Happy Tax Day
That might sound funny, but I am a believer in taxes. Since February, some of my classmates and I have volunteered each week at free tax sites down the road in Trenton. At these sites we help low-income taxpayers file their taxes, claim benefits offered through the tax code, and explain why they owe money when they do. We learn firsthand about the remarkable and tangible difference that refundable tax credits can make for working families. We also see very clearly the many ways that the tax code can and should be improved.
Taxes are the membership dues we pay to live in the society we want. We cannot think of taxes in a vacuum, but must consider them in the context of what they make possible: everything from schools and roads, to health inspections and financial regulation, to an adequate safety net for those facing hard times. We have responsibilities as citizens and as taxpayers to be clear about what we would like our government priorities to be, and how (and who) will pay for them.
This year in particular, I urge you to reflect on your part in the picture. Think hard about who would likely bear the cost if you didn’t. More often than not, the answer is those who can least afford it – who will pay the price either in reduced essential services or “hidden taxes” in the form of increased summons, fines and fees.
Therefore I’m not complaining as I send my check to the IRS this year. I am willing to do my part as a citizen. But that's not enough. I came to the Woodrow Wilson School and will pursue a career in public service because I believe we can, and must, do better.