Paying taxes doesn’t have a very good press. We tend to see them as something negative. Something imposed upon us. A necessary evil. Something over which we don’t have much say. Perhaps it’s no wonder, given their history.
In England, Henry VIII put a tax on beards. In 1696 William III – William of Orange – introduced the window tax. The more windows you had the more you paid. So people bricked them up and built houses with less windows. At the height of Empire, the British prohibited Indians from trading in salt, monopolised the salt trade and, to add insult to injury, put a heavy sales tax on to the price of it.
Yes taxes can be ridiculous, inconvenient, unfair and abusive. But could we begin to see them differently? To see them as a contribution to the Common Good? Church Action for Tax Justice thinks so. They suggest that paying fairly based taxes is a way of showing love for our neighbour, care for creation and a way of creating the type of society we find in the teachings of Jesus and the prophets.
The Scribes and Pharisees were trying to trick him. They handed Jesus a coin with Caesar’s head on it. Should we pay taxes to the Romans? His response? “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And he went on “eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners”.