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Why Do I Have to Pay Taxes?

Updated on April 7, 2011

Why do I have to pay taxes? They are expensive, they're difficult to compute, and they take away from my earnings. What good do they do me, anyway? Actually, plenty.

As citizens, we are responsible for paying taxes to our local and federal government. These taxes directly afftect our quality of life by ensuring that our government continues to function properly. A government pays for services and projects that keep a country stable, safe, and prosperous using its tax revenues. Without the revenues from taxation, our country could slip into chaos and anarchy. Let's explore some of the way our tax dollars are used.

  • Taxes pay for public education
  • Taxes pay for law enforcement
  • Taxes pay for roads and other infrastructure
  • Taxes pay for legal representation for those who can't afford it
  • Taxes help pay for our military
  • Taxes pay for social programs that help the needy

Taxes Pay for Public School Education

The U.S. Public School system uses taxes paid by local residents to fund the public school education of citizens and even illegal residents to attend a public school in the United States. Tax funds ensure that teachers get paid, that classrooms have textbooks, and that children receive instruction in basic skills such as reading, math, and science. The tax funds that pay for a public school education also make sure that today's youth are taught the civic responsibilities of a U.S. citizen so that when they are grown, they too will pass on the values in our constituion to their families, and preserve and protect the rights that we hold to be self-evident. Without a public education, our children would be ill-equipped to engage in civil discourse, to vote their conscience and values on laws, or to elect their public officials. Without taxes, public education would be in ruins, and democracy would hang by a thread.

Our taxes also pay to support post-high school education so that people can receive advanced degrees in fields like chemistry, biology, medicine, and law, so that people will have the appropriate knowledge in healthcare, to interpret and honor and uphold the laws of the land, and to keep an ongoing civic discussion alive.

Taxes pay for the cost of a public school education.
Taxes pay for the cost of a public school education. | Source

Taxes Pay for Law Enforcement

Taxes pay for a police force that upholds and enforces the laws of the land. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone were a law-abiding citizen? Unfortunately we know that this isn't the case, and police are necessary to help keep our communities free from all kinds of crime that ensure the safety of everyone living in our fair country. Where laws cannot be enforced, laws have very little meaning. Without policemen, no one would be accountable for upholding the law, and we would live in a state where brute force was the law, or worse yet, where no law existed at all.

Taxes pay for the police forces in local communities. This keeps the balance of power where it should be, so that the police aren't under the power of any one individual, but rather, serve the people.

In addition to a police force, taxes pay for other public servants who uphold and enforce the laws, or who respond in times of emergency. Because of taxes, we have policemen, firemen, sherriffs, and yes, even traffic cops to enforce the laws of the land or to respond and assist during emergencies.


Taxes Pay for Roads and Infrastructure

Having well-maintained roads is essential to our country's economic productivity. Without roads, society ceases to properly function. We live in an interdependent society. If people can't get to work, or if they can't ship goods like groceries to their destinations, then life as we know it ceases to exist.

Taxes pay for maintenance of roads, bridges, and utility lines. Because Americans tend to pay their taxes, we enjoy a pretty good quality of life. Think about it. We can travel freely from Florida to Seattle with very little trouble. It's nice isn't it?

Other types of infrastructure that must stay well-maintained to ensure a high quality of life include communications and utilities, such as natural gas and electricity, so we can keep connected to people around town and cross-country, or so that we can stay warm during the winter. Taxes in part also pay for the upkeep of water treatment facilities so we can have clean and disease-free water to drink.

Taxes Pay for Legal Representation for Those Who Can't Afford It

Taxes help to keep our criminal justice system fair and just. In the United States, if you are charged with a crime and you cannot afford a lawyer, you are guaranteed one appointed by the state. In the pledge of allegiance to the flag of America, we acknowledge the United States to be a republic where freedom and justice exjsts for all. If legal representation were available only for those who could afford to pay for it, justice would only exist for an elite few. In America, the ideal of justice for all is supported by our tax system, which pays not only for lawyers, but also for judges, the prison system, and the courts.

