As April 15 approaches, Americans are reminded of one of the dirtiest words in the English language: taxes.
The focus of Tax Day is often on the hard-earned dollars we'll kiss goodbye or the eagerly awaited check we'll find in our mailboxes. While the masses either bemoan their losses or cash their government refunds, I want to reframe our view of Tax Day to that of taxpayer pride.
Being proud of paying taxes seems countercultural, but Tax Day gives us many reasons to celebrate. Conceived as a means of pooling public resources to pay for public goods, taxes are a mechanism for creating a strong civil community. Taxes are a means of societal contribution to the common good, not simply a complex burden on our personal capital. After all, where would we be without clean tap water, sanitation, or public education? Inarguably, these are goods we don't want to give up.
The government cannot provide the vital public services that it does without raising revenue to do so. Living in a society with extensive infrastructure and social programs requires collecting finances. We should be proud to pay into a system that helps create a strong community for all.
Although we should be proud to pay taxes, there is no doubt that sometimes, tax dollars are abused. Likewise, many are disillusioned about taxes because of the deep-seated issues in the American tax system. Capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than many people pay on their own hard work. Corporations search out loopholes and move overseas to avoid giving back. Regressive taxes like the sales tax levy a much heavier burden on those who have fewer resources. We see injustice written into the law through the tax code.
Furthermore, there's a pervasive view that only the poor benefit from the government. Popular rhetoric says that the more affluent taxpayers simply give and never receive benefit from the system, but that's simply not true. At points in our lives, we all give to and benefit from the system. For example, as a college student, I received a federally subsidized loan to help pay for my education. When I get to my peak career years, my income tax may help fund that same subsidized loan for another student.
The problem that leads society to such contempt of April 15 is not the taxes themselves, but that the system is complicated and unjust. It's important to advocate for comprehensive tax reform and a system that raises reasonable revenue for responsible programs where everyone pays their fair share. As we do so, we shouldn't forget the important role that taxes play in cultivating the common good. The taxes we pay make it possible for children to be educated, the elderly to be cared for, health care to be affordable, and the air and earth to be clean for future generations.
This April 15, rather than tallying your losses, count your gains. Appreciate the national parks, public libraries, and bike lanes that your tax dollars pay for, and hold your head high with taxpayer pride.