I have a simple plea for politicians. I’d like you to stop promising to give me "back more of my own money” by cutting taxes.
The fact of the matter is that it’s not “my own money”. Government’s tax revenue is money that we pool together to fund the services and infrastructure to provide for a decent life for all citizens and to help those around the world who are striving against terrible poverty and injustice.
US Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jnr said, “Tax is the price we pay for a civilised society.” Christians should always be eager and ready to contribute to the common good.
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
To be honest, I don’t agree with everything my taxes are spent on. I think we are too willing to go to war whenever America asks us, for example. I lament the billions we spend imprisoning vulnerable asylum seekers or jailing Indigenous Australians at hideously disproportionate rates.
But I’m glad to pay my taxes for the good they contribute to also.
If a disaster strikes my neighbours in the Philippines, my tax dollar helps coordinate emergency assistance and relief efforts that I couldn’t support alone. When a woman I will never meet flees from a violent and abusive relationship, my tax dollar helps fund a refuge for her to find shelter and support. When an industry closes down, my tax dollar helps to retrain workers and provide support for those thrown out of work on a scale I could never match alone.
Christians can and should argue about what our taxes should be spent on. I support lower taxes on personal and business income as well as activities that benefit society. I also support higher taxes on socially and environmentally harmful activities, as well as capital gains (which is basically money you get from making use of money you already had).
We can and should also argue about how high various tax rates should be. We want to ensure that people have incentives to invest in productive activities and use their skills and labour to make a contribution to society. The fact of the matter is, though, that Australia already has low taxes compared to other developed nations.
Pay to all what is due – taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due. Owe no one anything, except to love one another. Romans 13:7–8
The reason that the tax I pay isn’t mine to begin with is that any time I start a job or a business, I have an obligation to render a percentage of my business or job income to the Government to support our “common wealth.” Because the business I start or the job I find is not my own creation. It requires an educated population (and tax paid for that education).
Any business uses a huge range of publicly-funded infrastructure and services – from telecommunications to power to transport to sewage to the bureaucies and legal systems that allow me to employ people and sign contracts. I didn’t create those systems and institutions. They were gifted to me by the taxpayers who went before me and by those who pay their taxes around me.
Part of why I don’t mind paying my fair share of tax is because I recognise that I owe a little bit to everyone.
Ben Thurley is the National Coordinator of Micah Australia.