By Janne Huang
It’s almost Tax Day and while some people reluctantly file tax returns, many enjoy fulfilling this civic duty. A national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that over a third of Americans either like (29 percent) or love (5 percent) doing their taxes. Of the taxpayers who reported they dislike (30 percent) or hate (26 percent) filing taxes, more than half said it was because they thought it was complicated or inconvenient and time-consuming. Only 5 percent of those who didn’t like doing taxes said it was because they paid too much.
In fact, the overall number of Americans who believe they pay more than their fair share of taxes has dropped from 55 percent to 38 percent.
In the United States, taxes are more than just a payment to the government; they represent a moral obligation that reinforces one’s status as a productive member of society. The 2014 Taxpayer Attitude Survey found that 94 percent of Americans agree that it is “every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes.”
The elevation of work is part of the equation. Work and productivity are strongly tied to Americans’ self-identity. There is a sense of pride that comes from contributing to the foundation of American life. Taxes help pay for a society that provides education, public roads and bridges, parks, drinking water, and security for its citizens. It’s a payment towards the collective future.
This pride also exhibits itself in other forms. For many low- and moderate-income American workers, tax time means claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), credits that help offset federal taxes. When these workers receive the credit in their tax refund, they take part in the very American act of filing taxes, while claiming a tax credit that provides a catalyst for upward mobility. By using the tax system to deliver a part of the safety net, the EITC imparts a sense of dignity that “enhances feelings of citizenship and social inclusion.” The tax credit isn’t a handout; it’s acknowledgement of a sometimes overlooked segment of the population’s contributions to society.
Sure, some people hate filing taxes. But not as many as we tend to think, and not for the reasons we may presume. Although filing taxes isn’t always fun, it’s a necessary and patriotic duty that provides the foundation for American life. So this Tax Day, let’s finally dispel the myth that taxes are universally hated.