Taxes and Traveling in 2013

Is everyone just as excited as Rick Steves about the expiration of the 2 percent Social Security tax rate reduction (see latest US News & World Report article)? He's apparently giddy. Will paying an extra couple thousand to Uncle Sam in 2013 keep you from traveling to Europe this year? Personally, it won't affect my own decisions about traveling, but that's a lot of money for a lot of people, and I can certainly understand how it might have an impact for some. What say you? Can you still afford his tours? http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/01/02/patriotic-millionaire-rick-steves-is-really-really-excited-about-his-tax-increase

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

This one will spiral off topic shortly. Coffee consumed hours ago and far too early for popcorn. Suggested snack?

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

I couldn't afford his tours before. That's why I try to get as much good travel information as possible from good websites such as this. Someone the other day asked me what tour we traveled with. I told them I'm the tourguide, and have been since my first trip to Europe in 1970. When we get to where we cannot handle the details of travel, lifting luggage, etc., we may be doing tours.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Fundamentally, I'm basically socialist. I have no issue whatsoever with higher taxes when something valuable is returned to the people in exchange. Most every developed country on Earth has higher taxes than the U.S. But in return, the well-managed European governments have provided their people with better health care, better social security systems, better roads, better bridges, better public transportation, better universities, a cleaner environment, the list goes on and on. Some will point to Spain or Greece as evidence that high taxes and big social services will bankrupt a wealthy country, but Spain and Greece weren't wealthy to begin with. Let's look instead to Scandinavia, Germany, or Switzerland as models. When we start managing our resources like Norway instead of squandering them on idiocy like we do, I'll be just as giddy as Rick is right now. In the meantime, it seems being so happy about higher tax revenues that will surely go into a rat hole is super naïve. Frugal as many of us here are about finding ways to travel as inexpensively as possible, an extra one or two thousand to the government might break a travel dream or two this year. It's not as though life in the U.S. will improve somehow because of an extra 2% in taxes.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11264 posts

"returning all spending to Clinton era?" Good idea! In GDP adj $$, average spending per year for military 9 years before Clinton $453B During Clinton $377B
During Bush II $496B (over 30% incr) The spending during Bush II administration does not incl supp appropriations for Iraq & Afghanistan

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11264 posts

You're changing the subject. The subject, as defined by you, was returning spending to Clinton levels. If the industry bribed, anti-spending conservatives in the House had defeated that bill, it would never have gotten to the President at all. His choices were to sign it or veto it, in which case we would have no military spending at all.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

Unfortunately, that amount is a greal deal of money. I couldn't have afforded to go on a RS tour before, even if I had ever wanted to. So, I travel solo or in my own style. Yes, missing that amount will put a squeeze on traveling expenses but, as the saying goes, don't disperse your (financial) effort. If one is so desperate to go (I am) to Europe in the summer, lower your standards, expectations, and travel style once you arrive.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Yeah, I mean, when you consider the average transatlantic ticket is going to cost $1500 this summer, giving that amount back in taxes will hurt some for sure. Corporations typically pay bonuses out in mid-March...those have been anywhere from nonexistent to much smaller than normal for the past 5 or 6 years. Nearly everyone I know uses most or all of his or her bonus to pay for family summer vacations...hard to do when a tiny check is erased by a tax increase (even if it's just going back to a prior level). And we don't get anything to make our society better in return (no services, no spending cuts, no debt relief, nothing). If we did, it would be easier to swallow. It's hard, even for a socialist, to be very supportive of tax increases when our track record historically is to blow revenue and add nothing back. No wonder so many Canadians view us as a formerly-developed nation. BTW, both Republicans and Democrats are utterly ridiculous whores (I tried to think of a nicer term but couldn't) and are totally controlled by special interests, mostly corporations. I thought the last crop of Republican candidates that came through Iowa over the last 4 years were among the goofiest ever (sexual harassment pizza guy, crazy NRA woman from MN, philanderer Gingrich, etc.), but I can't wait to see the Democrats beginning this summer. I'm sure they'll take the cake. :)

