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Call Me Crazy But I Like Paying Taxes

Today is our traditional tax day. Instead of dreading it, celebrate.

Key points

  • Paying taxes evokes lots of negative feelings, but it does not have to be that way.
  • Taxes represent our civic duty and connection to others.
  • Paying taxes help us to think about the well-being of others. We practice empathy when we pay taxes.
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels
Source: Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

I know it’s popular to dread tax day, and we like to complain about paying taxes. However, there are other ways to view tax day on April 15th. Taking different perspectives on dreaded events can help us to lose some of the negativity surrounding the event; over the years I have tried that with the annual practice of paying my income tax. (Note that this year, we are given a one-month extension across the board.)

Alternative ways to think about taxes

The first alternative perspective I consider is what it means to pay taxes. It’s not so much that I like to pay taxes, rather it is that I like the ideal behind paying taxes. What does it mean to have to pay taxes? It means:

  1. I have a job.
  2. I am contributing to society, especially for things I care about like health care, the safety of food, scientific breakthroughs, interstate roads, fire protection, and schools.
  3. If I earn enough to pay taxes, that means the more I pay the more I have earned.
  4. Childhood security. Tax season was very important while I was growing up because it put food on the table and a roof over our heads, my father was an accountant. One of his favorite lines was that he never had a client who complained about earning too much money, so more taxes meant more earnings, see “3” above.
  5. I am doing my duty as a citizen by sharing in the care of society.

The second alternative perspective I consider is how much I benefit every day from public resources paid for through taxes. I take books out of the public library free of charge, I walk my dog through our municipal parks, I have the security of calling 911 if there is an emergency. Just today I got a test email from my town community emergency notification system. Last summer, it warned me of a wildfire a couple of miles away and that it was under control. I was reassured by the update. I have government services checking the quality of the food I eat and the water I drink. Tax money is spent on things that if I had to take care of myself, I could not. How could I ensure that I have 24-hour police, fire, and emergency medical coverage? I cannot pave every road I need to drive on nor treat my water to ensure it is safe to drink. I know nothing about the electric grid, except that I want to be able to safely turn on my lights and heat my home in winter. And taking care of waste management and sanitation, I am glad to leave that to public experts.

And the third alternative perspective I consider is how something as mundane as paying taxes can evoke empathy . Maybe it sounds crazy, but if I am thinking about “No. 2” and “No. 5” above, I am thinking about the well-being of others. I am practicing important components of empathy like self-other awareness, perspective-taking, and the macro skill of contextual understanding. Caring about others is actually a subtext of paying taxes.

Liking taxes is not the same as liking how the money is spent

Don’t confuse not wanting to pay taxes with not liking the way taxes are spent. Is every tax penny spent efficiently and effectively? Certainly not. We have every right to not approve of how taxes are spent.

But not paying taxes does not solve that problem. Democracy means we can change the people spending our tax money, not starve our nation of the resources we need to function and succeed.

Using empathy to view mundane practices such as paying taxes can help us face tasks we dread with a new perspective, and maybe in the process lift our mood too.