Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Paying tax - why?

I received my tax assessment today. Before you stop reading - tax is hardly the most thrilling subject - I want to talk about what else was in the envelope.

There's a tax receipt which explains where my tax dollars were spent. It shows how much and what it was spent on. I think this is an excellent way to educate about the value of paying tax, but for some reason it feels like a cynical exercise.

The first thing I noted was that the level of Australian Government gross debt has increased from $257 billion to $320 billion. That increase has happened under PM Abbott and Treasurer Hockey who used to talk about a "debt and deficit emergency" but now they say there isn't one.

Unsurprisingly, welfare is the biggest proportion and payments to unemployed people is the smallest share (apart from "other").

Health is second highest, then the list gets interesting. Defence received more of my tax dollars than education ($5 more to be precise). I'd like to know more about health spending - for example how much of it goes on subsidising private health insurance for people with money compared to mental health services.

Recreation and culture gets the smallest amount. Luckily I prop them up by paying to go to art galleries, concerts, plays and other cultural activities.

Any mention of the environment is screamingly absent and I can only hope that some of the money going to "fuel and energy" is for development of renewable energy.

There's more information on the website. I love their commitment to plainspeaking:

Understanding tax

Australians pay tax so the government can provide services to the community.
Good to know.
Immigration is the category that upsets me because I know that I have no choice but to financially contribute to the immigration detention centres where innocent people are kept in concentration camps.
I wonder what would happen if tax payers could direct where our share of taxes was spent? I know that it wouldn't necessarily be practical, but it would be interesting to ask people. My decisions would be very different from those of the current government, but I don't resent paying tax.
Thanks to the Australian Government for the information!

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