Posted by Betty
Missouri City
201 posts

If higher taxes are really necessary to make sure that those citizens who NEED help get it, then WHY was so much pork added to the bill just passed? Does Hollywood really need $450 million of our tax dollars? Was this a necessary expense or just payback to those who voted for Obama? When you are borrowing as much money as the US is, why saddle your taxpaying citizens with so much unnecessary DEBT??? Since I am retired, I do not have to worry about payroll taxes but many people do and probably will be giving up alot of extras -- not just travel.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Very simplified view from a foriegner but it seems the Americans who make pretty good money are going to have to pay a bit more taxes so that the Americans who are struggling can have some basic human needs, medical care, social services, more school funding for less fortunate areas. Wow,, feel so super sorry about that,, not. From what I read, most affected will be those who earn over 100,000 dollars a year, but median American income is 45,000 a year. I would be ashamed to complain. My taxes have gone up, my assesseed values on my properties have gone down, but I have no real hardships so I shut the hell up and thank god I never have to choose between food, rent or medical bills. May not get to Europe this year, may be year after. Boo hoo. PS Never had a job that paid "bonuses" so could care less if you didn't get one this year, lol

Posted by Debra
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1001 posts

At the risk of staying on topic, no, it will not affect my travel plans (just booked airfare and hotels for 16 days in Spain in May). Travel is a #1 priority for me, so i will cut my spending elsewhere (clothes, eating out, etc.).

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
744 posts

Thanks Pat for your comments - they are so welcome, not. Since you, in your words, "shut the hell up" about your taxes. please shut the hell up about mine.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1964 posts

For travelers this is nothing compared to the fall the dollar took. It started with the euro costibg us 85 cents but plunged as low as $1.65 within a few years. How did that happen?

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Elaine, everyone is entitled to their views, whining is not a view though, its a pity party I do not sypathize with, and guess what, others feel the same way. Once again, boo hoo.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

A grad school professor asserted to us students that Americans get the government they vote for, regardless of one's own personal opinions. This time Americans voted for higher taxes, higher spending (if you assume that they were not duped) esp. those in the critical states that go either way blue/red. Those swing states went blue this time. The time will come again, as regards to the historical pendulum, when these states will go back being red. There is already precedent for their being a red state since 2000.

Posted by Betty
Missouri City
201 posts

Unfortunately for us americans, if you confiscated ALL the wealth from the "rich," it would not make a dent in the DEBT that our children and grandchildren will be saddled with for years because of our government's overspending. The reason so many people from other countries want to come to the US is for the opportunity to be successful. Why should someone work hard to be successful only to have the government take more than half of it away to give to Hollywood or failing solar enery companies?? Many people CHOOSE not to work hard. They know that the government will take care of them with money TAKEN from those who do work hard. How is that fair? And how long do you think that most people will continue to do that? Without those hard working successful people, who will pay for those less fortunate?? Eventually the well WILL RUN DRY.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

We live pretty modestly, so losing 2% of our income is a den't we'll actually notice a little. However, I find it difficult to get worked up over the rates simply returning to where they were a couple of years ago. (nor do I understand how people can get so worked up over the notion that anyone's income tax rates they paid in the roaring 1990's might return). But in any case, what we "lost" with the expiration of the 2% SSTax rate reduction we more than gained Wednesday when the stock market went up 2%. Sometimes I think people get all worked up because they simply enjoy it. No, it doesn't change our life at all.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Many people do work very hard, and they still don't make much money, and even with hard work they still don't get vacations in Europe, ever,, and they only ask for a bit of help, getting their kids educated, giving them them the medical care that any child in a first world country should be entitled to,( without having to remorgage the house) and yet, there are still those who resent having to give any more to help them. Some of those people make themselves feel good by donating just enough to some charity to get a ticket to the ball and nice tax write off. They like to imagine that its only all "welfare bums, nev'r do wells, and drug addicts" that are benefitting from more government funding to social welfare programs,, people who don't deserve it ,, right? They have been brainwashed into dividing their own citizens into the "good and deserving" and the "bad dumb and lazy",, and that attitude is destroying more then they know.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

