On a Sunday morning in 1750, Jonathan Mayhew, pastor of the Old West Church in Boston, was preparing for morning worship. This was to be a very historic service. Tensions between the American colonists and Britain were reaching an all-time high and everyone knew it. The congregation, probably expecting an ordinary service, had no idea they were about to be privy to one of the most iconic and recognizable slogans in American history.
As Pastor Mayhew began delivering his sermon, a quite and subtle fog of anticipation was hovering over the congregation. They could tell Pastor Mayhew was building up to something important. Something…..patriotic. Then the moment arrived, just as he was reaching the climax of his sermon. Pastor Mathew threw his shoulders back, held his chin up, raised his arms high in the air as if saluting the not yet created American flag, and uttered the words that rang throughout the colonies…..”NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.”
The rest, well, you probably already know.
I tell that story as a starting point for this post. “No Taxation Without Representation.” That phrase symbolized a turning point for American colonists. Why should they be taxed when they weren’t being directly represented in British Parliament? Well….they shouldn’t.
When I think about our tax system in this country, I often think back to Pastor Mayhew’s historical sermon. I like to imagine what the members of his congregation would think about our tax system. What would they do? Would would Pastor Mayhew do?
Today we don’t have the issue of taxation without representation. We enjoy the rights and benefits of a democratic government. We get to decide who represents us. But just because we have this system of taxation with representation, doesn’t mean all is right in the world.
To illustrate this point, I’m going to use myself as an example:
I’m 29 years old, newly married and just moved into a new house. I have a good career as a practicing attorney in rural Tennessee and I make a decent living.
The other day, my wife and I sat down with our accountant to prepare our taxes for the previous year. I had an idea going in as to exactly what I would owe in taxes…..turns out I was way off. $29,000.00 in income taxes alone!!!!! I’m going to repeat that. $29,000.00 IN INCOME TAXES ALONE!!!!
When our accountant gave us that number I nearly fell out of my chair. I’m all for supporting our government and our country and I truly believe we live in the greatest country on earth. But our tax system is getting out of control. How is a person supposed to save for anything when we have to give so much away. How is person supposed to make a living, pay for expenses, save for retirement, etc.? All the money I had tried to save, I had to pay in taxes the previous year.
Oh and did I mention that the $29,000.00 was just in income taxes alone. Maybe I could call into the IRS and let them know that I have to also pay for the following:
(1) Student Loans
(2) House payment
(5) Car payments
(6) Insurance (which deserves it’s own post)
(7) Gas (another topic that deserves its own post)
By the time all those are paid, and that is not the full list, I’m left with very little net income for the month. But the government could care less about that. There’s no wiggle room with them. I guess I’m just supposed to survive off crackers and rain water, have absolutely zero entertainment in my life, and live off of candlelight and the American dream.
And let’s not forget about the other taxes we, as Americans, must pay.
You’ve got your:
(1) Income Taxes
(2) Estate Taxes (It cost money to die)
(3) Gift Taxes (That’s right. You get taxed just for giving a gift)
(4) Property Taxes
And my absolute favorite of all that I have to pay because I’m a practicing attorney….
(5) Privilege Taxes- This one really irks me. I live in a country wherein I have the right to be whatever I want to be. I wanted to be an attorney, such is my right. But they have the nerve to tax me simply because I’m an attorney. Not only that, but they have the nerve to call it a “Privilege Tax.” Come on!!!!
Obviously the taxes cited above are just a small (and I mean very small) sample of all the taxes out there that we have to pay. But they illustrate my point.
Our politicians, while they’re running for election, encourage Americans to dream big. Be whatever you want to be they say. But truthfully, our tax system (in my opinion) discourages that. The more money you make (up to a certain extent) the more you have to pay back. Forget about saving for retirement, buying the house of your dreams, saving for your children’s education. It’s almost impossible given how much we have to pay to the government.
But don’t worry. This post isn’t the beginning of some monumental uprising that I’m planning. This is just blowing off steam. Despite our ridiculous tax system that seems intent on destroying our ability to save money, I still love this country. I just wish the feeling was mutual.
So rest in peace Pastor Mayhew and the congregation of the Old West Church. Even though we’re taxed on almost every aspect of our lives and even though saving money in this country is like trying to save the Titanic with a bucket and some duct tape, your sermon and it’s iconic slogan still rings proudly throughout these United States. We just need to turn up the volume.
Good Legal Health.