TAX

DEFINITION

Tax

Charge against a citizen’s person or property or activity for the support of government


There’s an old saying that goes something like: “there’s only two things for sure in life, and that is death, and taxes,” and I think we’d all have to agree. No matter who the government is, whether they’re the communists, the conservatives, labour, republicans, socialists, the green party, democrats, christian fundamentalists, idealist workers party, the alternative idealist workers party, or the new reformed christian socialist idealist workers party – if they get into power, they’re going to need some cash.

I don’t know if you are aware that governments don’t have any money. They don’t sell anything, and they don’t make anything, so they need to get money for their big projects another way – they need to get money from you. That’s only fair, as you did put them in to power (hopefully, if you live in a democracy), and gave them a mandate (the commission that is given to a government and its policies through an electoral victory).

They need money for all sorts of things such as healthcare, social welfare and housing, education, public transport, and defence.

There is a department for each of these areas which receives a budget from the treasury every year, which the treasury – surprise, surprise – gets from you. This is commonly known as tax.

The primary tax is income tax, which is a percentage of every pence in the pound you earn. This is a personal tax that everyone must pay and companies also have to pay corporation tax. You’d think that’s where it would end, but no, there’s a goods and services tax known as vat (value added tax), which applies to most items you buy in stores, and any extra money you get from any investments, you also have to pay tax on, right up until you die. Oh, but just when you thought they couldn’t tax you anymore, they do. It’s called inheritance tax, and it means that if you leave any assets behind to family or friends, tax has to be taken out.

At every stage in the game of life, they will tax you, re-tax you, and then tax you again, just to be sure you were taxed enough. If you count it up you have probably paid tax 100 times on the same money.

Governments are always attempting to show that they are cutting income tax in “real terms,” but you may notice that more tax is added onto fuel, alcohol and tobacco. Not because the government is concerned with your health or the health of the environment, but because they know you are all addicted to your cars and your distracting pleasures. Basically, you’re all easy targets for the tax man.

So why does he need so much money from us all?

Because the government’s got lots to do!

Before you voted them in, they published a manifesto which detailed what they would do for you if they were voted into power. More money for this service, more money for that service, lower this tax, lower that tax. The money doesn’t grow on trees, unfortunately.

When the chancellor (or whoever does the budget in your country) prepares the budget, he writes down how much money he is proposing to give each department and on the other side, how he proposes to pay for it. In case you didn’t know it, running a country costs billions and billions of pounds per year. Most people don’t realise when they see new public roads being built that they had, in fact, contributed to it through their taxes.

They also probably don’t realise that they are paying for all the failed projects and new initiatives that were quietly disbanded, or new computer systems never implemented after forty million had already been spent, not forgetting the millions spent on consultancy fees and other government “expenses.” Phew, I’m getting dizzy thinking about all this money being spent. Imagine it all being laid out in five pound notes – that’s an awful lot of paper!

It is well known that governments waste money. I thought they were wasteful in the uk until I saw what was going on in some “less well off” countries, or rather countries run by greedy dictators or even worse, incompetent idiots. At least you know where the money’s going with a dictator (probably a personal swiss bank account!).

They just don’t seem to care that the money they are squandering (which on the surface may seem worthwhile projects, just a little over budget) has been given to them by someone who has gone out to work every day and given them a percentage of their earnings.

We all think that the mafia protection rackets are despicable, that someone should be forced to give a percentage of his earnings to the mob in return for “protection,” but isn’t that what we do every month?

Paying a sum for the state to “protect” us (look after our health, our education, our retirement, and a large army to protect us in case anyone invades). They may not be holding a physical gun to our head like the mob does, but if you don’t pay, you’ll end up in jail, very swiftly convicted of tax evasion.

Make no mistake. Tax is a very serious business if you are in government. Remember, a government with no money can’t govern, simple as that, which makes it all the more surprising to watch all our hard earned pounds go down the drain. It is unfortunate, but with governments, the expression, easy come, easy go, always applies. If the country was a business it would always be bankrupt. A company couldn’t keep wasting money on failed initiatives and projects, or blowing millions on consultancy fees. One of two things would happen: (a) the chief executive would be fired, or (b) the company would go under. Simple as that.

