Colorado students use texting to compare McCain, Obama tax burdens

Want to know how Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s tax plans will affect your bottom line? Two Colorado College students have created a text message service to find out how typical tax burdens fare under each candidate.

Kyle Cureau and Jess Arnsteen set up a Web page to perform the same calculations as TaxInfo2008.org, but the “Cell Phone Calc” service promises to wow friends and neighbors — and voters — with its instant calculations.

“Implementing new technologies to promote voter awareness,” Cureau told Colorado Springs TV station KXRM. “It is definitely something you can do in a coffee shop and show your friends.”

The service is free, aside from standard text messaging rates. Send the word “TAX” and your anticipated income to 95495. For example, “TAX $42,000” retrieves the result:

Your tax bill will be (est.) $319 less under McCain or $1,042 less under Obama.

The students stress on their Web site that it’s intended to educate voters — they don’t endorse either candidate or either candidate’s tax plan — and note the calculations are based on analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

“They are a self-proclaimed non-partisan center made up of tax experts from across the board,” Arnsteen said.

The students also point out the calculations are rough approximations, not accounting for different deductions, income type and other variables.

For a typical freelance writer starting out at $18,000 annually, the difference between McCain and Obama’s plans would be profound:

Your tax bill will be (est.) $19 less under McCain or $567 less under Obama.

On the other hand, if either McCain or Obama were forced to get by on the presidential salary of $400,000, the savings advantage swaps:

Your tax bill will be (est.) $7,871 less under McCain or $12 more under Obama.

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Ernest Luning

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