While I find myself agreeing with Pat in some strange way, $60 from one's paycheck every other week will most certainly be felt by the vast majority in the middle class. And that means "staycations" for a lot of people this summer. I'll go back to my assertion that I'm for higher taxes when government does something positive for society in return. You tell me, what will the U.S. government do for our society with the billions collected this year because of the 2% increase in SS taxes (doesn't matter if it's returning to a prior level or not). Never mind...it's a rhetorical question. It will be wasted on nothing. I'll gladly pay much more in taxes when we have highways comparable to Ontario, health care and social security comparable to Norway, education comparable to Finland and South Korea, and safe places to live comparable to Switzerland. Then, maybe I'll be as happy as Rick is about taxes. ..."The reason so many people from other countries want to come to the US is for the opportunity to be successful. Why should someone work hard to be successful only to have the government take more than half of it away to give to Hollywood or failing solar energy companies??"... Wow...straight from the tea bag party handbook! News flash: People from other developed countries do not want to come live in the U.S. Why would they exchange what they have for a formerly-developed country like ours?

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
679 posts

OK, I still realise this is a topic for Americans, but I am interested in what has happened. Is this a 2% increase to the current tax rate (eg 2% of 5% added), or an extra 2% tax (eg 5% is now 7%)? If the latter, then to mean an additional 2000 dollars mentioned above, would you not have to be earning 100000 dollars?

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2685 posts

"...it would not make a DENT in the debt...." How true !

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Fair enough, James...it does go both ways. And you're right about other candidates, but no way will anyone other than a Democrat or Republican ever be elected...the apparatus is too rigged at this point and is totally controlled by these two parties (and their corporate pimps). And that's apparently how regular people want it to be, because they keep voting for it. That's how we (in Iowa, for example) can literally throw away $30 million in tax revenue in a fraudulent scheme to make Hollywood movies here or handout $540 million ($240M state and local and $300M federal) for just over 100 jobs to an Egyptian fertilizer corporation, one of the biggest corporations in the world. Meanwhile, look at the sorry state of our roads, schools, healthcare, infrastructure, etc., etc. It's appalling. What other good could be done for society if this tax revenue were redirected away from corporations and to something meaningful, like improving our infant mortality rate to something better than 34th in the world. Those are tax increases I will happily support. This is the kind of stuff that leads me to say we're becoming or already are a formerly-developed nation. We don't, can't, and/or won't shoot for number one in anything anymore (except meth and obesity apparently). Still, the original issue is whether or not an extra $1000 or $2000 in taxes that will be wasted on nothing will be felt by regular people and whether or not it will prevent them from taking a trip this year. It may not hurt folks here too much. If you can afford to go to Europe, you'll probably find a way to go somehow, even if you feel this pinch a bit. My guess is that most will feel $120 per month.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2891 posts

Is this a 2% increase to the current tax rate (eg 2% of 5% added), or an extra 2% tax (eg 5% is now 7%)? For Keith, This 2% increase is to the social security contribution. Up until 2 years ago, employees paid 6.2% of their wages for social security. Employers also paid 6.2%. Two years ago, they implemented a temporary reduction in the rate for employees to 4.2% and called it the "payroll tax holiday". Now the "holiday" is over and it is back up to 6.2%. The social security money is supposed to go to the social security trust fund. This is separate from our income tax. Personally, I never understood the "holiday" in the first place because we've been told for years that the trust fund is going to be depleted in the 2030s. Logic just tells you that you can't reduce the contribution without making some substantial change to the program. I personally don't have a problem with paying for social security. While there are clearly other alternatives for administering social security benefits which I think need to be discussed, I think a lot of Americans would not be able to get by in retirement without social security. Many (most?) companies have eliminated defined benefit pension plans. Many Americans have only their own savings plus social security to cover them in old age. I'm glad that people like my grandmother (who lived 30 years after the death of her husband) were able to avoid living in poverty and get decent medical care due to social and medicare.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
234 posts

