I once had a friend who started filling out his tax return with the bottom line – the amount of taxes he was willing to pay: $0.00. It always took him a few weeks, but in the end he paid $0.00. Did I mention he owned a Ferrari and a few hotels and bragged about his off-shore accounts?
Alas he died a few years ago, still a relatively young man in his late forties. He left no heirs. I don’t know who got his money, but it wasn’t me, so I don’t think about it much except at tax time. It’s too sad.
We have a problem. My husband, who is retired, took on a few projects last year and they were more successful than he anticipated. The accountant called us into his office to sign our tax returns and said he was sorry to deliver bad news, but we owed the government more money. I have a few friends who are accountants and they hate this part of the job, especially when they are fighting tax season sleep deprivation.
This time I had to smile. After some lean years and whining and complaining at tax time I am changing. I now consider it a privilege to pay taxes. I am grateful for what our government provides. We live in a safe country with clean air and clean water. Our children are well-educated. Our roads are maintained and our airports are safe. We have freedom to believe what we choose. And after the trials of the past couple of years can I tell you how utterly grateful I am for disaster aid and especially Canadian medical care?
I spent some time with my son’s family in the government-sponsored mobile home camp in High River after the flood which was the biggest natural disaster in our history. There were good people there helping through very tough times.
When our son-in-law was discharged from the hospital after being given a 0% chance of surviving the necrotizing fasciitis that sent him into toxic shock, he walked out not owing a penny for the superb care he received for two months. The cost was well into seven figures and his family still has their home and can continue life as before. Everyday I receive prayer requests from people who are not so favoured.
I do not begrudge helping to pay for a neighbour’s education, or healthcare, or for snowplows and sanding trucks that make his journey easier. I appreciate trade delegations and police and fire and ambulance services. I honour the court system and food safety inspectors. I thank both the military and the peace negotiators and the thousands of secretaries who really keep this country moving.
I realized that I have accepted complaining about taxes and listening to complaints about paying taxes this time of year for so long that it has seemed normal. When I vote I cast my ballot for the person I think might be the most capable of being a good public servant and administering the government fairly. I am not voting for God. That position is filled. Humans will make mistakes and be tempted to misuse power and sometimes I am disappointed. ‘Tis the nature of humans, so we do need to pray for them, be attentive, write letters and keep up with maintaining the privileges we enjoy, but we also need to honour those who serve in government – and that includes the tax man (or woman).
So today I salute you, much maligned revenue services. We give you this cheque with our blessing. You are welcome. Use it well. We count it a privilege to be able to work and pay taxes at our age. Thank you for your faithful service. We honour you for your hard work and diligence.
A reminder. When the Apostle Paul (and also the Apostle Peter) admonished believers to honour governing authorities they were talking about people like Nero who used Christians as party lights, and Herod who had Jesus flogged. None of our leaders have sunk to that level. Our leaders, whether we voted for them or not, whether we approve of them or not, are owed revenue, respect, and honor. They can’t do the jobs they are supposed to do without it. And it’s the way of love.
“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:6-8)