On Paying Taxes, Resignedly

In theory, I love the idea of taxes. I’m the only one of my friends who regularly votes for tax increases. That whole egalitarian ideal of paying for the provision of necessary services really pleases me on a human level. It’s such a hopeful concept. It does take a village…

But of course, theory never translates into real life quite the way anyone would imagine. Human nature tends to corrupt even the processes created with the purest intentions. This democratic society in which we live is a prime example of greed, waste, and corruption.

[Side note: There are moments in life when the gratitude for corruption is undeniable. In South Africa, we had managed to lose a few hub caps on our rental car – to say nothing of the rim that I dented….oops. But since they never found out about the rim, that’s irrelevant. Upon returning the cars, we bribed the rental car lady to take us to a super shady garage where they sold hub caps. I had to bargain with them – still got ripped off, but I was desperate and they knew it – in order to replace the hub caps. In that moment, I realized how awful I was for participating in the perpetuation of a corrupt society, but I was almost giddy with relief that we’d managed to avoid a serious foreign rental car debacle. Thank you, cash.]

I love the idea of paying for better roads, better hospitals, better schools. I have deep appreciation for certain (emphasis on certain, like the Dutch) European models. I love the idea of living somewhere where my contributions can be seen around me in positive and beautiful ways.

What I don’t like? Paying into a social security system that will never be able to provide for me. Paying taxes but not seeing spending allocated to serve the needs of the mentally ill, veterans, and other people who need those services most. Excessive defense spending. And so on. But we can only hope that the people we’ve elected have our best interests at heart (hardly likely) and work to change processes from within.

I’m always pleased to get my tax refund. For the past few years, my income has been such that I have received a very welcome check from the government after I file my taxes.

This year, I sat down to do them and was astonished to see how much I owe. Yes, you read that right. Owe. I was floating on a cloud of newly accrued savings bliss, and now I am floating on a storm cloud of hatred for forms and lines.

I’m just being grumpy. I love adulthood. I love freedom and responsibility. I love taking charge of things. I love all of that, but I so hate stuff like library fines (finally got them again after over a year without them), parking tickets, and newly, taxes.

I guess this is one of the instances where it doesn’t bother you until it happens to you. (I’ve been known to say things like, “I don’t understand why they don’t want tax increases! What about the good of the people?” But now I may some day be quoted as saying, “Grumble grumble grumble….taxes.”)

I will pay with grace. It is a privilege to participate in government, even if my participation is involuntary. Use my money wisely, government, that’s all I’m asking.

[Second – and last, I swear – side note: This is a super cool use of government and citizen willingness to cooperate for good – Englewood, Colorado has this concrete utility. It’s voluntary to participate, but you pay into it and then if your sidewalk or curb needs repaired, they’ll fix it for free! You would have had to get it fixed or face trouble anyway, so this is the ultimate solution. You pay into something at a pretty low rate and then when you need help, they’ll evaluate your damage and fit you into their schedule. I called the utility to ask them about it before we moved, and I had the best conversation with the guy who worked there. He was so friendly and so willing to answer all of my weird concrete questions. Caveat: once you’ve gotten assistance from the concrete utility, your participation in the program is no longer voluntary. But that makes total sense, so I bet they don’t get many complaints about it.]


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