, that is meaningless. I buy a hamburger for $3 and I make $35k a year. That does not mean that a person making $35 million a year should pay more for the hamburger because they can afford it or that the price is a different percentage of income. See how it is meaningless. your way says the hamburger should be closer to $3000 for the guy with more money.

      This has nothing to do with standard of living. Again, that is a subjective argument. One can argue that a good standard of living required HBO and FiOS and a 3 bedroom house. Other people would say that same single person can do with a 700 square ft apartment, a Roku and basic cable. If you mean a minimum standard of living, you are correct that there needs to be some bottom that we fear our society should not fall. But if a person achieves more than that minimum, there is no need to punish them for success.

      “I further disagree that the consideration of ones ability to pay while maintaining some standard of living is somehow communist. Communism is worker ownership of the means of production; that is not a part of income tax.”

      That’s part of communism, however, that ownership is in service of the Marxist principle: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. I did say Marxism, didn’t I? This is what Marx used to sell his ideas and what Lenin build upon.

      “Like it or not, taxes have impacts on people. It seems wise to consider those impacts.”

      True, but because we are discussing the United States, we are looking at the direct impact on everybody being equal, not different based on income or wealth. Here we get back to a flat tax on every dollar or a voluntary tax based on what one chooses to purchase.

      “While I appreciate your pre-bate idea, I can’t imagine a justification for placing the heaviest burden of taxes on those least able to pay.”

      It doesn’t at all. A flat income tax places the same burden on everybody based on how well they can find a job and use their time and skill… a tax on work. A consumption tax is a completely voluntary choice by the person paying, and it most likely would be higher for the rich as they prefer to live at a high expenditure than the poor.

      What you are assuming is that all humans, rich or poor, will buy the same house, the same food, the same clothing, and the same anything else. In reality, where a poor person would buy tuna and hamburger, mixed veggies, and milk, the rich person would buy veal, filet minion, fancy veggies, and the best wine or expensive whatever. Your idea that both me, a low income worker and Bill gates would live in the same 750 sq ft apartment is absurd, as Gate would buy a house for millions of dollars. That alone says a rich person will pay more based on consumption and do it by choice. The heavy burden is not here.

      “Nor can I fathom how taxing spending increases the velocity of money; if anything, I would think it would decrease it.”

      I think you twisted something I said, so I will clarify. When you lower a tax on those with money, they spend it more. That means rather than it being a gold coin or a dollar bill in a box in a house, it is used to buy a car (for example). Now you have given that money velocity. In a consumption tax, that equals a tax payment. In an income tax, the jobs to make the car and to maintain or use the car equals tax. The lower it costs to buy the car, the more likely a rich person is to change their money into wealth. Voom goes the money. Ka-ching goes the tax revenue.

  8. Álvaro Lopes says:

    Tax Policy? *THE* MUSICAL?

    There goes my No Nut November.

  9. Don't Mind Me says:

    Only Hank can make me laugh and be angry at people who don’t pay their taxes at the same time.

  10. 2VNews says:

    Abolish the convoluted tax code and IRS, repeal the 16th Amendment, stop the self imposed insanity. Enact the Fair Tax plan.

    • Keith Gaughan says:

      2VNews is talking nonsense, because repeal of the 16th amendment to the US Constitution would mean the US Federal Government would need to rely on things like excise and tariffs to support itself, which would be equivalent to slapping a huge federal sales tax on everything. That might’ve been OK back in the 19th century, but it’s unworkable today because it’d isolate the US from world trade, not to mention the fact that excise and tariff disproportionately fall on the poor, making them regressive and not ‘fair’.

      Now, the alternative would be for the various states to fund the Federal Government in a similar way to how the member states of the European Union fund the EU, but I can’t see that working too well for some reason…

    • pokechatter says:

      2VNews We also need to do something about that one clause that says Congress gets paid even if they don’t do their job.

    • Oscar McCormack says:

      Keith Gaughan

      Thanks.

      @2VNews

      Why do you think that repealing that amendment would fix anything? You like having a semi-functional government, right?

    • Jrv1s says:

      So I’m not saying I hate all consumption taxes (I think the VAT has a lot of merit), but the “Fair” Tax is extraordinarily regressive.

    • sander heutink says:

      Did you know that in the early stages of the US, congress couldn’t tax people and had to rely on donations from the states?
      And that the states basically didn’t donate jack, leaving congress permanently incapable of paying for the things it was supposed to pay for? Like their army, which they were using to fight their revolution in the first place?

  11. SchiferlED says:

    So basically what to take form this is that when a politician says “We want to make taxes simpler!” It’s really code for “We want to make taxes easier for our rich friends to avoid, and make everyone else pay more or benefit less to make up for it!”

  12. Kate Evans says:

    Does anyone else really want ‘Tax Code: The Musical’ after seeing this video? Of course, it would definitely have to be a DFTBA production; everyone else would take themselves too seriously.

    • Kat The Nerdfighter says:

      Oohhh, I want this to happen so baaad. XD “Tax Code: the Musical”, by Hank Green and Lin-Manuel Miranda, in collaboration with various people and things who haven’t FTBA.

    • Kat The Nerdfighter says:

      Ooohhh, I want this to happen so baaad! “Tax Code: the Musical”, by Hank Green and Lin-Manuel Miranda, in collaboration with various people and things who haven’t FTBA.

  13. Katie says:

    Hi Hank! Loved this video!! And loved that you mentioned the grad school tuition waiver situation because I’m a grad student that’s currently freaking out about that a little bit. I get that talking about it wasn’t the point of this video, but I’d love to see a video explaining that situation in more detail and maybe explaining ways we can contact the right people in government to try to make sure that doesn’t happen. That would be super helpful! Thaaaanks and love you guys 🙂

  14. andrineslife says:

    Capital Gains should be a christmas single. Or a P4A Perk.

  15. John OBrien Gardener says:

    Death and taxes.

    One is simple.

  16. Oleksandr Honcharov says:

    what’s happened to John?????

  17. John OBrien Gardener says:

    ‘ Taxes All The Way Down ‘ , performed by Hank ‘loophole’ Green.

  18. Fathima Moolla says:

    Can we give John a fun punishment (funishment?) Something that John will enjoy and lift his spirits?

  19. BobinFlobo says:

    More like “why is this on trending” the musical

    • Hallisey33 says:

      This is the first time I’ve said anything about these types of comments but your opinion sucks ass

    • SethMacMillan says:

      Not like taxes or understanding why they are as they are is important. Some policy makers/lobbyists love these comments. Not understanding them just makes it easier for corrupted technicalities to take your hard earned cash if you’re employed in the United States.

  20. Rachie- Face says:

    Hank should start his own channel where he just explains complicated subjects! 😄😄😄

    I’d subscribe.

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