“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.” ~Margaret Mitchell
I don’t often quote the Bible on this blog but the phrase “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s…” just seems appropriate this time of year. If you, like Thom and I, are self-employed then this is the time of year when we gather together our income and expenses and prepare to do some rendering. And while it is definitely not my favorite experience of year, it serves to remind me that we have a choice in how we view things (yes—even taxes!) So here are a few thoughts on paying taxes and on other things that we might as well render while we are at it.
In case you haven’t heard the story of this previous era of my life with Thom, we have been self-employed just about all of our married life (35 years!) Although I did spend about six months working as a temp back in the 80s—it didn’t take me long to realize that I was “un-employable.” Unemployable is the term that Thom and I invented that describes our commitment to being self-employed and our unwillingness to work in a 9 to 5 position for someone else. About the only downside to that choice was that we didn’t have much money for many years, and we went fairly deep into debt for a time. Once we were able to develop our talents and our consciousness, those limitations passed. The flipside disadvantage is that we now pay a good amount of taxes every year for our incomes.
With that background to our personal experience, here are a few things we’ve learned along the way about rendering taxes at tax time:
- Paying taxes is a high-class problem. When you’ve experienced low income for as many years as Thom and I did in our 20s and early 30s, then making enough money to have to pay taxes is much easier to swallow. It’s pretty amazing that people who are very well off or close to the 1% (not us by any means!) spend so much time complaining about how much they have to pay in taxes when their incomes after taxes is considerably more than the average American’s (not to mention the rest of the world.) Having the money to pay taxes means that you earned money—and that in itself is something to be grateful for above all.
- As self-employed people we never considered ourselves better than those who worked for others—just more fortunate for the freedoms and ability to choose how we made our money. The current belief that employers shouldn’t have to pay taxes because they are doing others and the country a favor by employing people and having a business just doesn’t fly for me. Even when we had employees (only early on in a couple of our business ventures) we never felt that they didn’t deserve a decent wage or that we should be subsidized or given special concessions by our country for employing them. Living in a country where we get to create and work a business is benefit enough without a tax reduction.
- Even though I don’t agree with many of the ways that my tax money is spent (i.e. the wars or subsidizing oil companies) I realize that much of it also going to support a country that is extremely privileged and where I am grateful to be living. I went to school for 18 years and continue to help other young people go to school around our county; routinely drive on infrastructure, roads and freeways created by our government; eat food that is (somewhat) regulated; fly in and out of airports relatively safely; and help to pay health care and cost of living for many of the seniors, children, infirmed and extremely poor in our country. Not only would I not stand by and watch a family member starve or go without needed health care—neither do I want live in a country where strangers are to be abandoned as well.
- I’ve been what is considered “poor” in our country and I’ve been “well off” –and trust me, being well-off is better—especially if you have the freedom of time and expression that comes from being self employed. Remember, we paid little or no taxes when we were in that low-income category, just like many of the people today who earn substandard wages. But the stress of debt, no health insurance and uncertainty about the future erased any benefit we had by not paying taxes. And for those today with children, living at or below poverty has to be a difficult stress and pressure to bear.
- Paying taxes is just like any other experience in life—what you think and believe about it will determine whether you see it as good or see it as bad. If you and I must pay taxes anyway, why would we choose to fight and get angry about it? In fact, I believe that this observation is the primary meaning behind the “Render unto Caesar” statement in the Bible. Regardless of whether you are religious or not, we each have the choice of elevating our consciousness or spirit to where we see the “good” (or at least the benefits) in the experience, rather than the negative. So, where are you putting your focus this tax time?
Of course, even though I choose to see the entire tax paying experience in the most positive way possible, I also do my very best to save on tax obligations as allowed by law. I have a great accountant, keep great tax write-off records, study possible ways to save on taxes in the future, and invest in ways that offer tax savings. If you pay more in taxes than you aren’t legally required, then you certainly can’t blame the process. We also must claim responsibility for voting in those polititians who have the ability to levy taxes, and do what we can to reform spending in ways we do not support.
Now that I’ve gotten everything back from the accountant and all that’s left is writing the check, I know one more tax year is behind me. (Except for those quarterly estimates of course!) When you think about it, paying income taxes is just another SMART reminder that our day-to-day peace and happiness is an inside job.