I have never thought that paying tax is a bad thing, nor tried to avoid paying it. I figure that if I use a service (the country), I should contribute to it. If I drive on the roads (isn’t the road tax supposed to pay for that?), or use the public transport (but isn’t it all private now?), or use the healthcare system (which I have used so infrequently, and doesn’t cover things like teeth), or use the education system (wait a minute, I’m 38 I don’t go to school anymore!), and hang on a minute, I don’t have a drug addiction problem, I’m not a minority, I work for a living, and don’t need unemployment benefit (actually I’m volunteering), and I don’t need housing benefit, and I don’t have any children – so excuse me for asking, mr chancellor of the exchequer, but what precisely am I getting for my twenty pence in the pound?

I don’t need the services of the army, navy or police as I live on a small island with only fifteen people, and anyway, I don’t believe in the idea of an army, as I probably didn’t tell you that war has never solved anything, and it’s a complete waste of my money and soldiers lives sending them to countries that (a) I’ve never been to, nor am likely to go to, and (b) because I don’t know the real reason why they are there (for world peace probably!).

The more I considered this, the more angry I became. When I am working for money, I pay a percentage of my salary to the exchequer (the funds of a government or institution or individual), and I have no idea what it goes towards and why I have to pay for things (a) I don’t use and (b) don’t want my money to go towards. I realised that the only way for a government to operate, is to tax everyone equally, and use their judgement to distribute the money where it is needed most – after all, that is what you elected them to do.

In a democratic system the power ultimately rests with the people.

They are your elected representatives. But even if your government is not elected in a democratic way, they probably still collect taxes centrally, and distribute them to various departments. But as they are undemocratically elected, may favour certain ones – say, the large missile department, or maybe the retired generals department. The only way to be sure your tax money is at least reaching departments that help the people who have paid for them is to work towards democracy. It isn’t the solution to all our problems, but at least it’s a start.

I’m not giving any money to the army, I’m a pacifist you know!

This idea has been touted around for sometime now, whereby you withhold a percentage of your salary, which is earmarked (according to budget figures) for defence. I was a big supporter of this idea until quite recently when it suddenly dawned on me…

Can you imagine what would happen if we were invaded one day? Who would the army save?

“Hey, I paid for you, protect me,”
“Err, I didn’t pay for you, but now you’re here, could you save me? I’d rather not die, and I’ll back-pay my 5.4798% I should have contributed out of my monthly income to the defence department.”

Can you imagine it? It would be utter chaos!

So how do you ensure your money, that you have all worked so hard for, goes to the areas we want to help most? The answer is. You don’t. The only way to do it if you wish to follow the existing political process is to (a) start your own political party, or (b) vote for a political party that agrees to spend more money on the issues you care about; but will probably get caught short on their budget and have to transfer money from the “peace and love department” to the defence department. You can’t win! Or can you?

The first thing we have to realise, is that no system is perfect. It isn’t now, and it never will be. A government is no different. You can’t spot reduce your tax contribution, the tax system cannot cope with that. Everyone must pay into the pot or the system collapses.

Withholding tax may be one approach, but what benefit do we get from it? No hospitals, no schools, etc. You may want that if you want a destable and anarchic environment in which to live, but that’s not the way forward.

I don’t want that. We have come too far to go back, we need to progress. But if we are going to keep this same system, we would be wise to have a government whose primary aims were peace and compassion for all. I think I would be happy to pay my taxes to a government whose motivation for governing was the health and total well-being of the people, not just to make a richer more powerful country. What benefit has that served us? We may have more money, but we are definitely more stressed, less compassionate and more violent. When money rules, everything else is pushed to the back.

Maybe you want to start a party with compassion. Maybe I will. Or maybe, we’ll just continue the way we are. But if you aren’t happy about where your money is going, don’t just complain about it. Do Something.

Make the rich pay more

Everyone keeps going on about the poor old rich. Well, I don’t know about you, but if I was rich, I wouldn’t be very happy about that.

“Just because I got up early every day, worked my ass off, built a business, gave people jobs, and made a success of myself, in a very competitive world. Why should I, who has done more for this country than most, pay more than someone who has contributed less!” And you can see his point.

He probably does charity work, maybe has a foundation to help disadvantaged children, and maybe even campaigns for world peace.

He has a nice car, because he worked for it. He has a large house, because he worked for it.

Answer me one question. If you were doing well, why would you stop yourself from succeeding? If you spent your life trying to improve yourself and you succeeded, why would you stop yourself from earning money? That would seem pointless. The rich man is already taxed more heavily by the government than people who earn less, and he already makes more of a contribution than the poorer people, so why tax him even more heavily? These are the kind of ideas touted around by the “robin hoods” (legendary english outlaw of the 12th century; said to have robbed the rich to help the poor) of our time, who believe that people who haven’t been successful should be given money by people who have been successful.

