Hold those rotten tomatoes. As I write this, my husband is sitting at the kitchen table doing the taxes–a long quiet spell, then, “Criminey!%&!!” and another silence, followed by “When did we buy the _____?” or “Do you know where the receipts are for_____?” More silence, more sighing…and worse. Across the country, mini nodes of aggravation take place in the context of the macro aggravation being played out in Washington…about taxes.
When my son was six or seven and getting his first taste of an allowance and having his own money–earned at least in small part by performing simple, and then somewhat harder chores around the house and farm–I happened to hear a radio conversation with a “pop” economist. You know, one of those people who give you the “3 Keys to Financial Freedom ” or “10 Steps to Successful Money Managing.” In this case, the conversation was about teaching kids how to handle money–starting with young children and their allowances.
It caught my ear. And, at least briefly, I implemented the recommended plan: four jars. In one, some spending money to buy small items; in one, savings toward larger items; one for the benefit of those who are in need–charity; and the last, tax. “Tax?” asked my son. “What’s that?”
“Tax is money that each person contributes to buy or do something for the family,” I answered. “One year it might go toward a trip; in another year, we might all decide to get a dog, or fix the screens on the summer porch.”
“Oh,” he said.
We–he–didn’t always hold faithfully to the ten percent in the tax jar, but he did pretty well. It turned out, over time, my son was exceptionally good at saving money–often putting everything other than a bit of charitable offering into the long-term savings jar. But, that first year, when we pooled our house “tax” and decided to go out for pizza and a movie, he cried, “Taxes, hooray!”
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all agreed that tax money was fair and was being used for reasonable public purposes–even if we each liked some of those purposes better than others? Is our society, our national economy too big for us to connect the discipline of the tax jar to how those dollars are spent?
But I’m procrastinating. Back to looking for the receipts…