Monday, October 7, 2013

The Tax Envelope: Friend or Foe

     When Leslie was around eleven, Keith and I tried an allowance system that was modeled after the way we handled our paychecks. We promised to pay her $10 (it was twenty years ago and to be perfectly honest, I don't remember the amount) in exchange for a week's worth of helping with household chores.
     Right off the top, 10% of her allowance would then go into an envelope designated as her tithe. She could contribute to the church or to a mission of her choice.
     The next 10% of her allowance went into an envelope marked "long term savings." We explained that our long range savings went into a retirement fund but for her, this allotment would be put into a college fund. And yes, I understand that since 10% of $10 is $1, Leslie would have to plan on applying for an Alexander grant.
     Another 10% went into "short term savings." This envelope could be tapped when she wanted something that exceeded her weekly income.
     And last, but not to be ignored, 10% went in the "taxes" envelope. We explained that everyone was obligated to pay taxes but that should be considered a good thing. That is the reason we could have firemen and policemen available by simply making a phone call. We pay taxes so we have military service to ensure our freedoms. Taxes make it possible to have roads to drive to our friend's homes. In a sorta similar fashion, Leslie's tax money would be used by the family for dinner at a restaurant because after all, that's how taxes work. They are gathered for the benefit of all.
     The remaining 60% was available for Leslie's desires that she could afford.
     Leslie had no problem with the system--except for the tax envelope. She argued every week about it. "Why do I have to pay taxes?" "Why do I have to put money in an envelope that everyone gets to spend?" No matter how many different ways we tried to explain, it was a weekly debate.
     Today, based upon what Keith and I pay for federal, state and local taxes, we would put 50% of our daughter's allowance in the tax envelope. The remaining three envelopes would maintain the same percentage which would leave Leslie with 20% of her allowance available for spending. For that reason, I am sure we would have even more questions to answer about taxes... and should. Are we using her money wisely or selfishly?  What we are entitled to because we belong to the same family and what are privileges? Everything became so complicated and subject to opinions. I fear that I would no longer be able answer the questions of a child.
     I still believe that "it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (Romans 13:5-7) But this passage leaves me pondering. Why do our governing officials serve? Who do I "owe" respect and honor? Can I respect the office and not the person holding the position? If so, how do I accomplish that? How is respect earned?
     Honestly, the older I get, the less I seem to understand!