A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a family member where the concept of taxpayers kept coming up.
It was a familiar argument, typically constructed like this: we need lower taxes, because taxes are too high. We occasionally see similar arguments levelled at civil servants and politicians, as in “my taxes pay your salary.”
Paying taxes is not something any of us enjoy. Nor is it something government should do for the simple sake of taxing. Governments cannot or should not tax for the sake of taxing, then figure out how the spend the money.
To my knowledge, there are no governments that operate in that fashion.
The concept of citizenship is both undermined and rendered worthless by the concept of a taxpayer. Our society has an obligation to offer services and protection to some who will never pay taxes. To turn our back on many of our citizens for the sake of a smaller budget is both mistaken and unproductive for our economic growth and well-being.
Programs such as social assistance, mental health support, public transit, old-age care and parks and recreation, not only provide economic support to the most vulnerable, but also help create a city of prosperity and freedom.
The difference between the two — to paraphrase John F. Kennedy — is a citizen asks what they can do for their country, where a taxpayer asks what their country can do for them.
I may never use some of the services, but that neither renders them useless nor wasteful. I will hopefully never be murdered, that does not mean homicide investigation is a waste of tax dollars.
The fact is our community is investing in its citizen’s growth and development; I can think of no greater return on our taxes than that.
Adjunct Professor of Political Science