We had an interesting discussion with a German born waiter living and working in Oslo during our first European trip in 2000. He had lived and worked in Germany and Florida prior to immigrating to Norway. He commented that taxes were high in Norway but the benefits were great. Having visited Europe a number of times since 2000 and seeing the quality of life of the European counties I visited, I can say that you get what you pay for.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1584 posts

What Laura said. It is not really an "increase" of 2% but just a return to the former rate for payroll taxes, 6.2%, that most of us have been paying for many years.

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
194 posts

To answer the OP: NO! I am neither excited nor giddy about what is happening. The theme song in Washington DC should be Judy Collins' 1970's tune "Send In The Clowns".
As far as Rick Steves? Well, he has become very upfront with his political, cultural, and religious views since becoming a success. He can afford it now. I'll bet he wasn't so forthcoming with these views during the early years. I believe his 1990 edition of Europe Through The Back Door stated he was a Republican in college.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

People do learn and grow in college. This thread amazes me that its still here,,, I am rather impressed. All these different views and opinions allowed to stand,, its very, " democratic" lol

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
961 posts

"What say you? Can you still afford his tours?" I'm going to disregard all the political comments and answer the OP's original question. I couldn't afford RS tours anyway so it won't affect me and yes, I will still travel to Europe in 2013 if I want to go (probably won't go till 2014 but reasons have nothing to do with money and certainly not taxes) but I will travel my way, more on the budget side. Very interesting responses though.

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1173 posts

Nope. Won't make a difference in my decisions about where to travel this year. And I have zero interest in taking a guided RS Tour of Europe (or one with any other tour operator for that matter). What say you about Gerard Depardieu abandoning France to hop on a plane and suck down some blinis with Vladimir Putin so he can move to Russia and avoid paying those higher taxes Gerard feels are being doled out by the Socialists as a punishment for being successful? Is he as 'shabby and unpatriotic' as the French PM claims?

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

I would say that he's about as relevant as Randy Quaid, has problems with drunk driving, and may have some mental issues requiring treatment, but he has a right to seek another passport if that's what he wants. Given his sizeable girth, I would have guessed him a prime candidate for a U.S. passport, but in his new region of Russia, he has access to plenty of vodka, fatty foods, and a fine assortment of working gulags to visit. Seriously, he's probably mentally ill. Every four years it seems, certain Hollywood types will complain that their next move is to Canada should a particular presidential candidate be voted in, yet when that happens, they never actually move. I don't know why...I can't think of a couple of better places than Toronto or Vancouver. I suppose we should give the man some credit for putting his money where his mouth is. In the meantime, the other 99.999% of French millionaires are staying home and finding creative ways to avoid the new taxes, like rich people everywhere do. I wonder what tax loopholes and creative tax avoidance strategies Rick's company uses? Surely, he employs an accounting firm. Okay, Walt: Where's the best place to see Rick Steves in Chicagoland in January? Does that keep your shorts out of a wad?

Posted by walt
chicago
14 posts

this is a travel site, Ask where the best view of a sunset is in Nice, or something like that...

Posted by Crash
Vance, Alabama
145 posts

I like this thread! To stay on topic, I'm happy working in Europe, so far. So it won't effect me traveling from the U.S. to here at all. Never could afford RS Tours before, anyway. But, to join in to the other discussion, one thing seems amazing to me, in this great experiment of this Representative Republic that we call America. How come we never get to vote for anyone who is a problem solver? Never an engineer, scientist, an acountant, etc, etc. No! Always an attorney, barrister, banker, corporate lackey. We always have to choose from one clown or the other clown. I know of a guy who was mayor of a major city, and he always said, "If you you always vote for what you have, you will always get, what you got." So true.
(He is in prison now in Alabama.) And please, never compare Randy Quaid to Gerard Depardieu. Randy was good as Lester Marlow in "The Last Picture Show" Gerard is just fat!