Today’s the big day. Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and the waterproofness of skin.* I hope you enjoy my little collection of all things taxes. Death and weathertight skin will have to wait for another day.
This is quite possibly one of the funniest things ever written about taxes: A Basic Guide to Taxes. The folks over at “Helpful Figures” put out some pretty hilarious infographics. Just a little taste to whet your percentage-paying appetites:
“The amount of taxes that happens varies wildly from person to person. Some economists think this is because of sins; others think it is ghosts. We’ll never know for certain.”
In an effort to protest government spending on war, Shane Claiborne (and others) have organized 1040 For Peace. Participants withhold $10.40 from the IRS when paying your federal taxes. “Money has power. And so withholding money has power too, especially when a bunch of people do it together. ”
I won’t get into all the reasons I doubt this stunt will accomplish anything. Nor will I expound on my beliefs that there are much better ways to go about protesting moneys spent on military — or affecting change in the federal budget. But I will take issue (as briefly as possible) with this organization’s understanding of the Christian’s responsibility to pay taxes.
Jesus spoke of paying taxes twice in the New Testament: once when he answered “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and once when he had Peter catch a fish with a coin in it’s mouth — a coin which paid both of their taxes. Jesus could have stated directly that Christians are to pay their taxes, but instead he replied with some pretty serpentine answers. 1040 For Peace interprets Jesus’ answers as a “wink” to Caesar and an indication that Christ didn’t actually believe we have a firm responsibility to pay our taxes. They then describe Jesus as a “particularly subversive example” when it comes to paying taxes.
I disagree. And for many reasons, though I’ll only offer two:
1. Jesus rarely (if ever) answered any question with a straightforward answer. I think we misrepresent his purposes when we assume, then, that all those replies involved sarcasm or irony. I’m not denying the possibility of such, but we ought to have good reason for reading Jesus’ words that way — one stipulation being that our interpretation doesn’t conflict with other New Testament principles. Which brings us to…
2. It’s difficult for me to read Jesus’ replies n these situations as removing our responsibility to pay taxes to our governments when Paul says very plainly in Romans 13 that we should. Many of us recognize that chapter as one which states that we should be subject to our earthly and government authorities (which God has placed in those positions). But if that doesn’t make clear the tax situations, perhaps the lesser quoted vv. 5-7 does:
“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
A bit of satire in support of paying taxes: Tax Day Rally. My favorite line:
“My grandmother lived through the Great Depression. Clearly, she does not need my tax dollars going toward her Medicare and Social Security. She knows how to survive.”
Tax guru, Martin Ginsburg (husband of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), at a roundtable on tax simplification: “A famous French finance minister long ago announced that the art of taxation is indistinguishable from the art of plucking a goose. Artistic success rides on extracting the maximum number of feathers with the minimum amount of squawking.“
Sign at Executive Park Amoco: “A dime is really a dollar with all the taxes taken out.”
Both of these quotes (and a lot of tax humor — if there’s such a thing) can be found at TaxLetter, a site devoted to just such things.