Tax is designed to generate enough revenue to sustain essential public service, such as public safety, civil infrastructure for communication and transportation and basic health services. When you see a government hospital, you know your taxes support the upkeep of that institution. And when you see soldiers fighting in battlefields, you can be sure tax money went into training them and keeping them fit and equipped to preserve our national security.
As essential as tax is to our national existence, many do not know the true value of what taxes can do other than what we have mentioned above. Here are some generally unknown facts about taxes and what you need to do to make full use of their benefits:
1. Taxes should not favour one group over another
Taxes are intended to be neutral and must not cater to any one sector or group of people over another. Neither should it impose or interfere with individual decision-making.
What this signifies is that taxes, as they were originally conceived, had an altruistic purpose meant to benefit people equally without favoring any individual or any societal unit. It is a fund to provide services and public amenities for all people alike. So, whether you earn only so much or make millions, you walk or drive over the same road or bridge that taxes helped to build. We cannot discount the goodwill and welfare taxes have brought to both ancient and modern societies.
Pay your taxes so you can enjoy them
2. Taxes must be predictable
In order for a government to function well, it must have some stability in terms of its fiscal health. Without the necessary funds to run a government, chaos would ensue. And so, taxes must flow into a state’s coffers at a regular schedule and at a reasonably predictable amount or the oil will run out at a time when the engine of progress badly needs it.
Now, we understand why the state imposes and does not merely request that taxes be paid at a particular time of the year. Why April for many countries? It is the time of the year when people have probably paid off last year’s debts or recovered from the expenses of the holiday season in the previous year. It is also the time when most parents have extra cash because their children are on school vacation. Unfortunately, it is also the time when many people want to spend a vacation. So, it is either you pay your tax or spend a nice vacation during spring for most people.
3. Taxes must be simple
Assessment and computation of tax and determination should be easily understood by the average taxpayer. But this has been forgotten by tax officials in recent years. It has not only become more complex in terms of schedule as the tax calendar seems to unending nowadays, it has also become so hard to decipher through the many pages now incorporated in the tax return. The best thing to do, if you have extra cash is to let an accountant do your tax.
4. Taxes must not be forced but enforced to encourage voluntary compliance
The key is convenience. As much as possible, it is the tax officials’ duty to encourage voluntary compliance among taxpayers through creative implementation without making people feel they are being harassed or unduly burdened. Ordinary taxpayers have to go through a lot of stress figuring out forms and lining up to pay their tax. Perhaps, a more convenient way can be implemented using modern technology and the banking system. If we can pay bills in malls or online now, why cannot tax be paid in the same way?
5. Taxes earmarked for specific purposes must result in direct benefits
Certain taxes, such as gasoline tax for road maintenance, must be dedicated to the particular purpose they were intended based on a direct cost-benefit link. Today, much of the corruption in government circles arise from misappropriating taxes or diverting them from their intended purposes, thus, losing sight of the original intent of the tax.
What can the taxpayer do to prevent these things from happening? Aside from joining protest rallies or talking to your congress representative, you can actually form or join small groups that could create awareness among people through the media or Internet. This is already being done on Facebook and Twitter. How effective it is may be hard to measure; but time will come when a critical mass of concerned people will have a force of a virtual army that can change the tide of events in a society.
Inevitable as taxes may be, enjoying their ultimate benefits can be a much better motivation that spending our time looking for ways to avoid them.