It’s the time of year when we’re all talking about taxes. Have you finished them? Why are they so complicated? Did you save enough during the year to pay them? How will you spend your refund?
But we frequently forget to ask the real questions: why do we pay taxes? And that’s because we forget the answer: it’s how we pay for the public structures and systems that make our lives, our communities, and our country strong.
So, let’s talk about taxes better. We have a tool to help.
Americans are not known for loving to pay our taxes. You may remember that we fought a revolution about not having input into how our taxes were assessed or what they were paying for. And there are a lot of people right at this moment, whenever you are reading this, who feel like their taxes are unfair, for whatever reason.
But we have taxation with representation in America (most of the time…ahem, D.C…). We decide, through our elected officials, how high our taxes will be and how they will be assessed. We decide what incentives to offer people, through tax rebates and credits, to encourage positive actions, like educating your children, having children, buying energy efficient cars and appliances, getting a mortgage, donating to charities, and going to college.
Plus: we decide what we will fund through those taxes. Taxes help us build thriving communities. They pay for things we love and use, like roads, schools, parks, health inspectors, firefighters, and NASA. Over time, they have created the public structures that make our lives possible, like universities and social services. We have chosen, as a country, as a state, as a community, to fund public investments that benefit all of us. And we can choose what to fund with our tax dollars in the future.
And when we don’t like how they are being assessed, or if we feel as if they are not being fairly assessed, or we don’t like what we’re paying for, we can talk to our elected officials and change it. We probably should.
So, when we talk about taxes, as we all do, instead of just complaining about them existing at all, let’s be productive. We can encourage our neighbors and our friends to remember that taxes are how we create and maintain our public systems and structures. We can remind people that we are more than just taxpayers, we are citizens, and that means we have a say in all of this.
Indivisible has a new tool to help make it easier to frame conversations about taxes more productively. Because talking about paying our taxes is secretly an opportunity to remind our friends and neighbors about our public systems and structures. In a disguise.
- Connect taxes to the common good by explaining how we all benefit.
- Offer specific examples of what taxes make possible.
- Lengthen the time horizon.
- Give people civic agency.
- Some things NOT to say.
But you want the long version. It has explanations. And examples.
So download the tool now. And let’s do what we can do. Because while we may not like paying our taxes, we like and depend on the public systems and structures that we have created and maintained with them.
They’re like the spoonful of sugar. Except good for everyone.