My father was a taxman. Actually, he was a CPA, a job he loathed. As a child, I remember tax season very well. He worked long hours and came home in a foul mood. We three kids were instructed to leave him alone while he decompressed in his chair, reading the paper after dealing with other people’s taxes. Dad often told us never to be accountants, and I happily obliged.
From my father, I inherited the importance of honesty and fairness regarding taxes.
My aversion to all things math-related and to tax preparation persists to this day. When I landed my first job as a teacher, and after I was married a year later, my father took care of the tax returns. It was only when my husband went into practice as a psychiatrist and things became a bit more complicated that we hired our own accountant. By that time, my father had retired and was happy to hand us over to a Chicago affiliate of his firm.
From that time on, we paid taxes – lots of taxes. Like most Americans, our income taxes were like a game of Monopoly that’s outcome was rather unpredictable. If we landed on the wrong spot or picked up a bad card from the Chance pile, we paid. Some years we had to pay more. Some years, we got a refund. We often had no idea why.
A couple of years ago, this meme supposedly with numbers taken from Time magazine, went around the Internet. And no, I didn’t check with Snopes to see if it was fake news. But it reflects in spirit the way I feel about taxes these days:
Take my $1.37… I want PBS and NPR.
Take my $.46… I am all for federal funding of art programs.
Take my $.46… I love museums, colleges, and libraries.
Take my $.11… I support developing minority businesses.
Take my $.66… I am for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Take my $1.60… I want us to export more goods overseas.
Take my $0.43… I would like to see more American manufacturing.
Take my $0.88… I think community policing needs improvement.
Take my $1.48… I support programs for women.
Take my $1.55… I believe in due process for all.
Take my $0.48… We need a civil rights division in the justice department.
Take my $0.38… I think we need to defend our Mother Earth.
Take my $0.03… I know more work needs to be done to moderate climate change.
Take my $8.95… because we need to develop sustainable energy.
Take my $2.71… we should reduce our carbon footprint.
If saving these programs means I’m out $22.36 a year, I’m good with contributing my $.07 a day to save American jobs and these federal programs. Oh heck, I’m willing to pay for myself and two more people! That’s a lot of good stuff for $67.08/year!
Of course, that’s not how things work. We pay our fair share but have no control over how our money is spent. Do I want to pay to feed the military-industrial complex? Do I want to contribute to building a wall I don’t believe will help, that Mexico was supposed to pay for? I accept, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” So, my husband and I pay our taxes and we grumble that, as the 1966 Beatles song Taxman, written by George Harrison, laments, they are too high.
If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet
If our taxes went to provide good healthcare for all or to expand the social service safety net, sure – take even more. Last year, I campaigned for a local referendum, which remarkably passed, to raise our already very high property taxes to fund our schools. We all thought the extra tax money would provide more opportunities for children in our community. Instead, it just kept the status quo. Nothing was cut (meaning the arts and social workers) but nothing was added either. Sad.
If everyone played by the same rules, despite the fact that I don’t agree with how our hard-earned money is used, I guess I wouldn’t feel so grumpy on April 15. Of course, we know that’s not how the game is played. Jeff Bezos pays no corporate income tax for Amazon, despite earning a profit of $11.2 billion. And don’t get me started about his arch-enemy, Donald J. Trump, who desperately does not want us to see what, if anything, he has paid. Too bad my father wasn’t their accountant.
My father was a very honest man who believed in treating even his smallest clients with dignity. He dressed formally and carried his adding machine into closet-like backrooms of small businesses where he prepared returns that followed the letter of the law. An FDR Democrat, he believed paying one’s fair share of taxes was a patriotic duty to ensure the common good. Those who could afford more had an obligation to help pay for those who could not as well as to support the commons, the services we all need to survive.
From my father, I inherited the importance of honesty and fairness regarding taxes. When I pass Go, I will take the $200 to which I am entitled. If I land on Pay Income Tax, or receive a Chance or Community Chest card telling me I owe money, I pay. I don’t cheat at Monopoly or taxes. Too bad the taxman never cometh for the players who own those hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place, bankrupting the other players, while paying very little or even nothing at all.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.