Written by Kim Klein
Today is commonly known as “Tax Day” in the United States. I am a partner in a consulting firm and we pay “estimated” taxes, so I have just returned from mailing them off. “Estimated tax” is the amount of tax we will owe this year if we earn the same amount as last year, and we pay them in quarterly installments. As I walked back from the mail box (those dark blue metal structures that appear every so often on street corners), I thought about how much I love a lot of things taxes pay for. Even if I don’t love everything taxes pay for — drone strikes, an obscene wall between the U.S. and Mexico, sonar testing in the Pacific that kills whales — taxes are still the fastest way to remedy inequality and taxes are, as the famous quote goes, “what we pay for civilized society.” So I often think about how much better our country would be if everyone paid their fair share of taxes. And since corporations are people too now, I especially mean them!
Since 1955, April 15 has marked the day that Federal tax returns are due. It also marks a day when the voices for tax reform reach a crescendo of op-eds, appearances on talk shows and segments on the radio. Organizations have prepared for month what they are going to roll out today and there are some excellent pieces that everyone should take time to read — and part of their excellence is that they don’t take that much time and are clearly written. Here are four favorites of mine:
- Dean Baker on the Transaction Tax
- Bob Lord on the Estate Tax
- Sam Pizzigati on all that and way more
- Robin Claremont on how the Federal government spends this money
We all have to challenge ourselves to talk more about taxes and tax policy. That’s why I worked with Building Movement Project, CompassPoint and other organizations to create Nonprofits Talking Taxes — a workshop and training program to help nonpforits understand taxes and advocate for tax policy that helps the communities they serve. And here’s the interesting thing we learned from doing hundreds of trainings: it doesn’t have to be hard to talk about taxes, and it can actually be fun!
Case in point: a gnome that Partnership for Montana’s Future followed around to look at what taxes are for. Since this year’s Tax Day falls during two major religious celebrations — Passover and Easter week — many of us will be around large groups of people. So let’s engage them in a discussion of taxes. I mean, really, if a gnome can do it, why not us?