Tax Day has come and gone for me this year…and come and gone and come and gone and come and…gone. In fall of 2015, I learnt my large-chain-accountant-completed 2013 taxes had been audited and found wanting. I paid most of $1,000 for the accountant’s error towards the Federal Government and later in winter paid the State’s portion*. Gasp. That sucking sound you heard was a near-mortal wound to my hard-won savings. A few weeks ago, I blithely began my 2015 taxes with a plan to schedule a massage using the tax return I was sure to get…nope. Not even close.
Without a mortgage payment and without just cause to claim #1 son as a dependent (though he was in college through May 2015), I paid another nearly $1,000 in State and Federal taxes this year. Holy cats.
The upside: I have an ambitious plan to rebuild my savings. The shock of the ratio of my income paid in taxes jerked me towards a quasi-ambition and I wept – big tears – thinking how hard this lop-sided tax system is for the folks with the fewest resources to pay. I am determined to find a way to help establish a fair-er tax burden among all levels of income.
After the Saturday under covers and self-pity, I realized I have so much – my family has been afforded so much – because of the taxes we pay. Magpie and Kenan both graduated well from college and are pursuing careers which inspire and challenge. They are working towards their own successes while bringing others with them.
This is in no small part to the hundreds of hours we spent in tax-funded local and collegiate libraries sprawled among the shelves, looking for answers, and borrowing books, cds, and movies. We have likely consumed our taxes in library patronage alone-which is a fabulous investment of my time worked and the tax resources thereby created.
This morning – as every other morning – I drank water that is both fresh and safe from a tap inside the Hobbit House. I neither walked miles for that refreshment nor needed to boil and sift it. Crazy fortunate to have also showered in fresh safe water today.
We ran before dawn through quiet city neighborhoods kept safe by reliable police and fire coverage; beneath well-maintained streetlights, past the Senior Service Center and several non-profit organizations, around City Park, a museum, and other green spaces benefiting from public investment – tax dollars. We slogged around the pool where both kids first learned to swim and I practiced many hours for triathlons or swam to keep my heart physically and emotionally strong. Usually when Katie and I run, we see the 6:08 am flight climb over the Flint Hills towards Chicago – making it easier for businesses to grow and others to join the town/Chamber of Commerce roster. (Our bustling Manhattan Airport, flymhk.com, is a City of Manhattan department.)
Each workday morning, I cast off into Purpleville either on safe city streets or sidewalks in walkable neighborhoods towards campus. I used to motor my scooter to the accredited Sunset Zoo while serving as their Marketing/Development officer. Sunset Zoo is a conservation and education cultivator ranked among the top four accredited zoos in the nation – also a City of Manhattan quality of life and education investment.
We live in a town made greater by the land-grant University therein and nearby Fort Riley’s influence which adds opportunity to the existing agricultural economic foundation of Northeast Kansas. K-State brings education, plays, music, research, recreation, and a whole lot of purple to the Flint Hills and we are better for it. My tax dollars are well spent in this Economic Development incubator. People across Kansas and the continents benefit from the innovation and inspiration cultivated at this public university.
My tax bill – however it made me gasp for air – pays to ensure my community, air, water, food, and neighbors are as healthy, educated, and viable as possible. With regulations, services, and public initiatives (such as improved bike lanes and back-flow prevention efforts), my life – though small – is quite healthy here.
Thanks to a solid public education system, our kids have had opportunity to learn and engage in activities I would not have been able to afford as a single mum. Each adventure, each win over new material or new activity engaged in primary through high school, helped foster confidence, wisdom, and other tools they need to lead and serve their communities.
Do I agree with how each dollar of my tax-investment is spent?
But I do respect and value the great work done on our collective behalf – imperfectly and whole-heartedly.
I appreciate the affordable education, opportunities, and help we’ve shared along the way. It’s my tax dollars – our tax dollars – at work for us all.
To folks who complain they have no kids in public school and “why should I pay taxes to educate other people’s kids?” my reply is:
Do you care about having an educated, engaged, and activated community to employ, live, and work beside?
If your kids are long-grown, who helped pay for their education?
What value is it for employers looking to invest in a community if their pool of potential employees (and neighbors) is uneducated, uninspired, and ignorant?
One of the most vociferous of these public complainants in memory happens to be a
slum landlord who seems to be waiting for local officials to demolish his property at a cost much less than he’d need to tear it down and rebuild. I’ve offered to back a dump truck into it, but the wisdom of my tax-dollar-invested local authorities suggests better more-educated options.
As taxpayers in what is still a democracy, we are charged with raising our kids, getting to know our neighbors, and finding ways to invest in our community. Whether we get involved formally or informally, we are stewards of our tax investment. It’s our job to get involved.
Whether we are champions of the local, regional, state, and national government decisions or completely disillusioned by the shenanigans we perceive, it is our job to follow our tax investment with action and service. I recently heard a local official who said he ran for office because – like many people of his acquaintance – he was unhappy with how government money was spent. He then said while in office he has learned how hard governance is and how well the local officials seem to get the job done.
Do I agree with how each dollar of my tax-investment is spent?
But I appreciate the efforts of so many elected, appointed, and hired people who serve the wider community needs – this despite the reality of a few short-sided sods serving their own political aspirations and fears.
Please keep in mind all you enjoy as a result of our taxes: State and National Parks which give you room to breathe, education opportunities, infrastructure, public safety, and fresh water. Without these public investments, it would take a hell of a lot more derring do than I have to live and work each day.
You have until April 18 this year to file your taxes and continue your investment into the many community benefits you enjoy as return on your taxes.
*Thanks to Alice of the Kansas Department of Revenue who exhibited great tact and humanity when I called to learn what to do with the terrifying letter I had received re: 2013 audit, etc. She is my accounting hero.