The paying of tax has few advocates. In the present Tory leadership election, with the exception of Rishi Sunak, all the candidates argued that the UK needs lower taxes not higher taxes. I find this extraordinarily sad.
Taxes are inevitable. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. Without taxes there can be no government. True, paying taxes is unpopular. As one wit said, “If the Lord loves a cheerful giver, how he must hate the taxpayer”. Yet the fact is that paying tax is a sign of a civilised society. Indeed Joyce Marcel, an award-winning American journalist, wrote: “For patriots like me, paying taxes gives a feeling of responsibility, of being part of the fabric of our country”. What’s more, if we find ourselves being asked to pay more tax than others, we need to be honest and recognise that it is only because we have earned more money than others – instead of grumbling we should be thanking God for the prosperity which we enjoy. Those Tories who argue for a drastic reduction in taxes are mean-spirited – and will encourage the British public to believe that the Tory party is mean-spirited too! There is little vision for the well-being of the nation as a whole. If, when it comes to electing a leader, the members of the Tory party put their own interests first, and not the interests of the nation first, then the Tories deserve to lose the next General Election.
Interestingly the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans makes it crystal clear that the paying of taxes is a Christian obligation: “Pay to all what is due to them – taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due” (Rom 12.7). Paul was referring here to direct and indirect taxes. The Greek word translated as “taxes” describes the direct ‘poll’[ tax which – with certain exemptions – was imposed upon all imperial subjects. The Greek word translated as “revenue” refers to indirect taxes levied on good and services, such as sales of land, houses, oil and grass.
Significantly when Paul was writing to the church at Rome the subject of paying taxes was a particularly sensitive issue in Rome. We know from the Roman historian, Tacitus, that the year AD 58 saw persistent complaints against the companies ‘farming’ indirect taxes and the acquisitiveness of the tax collectors. In principle little has changed in life! And yet Paul makes it clear that Christians needs to pay their dues. Or in the words of Jesus, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are Gods” (Mark 12.17).
However, in this blog I want to argue that paying tax is not just a mark of a Christian citizen, but is also a sign of love in action. I find it fascinating that in Romans 13 the section on the Christian duty to pay taxes is immediately followed by the section on the Christian duty to love others: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law… Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13.8, 10). I am not convinced that Paul in this latter section is confining the obligation to “love one another” to Christian believers. True, I accept that Paul may well not have seen the paying of taxes as a mark of loving other, but I dare to believe that the way in which the section on tax is followed by the section on love is ‘providential’.
In the context of Britain in the 21st century, paying extra taxes to ensure that we as a nation can integrate social care with the health service – a dream shared by all political parties – is a practical expression of love, not least to those who do not have the private means to pay the huge fees which social care necessitates. Higher taxes are not a form of robbery, but an expression of our care for one another. This is not ‘socialism’, as some of the Tory leadership pretenders have suggested, but rather just human decency.
This is not a party political statement. I am a member of the Tory party – albeit one who never voted for Boris Johnson to be leader of the party. Right from the outset I recognised that Johnson was a charlatan, without morals. As I have said time and again, leadership involves not just charisma and competence, but also character. Johnson – like Trump – is a misleader. No, I am a one-nation Tory, who although wanting to see measures to encourage businesses – especially small businesses – to thrive and prosper, for this is the only way in which the British nation can prosper, also believes that our government needs to develop social and economic programmes which will benefit all people, and not just the rich. It is in this context that I maintain that paying tax is love in action.
Yes, taxation is one of the ways we look after those who are less fortunate than ourselves, and thus to be accepted and encouraged. But since it is an obligation, it is oen side of a social contract, in which the other pasrty (the government) agrees by implication to use the tax we pay honestly, wisely and compassionately., and not according to any so-called political principles. Christians in government should act – and vote – accordingly.