Taxes Help Pay for Our Military

Taxes also pay for the military. The air force, the army, the navy, the marines, the coast guard, and the national guard are all military members who deserve to be paid for their service of protecting our country with their lives. Our taxes pay their salaries, for their equipment, and for benefits such as healthcare and pensions paid to the military. Without a tax system, the military would be funded from some other source, and their allegiance would be to whatever powers moved the military's purse strings.

Taxes Pay For Social Programs to Help the Needy

Finally, taxes pay for numerous social programs to help those who cannot help themselves. Taxes make money available at the state and federal level to help assist people with such things as unemployment benefits when they lose their jobs, health insurance programs for the elderly and for children in poverty, and immunization programs and other health initialtives for people who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

Taxes also pay for public libraries all over the country which make books, movies, and computer access available to any resident of a participating community. Libraries are amazing intellectual assets that are freely available to the citizens of the United States, all, at least in part, because of taxes.


Submit a Comment

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks Happyboomernurse! We enjoy an amazing quality of life in part because we all agree to pay taxes. Of course there are some problems with the tax code and people have different ideas about how taxation should work and how the funds should be applied, but this is all part of the civic dialog. I for one am glad that people care.

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

    Love the title of this hub. It was refreshing to read a reminder of all the positive services that our taxes pay for. I also enjoyed reading all the lively comments that this hub sparked.

  • viveresperando profile image

    viveresperando 7 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

    nicely done!

  • Mamelody profile image

    Mamelody 7 years ago

    When I read the title of this hub I thought I was going to read why I should not pay tax!!! but good hub. Informative.

  • profile image

    David 7 years ago

    100% of federal income taxes go to the federal reserve banking system which is not part of our government. They in turn loan money to our government furthering the spiral of national debt. Only a few of our past presidents like Jackson and Lincoln knew what a detrimental effect a private banking system might have on future generations and tried to rectify this issue with no avail. What's more the federal reserve has never been audited, so we really have no idea where our money is directly going.

  • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

    Dim Flaxenwick 7 years ago from Great Britain

    Great hub.. Taxes are with us whether we like them or not. Most of us , l think are grateful for police, schools, firemen, etc., Thanks for another interesting piece of work.

  • tvpuram profile image

    tvpuram 7 years ago from India

    Taxes are necessary evils, better if incidence shifted and diluted so that they hurt minimum. But no government can do away taxes.

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 7 years ago

    WillStarr-It is just interesting that this fact about GE and campaign contributions is seldom mentioned. Only the standard "Corps don't pay taxes."

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    That's right Mike, and another reason why government should basically stay out of the business of business. Government 'regulation' invites such corruption and payoffs.

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 7 years ago

    WillStarr - You forgot to mention that GE contributed over $450,000 to Obama's campaign. Not that this had anything to do with it of course.

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona


    "@Will, dollar wise they pay more but percentage wise the corporations do not."

    Why is it that liberals are so tone deaf?


    Why do you stubbornly ignore such truths?

  • trimar7 profile image

    trimar7 7 years ago from New York

    Good hub - taxes are a reality - we all want the services but not the bill - not going to happen - I would like to know, however, why did GE skate out and other corporations as well? I know that does not include all corporations.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks, independentwriter, but the point of my article is that some taxes are necessary to provide stability, safety, and order. When taxes burden a family and force them out of their homes, as the property tax situation in Illinois has done, that is an example of taxation gone haywire. I have seen many government shutdowns in my lifetime, and these aren't healthy either. Great points.

  • independentwriter profile image

    Jheun 7 years ago from the Snowy Northeast

    Taxation is good to a point. I understand the need for taxation. However, at what point does it become a burden? The government was shutdown in 1995. The government almost was shutdown again in 2011. Is that the kind of service we have to pay for?

