An advert for the Christian Party (political, that is) in this week’s Baptist Times has as its number one enticement “Do you want lower taxes?” – presumably on the basis of Jesus’ memorable saying “Blessed are the taxpayers for they shall pay less”. You would be disappointed if you ran down the list of reasons to be interested in the Christian Party expecting to find anything like the words Jesus as actually recorded in the Gospels. In fact, their language of less state interference or to have “once again” a just legal system might come from advertising for the Conservatives, the UK Independence Party or even from the non-racist parts of the policies of the British National Party.
But it’s the lower taxes bit I want to stick with. It’s a hook of self-interest – I get to keep more of my money to spend as I want. The Christian Party would probably argue that it’s more money to give away and I expect many of their supporters do work on the biblical principle that a tenth of one’s income is for God and giving only starts beyond that. But they would be the exception among the whole population.
As is the young man I saw interviewed who had studied ethics and on starting a well paid job (£33K he said) was giving away over 50% of it each year. He reckoned that his giving would save 1,000 lives each year and that was more satisfying than consumer expenditure. What can one say? Those of us who say we actively care about our fellow human beings and the environment don’t go that far – not by a long way. The majority of the population do give to charities but in the pounds not hundreds of pounds, let alone thousands of pounds each year.
Charitable giving is a fine idea for motivated and committed people. I don’t want to knock it and neither would those who benefit. Undoubtedly, the tax system could be improved, especially in respect of the rich who at the moment pay a smaller proportion of their earnings than lower paid workers. Undoubtedly, governments are wasteful and spend money on the wrong things. However, taxation is the best way we have of ensuring that we all pay our fair share. If we want all our citizens to have decent lives and we want to do the same for the poorest of the poor elsewhere, then taxation is a must.
Vote for a more equitable tax system but don’t vote for lower taxes – we may enjoy the extra money in our pockets and we may even give some of it away. If we earn enough to pay tax, we won’t be the ones who pay the price.
PS Jesus didn’t really say “Blessed are the taxpayers for they shall pay less”, I made that up. Of course what he did say was “Sell what you own and give the money to the poor”. If you object to paying tax, perhaps that’s the best thing to do!