No one likes paying taxes. It’s inconvenient, annoying and oftentimes confusing.
If you did your federal or state income taxes yourself, you probably downloaded the federal income tax forms to fill out from the IRS website.
If you’re like me, you probably started filling out the wrong form.
Thankfully, I don’t make enough money to pay too much in income taxes.
Sadly, I don’t make enough money to have to pay that much in income taxes.
Most of my taxes are paid in the form of sales tax on the products I buy and the food I consume.
Do I feel like the government is coercing me to give up my property in the form of taxes, as my State Press colleague wrote on Monday?
I’m not thrilled about paying taxes, obviously.
I’d rather not fill out the forms and then have to fill them out again. (Will I ever learn?)
But I believe that’s the price I pay to live in a more or less ordered society, and I accept it.
I don’t feel it is immoral for the government to levy taxes in order to pay for things like national defense, public schools, police and fire departments, life-saving scientific research, providing public defenders, financial aid to students, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
You may say that I don’t understand the agony of having to pay taxes because I don’t make that much money, and thus can have no useful input. But I am a member of society and I reap the benefits, as do you.
There are some who think refusing to pay taxes is a morally justified position. They are “standing up” for what is right: not having to pay taxes.
An act of civil disobedience is then required, according to this view — laws that are morally wrong ought not to be obeyed.
The pioneer of this view was transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau who wrote “Civil Disobedience” in 1849.
Thoreau’s beef with paying taxes stemmed from his moral objection to involvement in the Mexican-American War or the continued institution of slavery.
Thoreau did not want to support either with his tax dollars. He was so morally outraged that he was willing to take the punishment for valiantly refusing to pay his poll tax in Massachusetts. He spent one whole night in jail — what a patriot.
Thoreau wrote, “When I meet a government which says to me, ‘Your money or your life,’ why should I be in haste to give it my money?”
Clearly, Thoreau risked life and limb for his single night spent in jail.
He managed to write an essay decrying the evils of taxation before returning to his regularly sanctimonious existence.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., however, also wrote an essay while in jail after he was arrested for his part in the anti-segregation campaign in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963.
He wasn’t whining about taxes.
If you disagree with any of the many things your tax dollars finance, I can more easily understand why you hate paying taxes. If you don’t like that your tax dollars fund wars, Planned Parenthood or ethanol subsidies, that’s an understandable moral objection.
But it’s a tough sell — if not an impossible one — to say that paying taxes amounts to an immoral coercion by the government.
Somehow we as a country have gone from “no taxation without representation” to “I don’t like paying my taxes.”
It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Liberty is more than keeping your pocketbook lined to excess.
Reach the columnist at Skthoma4@asu.edu