  • Jeremey profile image

    Jeremey 7 years ago from Arizona

    @Will, dollar wise they pay more but percentage wise the corporations do not. Our taxes go up continually because they find 'loopholes' in the tax structure and then we 'bail them out' on top of it! Come on man. It is sick to see that so many people don't have the information about taxing the corporations. They are robbing our country for the past twenty years and politicians are jumping in their pockets. The truth is out there, I hope you all find it before it finds you.

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

    I completely disagree with WillStar. Interesting hub, I'm all for local and state taxes, the federal government can kiss my a$$

  • rpalulis profile image

    rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

    Totally understand the concept of taxation and agree that it is needed, however also agree with willstarr if gov't is given free rein it will be abused.

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 7 years ago

    It is amazing to me how many folks think that no Corporations pay any taxes at all. I am incorporated for my business, and I can assure you I pay my fair share of taxes. I'm not sure where this story started, but it is far from true. Yes, some like GE who were big contributers to Obama's campaign fund just skated out without paying any taxes, but they are an exception.

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    The high cost of taxation on corporations is a topic I'm not educated enough to comment on. I think taxation is just one reason businesses choose to operate in other countries. Providing health care to employees as those costs spiral upwards is another. Still, taxes help the U.S. to remain a wealthy country with a high quality of life, which was the main idea behind my hub. Thanks Will, Simone, and Cat, for your thoughtful comments.

  • cat on a soapbox profile image

    Catherine Tally 7 years ago from Los Angeles

    Thank you, Will, for pointing that out! The cost of doing business here is outrageous. That is why many businesses move out of the country. If anyone with a business isn't in it to make a profit, please speak up!

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    "What about corporations paying their taxes?"

    They do, and at the highest rate in the world! Then they figure them in as a cost of doing business and pass them on to us as part of the price! They have to in order to remain in business.

    So when you ask that question, you are really asking for more taxes on you and me.

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

    Yes! Taxes!!! I proudly pay mine... and wish more people... and corporations... would pay theirs with as much joy. But I really appreciate the Hub!

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 7 years ago from Iowa

    Thank you for all of your comments, it is true that the tax system treats people differently. But personal income taxes are not the only kinds of taxes we pay. Home owners pay property taxes, people pay taxes on large purchases like cars, and utilities are taxed too, just to name some.

    We have to participate in government by actively electing officials and engaging in civic policy if we want to rein in the kinds of spending WillStarr refers to in his comment. I don't entirely disagree that the system could be improved or streamlined. But the list I included in this Hub is really the tip of the iceberg.

  • Jeremey profile image

    Jeremey 7 years ago from Arizona

    What about corporations paying their taxes? The required by law 35%!!! Some of the most profitable corporations payed well below even 10% and one's like Walmart continue to recieve tax subsidies despite their growth in a faltering economy. If all corporate 2010 taxes were paid over $100 billion more would have been collected. The wealthy even have 'PAC'ed their way into tax loopholes resulting in Warren Buffet paying less in taxes percentage wise than his secratary!!! Thank you Buffet for donating over 70% of your wealth recently to help keep the playing field level. As for the Waltons, well they donated 2% of their wealth!!!!

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    We should all pay taxes to support government, but our present system requires that the wealthy pay most of the taxes while nearly half of Americans get a free ride.

    When that happens, it's easy to convince enough voters that we can spend trillions, because it's no skin off their noses.

    Yes, we do need to support essential government services like the military, roads, etc., but when given a free rein, government will spend us into oblivion, as we are witnessing today.

  • cheapsk8chick profile image

    cheapsk8chick 7 years ago

    This is good information. It is good to reflect on the things our tax dollars go to. Makes the blow a little easier to take, and also serves as a reminder to use all of the services available to you. Thanks for the info! Voted & rated & fingers are crossed for the writing contest!

  • profile image

    Old Poolman 7 years ago

    I don't mind paying taxes, but wish everyone paid their fair share so I did not have to pay quite so much.

  • Peter Owen profile image

    Peter Owen 7 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

    We pay taxes for the privalege of living here, however high that cost might be.

  • cat on a soapbox profile image

    Catherine Tally 7 years ago from Los Angeles

    A good, informative hub.


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