A rich man uses no more resources in a country than a poor man, does he? Income tax is supposed to be for hospitals, defence, schools, etc. This is just one more example of people who have less wanting more.
If I am a poor man, have no money or assets, then I complain about the “rich scum” who are taking all the money from the poor. But if I then become a rich man, do I not change my view, or am I happy to refer to myself as “rich scum?”

Down with the government and their capitalist ways!
Oh, but I’ll have your money thanks…

I may have told you in other topics that I am volunteering at the moment in a tibetan buddhist “spiritual” community as a chef. I wanted somewhere peaceful to finish writing my book, and was happy to hear I could volunteer a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation – seems a pretty fair trade to me. This whole centre, dedicated to world peace and health is staffed, as they say in their brochure, “entirely by volunteers.” As I found out yesterday, this is not entirely true.

Whilst sitting at lunch, someone happened to come in with the mail, and I said to one of the very long term (greater than ten years) volunteers, jokingly:
“Oh, is that a tax return?”
“No,” he said, “it’s for my tax credits.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Well, basically I get about £40 a week, as I only work for my board and lodging, so I am classed as a very low paid worker.”
I was quite shocked by this.
“So, you’re telling me that you’re not a volunteer?”
”Technically yes, but I work here, so it’s only fair I get something. If I didn’t claim this tiny amount every week, I’d have to go out onto the mainland to work in a normal job, and anyway the rich government can afford to give me a few pounds instead of spending it on weapons and killing people. I am here doing an important job for the benefit of other people, creating an island of peace, and actually the government sets the minimum amount of money you are supposed to have to live on…”
“So why doesn’t the charity pay you? If you are a volunteer who is ‘actually working’.”
“Look, I’m only claiming what I’m entitled to.”

You see, it all sounds good doesn’t it. Rich imperialist government going around the world killing people vs. volunteer in spiritual community building an island community dedicated to world peace, who only wants “a little.” No competition, is there?

“Give him the money, he deserves it, he’s working for a good cause.”

He was quite angry when I told him that although he thought the people on the mainland were living an illusion and had miserable lives they were the ones going out to work every day, to pay for him to live on an island deep in contemplation. These were the people who didn’t complain, who just got up every morning and went to work – even if they disliked their job. He had the cheek to complain about them, and their ways, and their government.
“But I work for a charity,” he said.
“Then they should pay you, not the working man in the street.”
The conversation ended.

I subsequently found out that most of the “volunteer” residents here were doing the same thing. In my mind there’s something about a man who does not contribute.

They talk in this community about helping, “all beings achieve peace,” and they meditate on that for hours a day, but what they are forgetting, is that most of the general public would prefer to be on the island meditating instead of trying to earn some money and put something back into the community in the form of tax, which pays for everything we use in a country.

I have known many “hippies” who wanted to start communes, and live in the woods away from everyone else. They have rejected western ideals and want to get back to nature, except they sign on the dole every week, and someone else (whose ideals they have rejected) has to pay them unemployment benefit every week.

But they don’t know what getting back to nature means. It’s not wearing a loin cloth and rolling around in mud, failing to wash – that is getting back to being an animal. Getting back to nature requires nothing more than a shift in thinking.

Don’t complain about your government or your society, then claim money from them, it weakens your arguments somewhat. If you want to complain and moan then do it the right way. Contribute first, that includes you, and gives you a voice. Otherwise, don’t complain.

You may want to reject modern life, and the society you live in, but please, do it on your own money, oh, and while your at it, don’t use the hospitals, the education system, the roads, the electricity, or the water supplies – but by all means use your own.

The man who stands alone free of the ties of society is indeed a brave man, and I wish you luck in your quest. But please don’t involve everyone else in your cause (financially that is).

This topic on taxation is not about who has more money, or who has less, and who should pay more, tax is about the whole community (the world) putting up a certain predetermined amount of money for the benefit of others. We must not get caught up in arguments about the rights and wrongs of tax. If the money were distributed by monks would you feel better? Would you think it was going to the right places?

Governments are only made up of people like you and I. They are not from a different planet! They are doing what they think is right for the country, however misguided it may be. You cannot select what to contribute to at this time, but I still feel it is right for everyone to contribute. I just wish it was spent on disarming us, and educating people in the ways of compassion and empathy, instead of on nuclear missiles and education just to get employment. We have a voice, you and I, it just depends if you care enough to use it.

It’s ok to help others.
It’s ok to pay your share.
It’s what it goes on that I care about.


by alan macmillan orr

“The natural mind – waking up”

2009

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