Paying Taxes

I know a lot of people that dodge taxes. Sometimes it’s legally exploiting loopholes, sometimes it’s doing things that can’t possibly be legal. The business owner who “forgets” to ring in all-cash sales to skip out on taxes. The Massachusetts resident who drives to New Hampshire to buy expensive things so they don’t have to pay taxes. The business owner who buys a new luxury car in the business’s name with the profits so the business doesn’t have to pay taxes.

For some reason, we almost glorify these people. They’re clever. They’re beating the system; sticking it to the man. But this makes no sense to me. We all, collectively, have a (massive) bill to pay to keep the country running. The people that find shady ways to avoid their taxes are like a friend who skips out on the bill at dinner. We end up having to pay the slack. (Albeit more indirectly.)

And yet a lot of the people who skip out on the bill are the same ones who complain about people mooching off the system. I’m sure they exist, though I’ve never met a single one of them. I have, however, met a ton of people who don’t pay their taxes for one reason or another.

To keep up with the analogy of someone skipping out on the bill at a restaurant, now imagine two criminals. One walks one wearing a ski mask and makes off with $100 from the cash register. ┬áBut then there’s the guy over at the table who enjoys a delicious $75 steak and a $25 fine wine, and then pretends to choke on the steak and demands a free meal. Or the restaurant supplier who, when totaling the receipt for what he’s delivering, “mistakenly” raises the total by $100 to see if the restaurant notices his error, and walks out with $100 extra as a result.

We all despite the first guy, the robber. His crime was brazen and unforgivable. I think this is like the people who “mooch off government handouts.” I hear about them in the news, and totally agree that it’s bad, but think blaming them for all our problems is a straw-man argument. But then there are the two people defrauding the restaurant of the same amount of money as the ski-masked robber. And for some reason, there’s a novelty. Instead of being aghast at what we’ve just witnessed, we laugh. “They really fell for that? Man, you’re sneaky!” These are like the people who find “loopholes” to get out of paying the taxes they really owe. They’re ultimately sticking us with the bill just as much, but we for some reason are less eager to point the finger at them.

And then we, as supporters of the white-collar criminals, make nonsensical statements to justify them. “Yeah, the prices at that restaurant were too high! That’ll show them!” “It was just going to be stolen by a robber anyway!” Or, even less-sensibly, “That restaurant carries a ton of debt! It’s only fair that I skipped out on the bill.”

All of this said, I hate how high my taxes are. But I pay them, because we have roads (in terrible shape) to repair, kids to teach, and a country to defend. I have to pay for the fireman that put out the burning building across the street to keep it from spreading to my apartment, the police that catch hypothetical masked restaurant-robbers, the guys that repaired the gaping hole in the bridge I used to drive over every day, the military that keeps deranged despots from attacking us, the cost of repairing the 4′-deep pothole in the highway that I used to hit every single time, and even the cost of running the constellation of satellites that permit my GPS to function. I wish it were all cheaper, true, but I pay what I owe and am proud in the knowledge that I’m doing my part in supporting my country, state, and city.

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