Why you should care
Because we asked and you answered.
Last week we asked, “Should you be able to withhold taxes for issues you disagree with, keeping in mind there is a legal penalty?” You answered. Here are some reader responses and perspectives, with editing for clarity. Check back tomorrow for our next question. Every Wednesday, we’re debating hot topics in the lead-up to our next TV show, Third Rail with OZY, launching on PBS this fall. Keep your eyes peeled.
My opinion is no, we should not be able to cherry-pick where our taxes go. We have a representative republic, so we elect supposedly intelligent people of high character to make these choices for us. If we don’t like their choices, we elect new representatives. Having said that, our republic should not be able to spend more than it takes in.
Taxpayers should not be able to withhold taxes. However, I do believe it would be beneficial if taxpayers could choose which tax programs to fund or contribute to … like a 401(k).
Let us create and pass a constitutional amendment where each citizen directs where the taxes they pay go.
It is inappropriate and very risky to attempt to withhold taxes. The IRS has no debt forgiveness. It is the only debt, along with child support, that can’t be alleviated via bankruptcy, and that’s for a good reason. But because of our representative form of government, we do have every right to take the government to task for wastefulness or for morally questionable choices. But you have no moral high ground on which to stand to refuse to pay taxes.
Quakers have been challenging the government by holding back taxes deemed headed to the military for years. Many fought all the way to the Supreme Court, and decisions ultimately favored the government. At street fairs we did “bean polls” — giving people 10 beans to split up as they desired into 10 jars labeled Military, Education, Infrastructure, Agriculture, etc. — and the preferences for tax distribution never matched the distribution our representatives seemed to believe we wanted. Which raises the question, who are our representatives working for?
No. The ordinary taxpayer does not have enough information to decide what taxes should go to. Sound bites and marketing would take over. It would be a nightmare.
If you want real democracy, let the people pay only their taxes to support issues that actually reflect what they’re willing to have government do — and not what they’re ethically opposed to having their money spent on. Who knows, we might find that the Pentagon would have to hold bake sales to fund the next war.
I will be transparent and say outright that I am a Democrat living in a bright-red state: North Dakota. I fear if we go down the road of picking and choosing where tax dollars are spent — and I have had thoughts, many times, about my tax dollars going toward agendas that violate my belief system — we risk disruption of our governmental structure. We have a vote, we win or lose, and we then must accept the results and what goes along with them.
The concept is great, but open to rampant abuse in practice. Better to recall your elected representative and have that person replaced as he or she voted to misuse your tax dollars for projects that were an abuse of their stewardship.
Your opportunity to voice what you agree with and don’t agree with happens in the voting booth, not when you pay taxes.
I have just passed the 10-month mark of my first year of massive resistance. I mark this new beginning of my life on June 11, 2016, with the death of my father and with my commitment to redirect much of my inheritance to make a better world. Dad left me $1 million with instructions to distribute about half of it to grandchildren and great-grandchildren and special others. I did that and then set to work on my half. My commitment to civil disobedience in honor of my mother, who became a criminal for peace in her later years, is acted out in my case with war tax resistance. I am resisting the $128,005 I owe in federal income tax for 2016 because nearly 50 percent of anything I do pay will go for war or preparation for war. I cannot in good conscience pay for war. I have donated more than that amount to meet human needs internationally, nationally and locally.… I take this action of war tax resistance, as I have over the years, with a combination of fear and pride. I take this action of resisting and redirecting federal income taxes because my conscience will not allow me to do otherwise.
In my opinion, anyone (or any company) who refuses to pay taxes because of policy disagreements is a freeloader. They expect the benefits of a free education, police protection, modern roads and bridges, clean air and water, etc., without paying for them. They are looking for any excuse to not pay their taxes and should be prosecuted accordingly.
* We have amended the question from its original wording to make it clear that there is a legal penalty to such an action.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your own thoughts and check back in tomorrow!