On Tax Day, Why I'm Proud to Give to the IRS

I’m a millennial, and I don’t mind paying taxes.

Sure, I gripe about actually doing my taxes because entering the information in TurboTax, filling out all the fields, generating the forms, and checking for errors takes time. Of course, I’d rather be doing something else. Ultimately, though, I see taxes as an investment, and I don’t mind paying them.

Elizabeth Warren, running for U.S. Senate in my home-state of Massachusetts, talks about investment as a core tenant of her campaign. I attended one of her Washington, D.C. fundraisers a few weeks ago where she posed a key question: Do we want to be an America that invests in the middle class through education, infrastructure, and research? The answer for me, quite simply, is yes.

I proudly invest in my friends through donations that go toward their website launches, music recordings, start-ups, and other individual ventures. Long-term, I aim to invest in companies and portfolios that mirror my values and priorities. Annually, I make what many consider to be an involuntary donation to the federal and state governments (yes, I realize that I have no choice). I consider taxes a civic responsibility; I live in a great country and in my opinion, paying into our collective success is as important, if not more so, than casting a vote at the ballot box.

I don’t blindly trust government to make decisions that are in my best interest. Nor do I expect institutions to have the ability to always make choices. I am fortunate to be solidly in the middle class and I hope to live and retire comfortably, while raising a happy healthy family. If I am ever fortunate enough to have money in excess of this lifestyle, I would be happy to pay into a higher tax bracket, or I would invest in my community and entrepreneurial individuals whose pursuits I admire. Every day, I contend with the reality that a number of very wealthy individualssee things differently. That’s just a basic fact of life.

Personally, I recognize that I have limitations, and I’m happy to pay taxes to ensure I can enjoy basic amenities and necessities which I use every day. I cannot personally guarantee clean water comes from my tap or that my town’s sewer system functions correctly. If there is flooding, I won’t be fixing my roads. If bridges collapse, I will not be rebuilding them. Assuming I have children someday, I will not be teaching them in classrooms, ensuring they learn in a clean and safe environment, or putting band-aids on all their cuts and scrapes. I have no way of ensuring my food is safe to eat, whether I buy food in the supermarket or go to eat in a restaurant. I am not trained to do any of these tasks, but other people are, and many of them work for local, state, and federal governments. I envision all of y dollars going to support the indispensible systems I use every day. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work that way.

On April 17th, I’m going to tell myself that I invested in our society. Maybe we invest less than in decades prior, and not nearly enough as we should be to preserve our infrastructure, but I am still proud to pay taxes. I may not know exactly where my actual dollars go (although the White House has an interesting interactive graphic on their site to offer some insights). Regardless, I hope they don’t all go towards current and future tax cuts.

When I look at all the impending infrastructure issues: old water pipes, cracking bridges, deteriorating roads, I can’t help but want to remind the Republican leadership that I’ll be dealing with those problems right along with the deficit. Please stop telling me what I should and should not inherit. And while we’re at it, can we please start talking about deficit reduction in a balanced and solutions-oriented mindset? I recognize that our current spending levels are not sustainable, but there is a responsible narrative in addressing this fiscal challenge that calls for compromise. Right now, I’d prefer to see my tax dollars invested in the systems I cannot live without as opposed to illogical tax cuts that do next to nothing meaningful for the middle class including myself. Elections are about values and I happen to value investment; I’ll be proud to vote on that basis in November.

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Tarsi Dunlop

Tarsi Dunlop is a graduate of Middlebury College where she earned a BA in Political Science. Tarsi is the former Director of Operations for the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and she works at an education non-profit in Alexandria, VA.

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