anyone for a coffee (and tax) break?

3 11 2009

Death and taxes. Fewer things are more inevitable, frankly spoke Benjamin Franklin. Except maybe the twins reaching the semi-finals. Yet fewer things have such a bad press (except the twins, but so they should). Now I know I’m a bit of an oddball, but I’m not much frightened of either (I am frightened of the twins. Enough of the X-Factor).

I worry about the consequences of my death; but I am not hugely frightened of death itself, most of the time. I certainly don’t avoid talking about death like many people. And perhaps more oddly, I secretly quite like paying tax. It makes me feel grown-up. It also gives me roads to drive on, infrastructure to rely on, governments to complain on, schools to compare and many other good things.

Pret VAT sign

VAT nightmare?

This photo was taken at Pret a Manger, when I paid for my coffees and via VAT contributed to the infrastructure that enabled me to buy it, pay for it, drink it, and not have to wash up afterwards. I like Pret. They are fair-trade and tasty and fresh. But their attitude to VAT is somewhat negative. They encourage the view that it feels inconvenient, annoying, even an abuse of my rights to a cheap coffee. “VAT nightmare!” they scream. If you can’t read it because it’s a bit blurry (my phone was drunk) it says “We’re legally required to add on VAT when you eat in. Nightmare.”

eat my taxes

But is paying tax a “nightmare”? Really?

Why should we have everything for free? We demand, we consume, we don’t want to suffer the consequences. But surely we should be willing to pay our way, to contribute to the communal fund. To be generous.

It is unpopular to many, but our taxes allow all of us to live as we do; and allow many people to simply live, as they have no other income, no other way to pay for food or housing or a present for the kids. The vast majority of people who receive benefits are not wasters and scroungers. I want to support them. I know that is not all that taxes pay for. I know that much tax-payers money is wasted, much like my own (on a smaller scale!). I know the banking system has swallowed an awful lot of it this year and is laughing loudly whilst we squirm is disbelief. But still.

Are taxes inevitable? Yes. Are they a bit of a pain? Ok, yes. Are they necessary? Yes. Are they a nightmare? No. Do they give us a higher standard of living than so many across the world? Yes. Do they give some people life for whom everything else is only death? Actually, I think they do. Maybe we should be grateful we live in a country that can tax, unlike many where it is just a pipe-dream, so infrastructure cannot be built without bribery and corruption. Maybe we should be grateful we live in a country with a lower minimum tax threshold of 33%, like Sweden. Though they do have Volvos.

So,  hooray for taxes. And as Jesus demonstrated in the transformed life of one, hooray for the tax man.

Now I can drink my coffee without having nightmares.

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