Magazine article The Christian Century

Tax Benefit

Magazine article The Christian Century

Tax Benefit

Article excerpt

Paying taxes in this country is ordinarily accompanied by much grumbling. Rarely does anyone point out that paying taxes is not just a legal duty but a moral opportunity-because paying taxes is one way each of us supports the common good. Taxation provides crucial elements of a good society, including a justice system, public education, an infrastructure that encourages commerce, and a safety net for the elderly and the vulnerable.

As Gary Dorrien points out in this issue (p. 22), tax rates in this country have mostly gone down since the 1980s. Political candidates rush to pledge that they will lower taxes, or at least not raise them--as if that is necessarily better for the country. But while tax rates have been going down, the income level of most Americans has stagnated and the income of the wealthy has sharply increased. The economic crisis of the middle class has many contributing factors, including the decrease in well-paying manufacturing jobs, but increasingly regressive tax rates have put new stresses on the middle class while helping many of the rich get richer.

Meanwhile, many corporations escape taxes altogether. Reuters news agency reports that 72 percent of all foreign companies doing business in the U.S. and 57 percent of American companies paid no federal income taxes during at least one year between 1998 and 2005. During the same period, more than half of the foreign companies and 42 percent of American companies paid no taxes for two or more years. …

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