Wednesday, 21 April 2021
“IN this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” said Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy in 1789.
We are hearing about death on a daily basis at the moment so let’s think about taxes as the deadline for tax returns approaches.
Isn’t tax wonderful? I toil away and make my pitiful pile and those lovely people from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs come along and take a relatively small amount and, via a conglomeration of magical processes, turn it into schools and hospitals and roads and law courts, the training and provision of the people who run all that or protect us, and all the fantastic things which the wealthier sections of humanity take for granted, such as clean water, power generation and so on. Or at least they keep a careful eye on those who do the work.
I couldn’t begin to understand all that let alone to do it but they make it all happen.
As well as the material benefits, tax reminds me that I have an investment in my community and that I belong and contribute.
The knowledge that local and national government are part of the magic by which my meagre contribution is turned into blessings for all of us means that I keep my eye on them, not just in criticism and carping but also in appreciation.
The tax system makes us a potential blessing to each other and it makes us responsible to and for each other. Wonderful.
Isn’t taxation just awful? Nothing better than licensed extortion. It treats as public property what a private individual earns.
I work hard to make a living for myself and my family and then the Government just comes and puts it hand in my pocket. If I don’t cough up there’s trouble. I don’t mind helping other people but I should decide who gets helped by my money, not some bureaucrat.
Tax — wonderful or awful? Most of us experience some of the benefits as well as some of the pain of being part of our taxation system and the truth is probably somewhere between the two.
Taxation can be an efficient way of bearing one another’s burdens but an unjust system can be a means of oppression.
Jesus told a parable about money — Luke 12:16ff “The land of a rich man produced plentifully and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’
“And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.”
Most Christians have felt that being “rich towards God” means being generous to his children, especially those in need.
Our wealth is meant to lead us to generosity, by whatever mechanism. Jesus advised us not to store up treasures on earth “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
That’s about as “offshore” as you can get and there is no shortage of that kind of investment opportunity.
11 January 2021
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