For those of us who filed extensions this year, our personal income tax returns are due on the 16th of this month. Finding last-minute documentation for my CPA got me thinking about taxes.
And at the risk of sounding hypocritical—I may have…occasionally…griped about taxes—let me take a few minutes to talk about what taxes are. Taxes are the means we band together—yes, that banding is enforced—to buy things we can’t buy individually. I know I don’t want the military beholden to an individual, family, or company. There’s a reason most of us are more wary of mercenaries than soldiers. The word “mercenary” used as an adjective even has a negative meaning in business-speak.
So what are some of the other things we pay for with our taxes?
Well, roads for one thing: those roads we all drive on, the same roads truckers use to get goods to the store where we can buy them or deliver other goods from Amazon. At something north of $1-million/mile on the flats, I don’t know of anyone who could pay for an interstate highway, much less the streets in front of our projects and rentals, which wouldn’t be worth much if we couldn’t get to them. And I don’t even want to think of how much a 2-mile long overpass costs to build.
At Rotary this week, our speaker was the head of a small-town water department. He outlined the costs the city is dedicated to incurring on our behalf to provide safe drinking water and safely dispose of our wastewater.
- $375-thousand to replace crumbling distribution pipes
- $32-thousand to upgrade a sewer line to support ongoing private development
- $11-million to repair and modernize the facility that takes river water and cleans it enough to go to the water treatment plant that supplies the town
- $12.6-million to repair and modernize the wastewater treatment plant
That’s a lot of money spent to benefit everyone who lives in town and downstream from it. Now I live out of town, so I won’t get a lot of direct benefit from the portion of my taxes that support that infrastructure spending. But imagine what would happen to my property value if we weren’t taxed to support it. And I can’t forget that I use city water every day I am at my office.
To use the Princess Bride terminology, the taxes must be the only thing older than griping about taxes. But the next time you’re tempted to gripe, think about the benefits you derive from those taxes. Yes, we pay for things we don’t want to. Yes, everyone can cite numerous examples of “wasteful government spending.” But do you really want to do without roads, potable water, sewer treatment plants, police, firefighters, or a military?