It’s that time of year again—tax season. Most people dread the coming of April 15, when annual taxes are due. Each year I welcome tax season as a time for me to take stock of what I have done, where I have contributed and what I need to do to further contribute to the collective good.
This year Uncle Sam received a generous donation from me. Although some of my tax money goes to programs I fundamentally disagree with and other portions of my money are wasted on bureaucracy and government inefficiency, instead of feeling angry, I try to remember that some of the money goes to people and programs I support wholeheartedly.
Our government needs tax revenue to fund schools, roads, homelessness efforts, first responders, public works projects, transportation and so much more. If I want my money to be “managed” better, I must pay more attention to my elected officials who are ultimately in charge of budgets and priorities. A budget is a moral document, and it is my responsibility to support elected officials who share my morals and will work to allocate our money in ways that I see fit.
Some of you might still dread the prospect of organizing receipts and forms. A few years ago I started a filing system in which I have a file in my email inbox for any tax-related receipts, emails or forms. I also keep a manila folder readily available at home and in my office to deposit any receipts that are tax related. Therefore, when tax season inevitably comes around, I can easily access and then organize my information. These minor steps have made my late March less stressful. In maintaining organization, I am also able to see where I donated to small organizations throughout the year. My goal last year was to do more to contribute to the greater good. Therefore, tax season is also a way to measure just how much I am giving to others in the form of donations and contributions.
When I think of universal pre-K in NYC or the federal government providing sanitary napkins to incarcerated women (we are still working on the state government), or Access-a-Ride for the elderly and individuals with special needs, I think of my tax dollars hard at work. The first sentence of the U.S. Constitution calls for “We the people” to promote the general welfare for these United States. Even in these turbulent times, we must remember that our Constitution was established to serve as a pillar that we must all strive to reach. By no means is American democracy perfect or complete, but it is up to us to work to maintain order and justice for all—especially in the current political times.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is the 2018 NYU McSilver Institute Fellow and an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.