I always extend my income tax return, usually until Oct. 15. However, this year I filed early, on Aug. 15. Filing income tax returns is always a time of reflection and introspection for me. When I totaled my income and social security tax and compared that with my adjusted gross income, I find that I have paid slightly over 34% of my income in taxes. Were I to consider other taxes, such as gasoline, sales and property, the percentage would go up even higher. Is that too little, too much or about right?
It seems appropriate to consider what the government is providing in exchange for the taxes it receives. What is the most important service provided by government to its citizens? In my view, protection of life, limb and property rates pretty high on the priority list. If we live in fear that our country or our homes are likely to be invaded and our families put in harm’s way nothing else really matters very much until that danger is removed. Our country gets a very good grade for protecting its citizens from foreign threats and a substantially lower grade for protecting us from our neighbors. Though the crime rate in America is down, it is still way too high. In large part, our security from foreign invasion is more a result of the weakness of other countries than the strength and readiness of our military, which has suffered mightily during the Clinton years.
What else does the government do to earn its keep? It builds roads, provides public education and supports advances in medical science. Of these three services, public education is likely the least effective. Though I strongly support public education, I am aware that graduates are frequently not prepared to enter the work force upon graduation. There is absolutely no excuse for this! In my view, we are too attentive to political correctness and multi-culturalism and fail to emphasize reading, writing and arithmetic enough. In addition, the whole field of education has become a quagmire of bureaucracy, which burdens the teachers and stymies learning.
While the above listing of services is woefully incomplete, it does serve to remind us of some of the things our tax dollars are spent on. Unfortunately, to my way of thinking, there is another list of services rendered by government that I wish would disappear entirely. Our free market economy runs fairly well on its own steam. There is little need for government intervention except to prevent the most flagrant abuses. Obviously, I hold a minority opinion on this matter since our elected officials increasingly burden us with one meaningless regulation after another. Political pay-offs to supporters with tax dollars is another wretched practice that undermines the confidence of the citizenry.
Returning to the original theses of whether taxes are too high, let’s make some comparisons and see how the tax bite measures. The Bible says that 10% of our income is to be set aside to support our church. With no disrespect intended, if God deems 10% adequate for His purposes, why must the government require three times that much to run the country?
In fact, very few Americans pay their tithe. So, let’s look a little closer to home. In fact, let’s look at the cost of home ownership. Financial planners advise us to keep our housing costs below 25% of our income or we may crash upon the shore of financial difficulty. In my experience, I have never paid anything like that much for my housing. If I paid 34% of my income in taxes and 25% for housing, there would only be 40% remaining for everything else. Does it seem appropriate that government costs more than our homes? In fact, taxes are the largest line item on my personal budget!
I love America and wouldn’t consider living anywhere else. I appreciate what our government does and don’t begrudge paying my fair share of taxes. I do feel that taxes are too high and we could get plenty of government for far less money.
THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT
In this light, the purpose of human life is to achieve our own spiritual evolution, to get rid of negativity, to establish harmony among our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual quadrants, to learn to live in harmony within the family, community, nation, the whole world and all living things, treating all of mankind a brothers and sisters – thus making it finally possible to have peace on earth.
– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross,
Psychiatrist and author of “On Death and Dying”
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.