Written by Hazel Davis

In The News

Why I ❤️ paying tax

Hazel Davis is a firm believer that you get out what you put in. And that’s why she loves making sure she has a stake in the society she lives in – courtesy of the taxman.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Aaaaah, remember the episode of The Good Life where Tom and Barbara kidnap and kill Margo? NO. Because we don’t live in a land where nobody pays tax. That so-called Good Life? That’s Somalia, mate.

OK, possibly Because They Pay Tax wasn’t the only reason that the fictitious sitcom neighbours weren’t raped and murdered, but Tom and Barbara benefitted massively from our state-backed legal-right-to-property-without-resorting-to-armed-defence, without (one assumes) putting a single penny back in.

You get things by paying for them. Unless you have earned your money, however much or little it is, without recourse to any state spending, then you owe a debt. And it gets my hackles right up when the average girl on the street spouts the same ‘fuck the taxman’ line. Not least because it’s so boring. And we’ve accepted this general mantra as a nation, too, whether we’re socialists, Tories or Unmentionables. It’s a cross-party problem. It’s a national badge of honour.

But I love paying tax. I do! I balk when people talk about the hoops they are prepared to jump through to avoid it. I feel really uncomfortable when friends tell me they actually earn more than the taxman thinks they earn.

I don’t pay tax because I have to or because I’ll get arrested if I don’t (though, more on that later). I pay it because I want to live in a society I have a stake in. I want to live in a place that’s got my back and I am prepared to pay for it. Things are cheaper if everybody has them (which is why the USA has the worst-value healthcare system in the developed world).

And for those dickheads who complain that they wouldn’t mind paying tax if they could be sure of where it was going (i.e. not on Trident but definitely on free school quinoa), that’s not how it works. For every knob complaining about an NHS-funded sex reassignment operation there is some other knob saying we don’t need to spend money on prisons. People who resent paying tax for specific things are the sort of people who split restaurant bills by what everybody has individually eaten. Tax allows us to pay for all the necessary things we don’t like and then complain about having them. And that’s what we love most of all. It’s our national hobby.

And, I know, I know. While all of this is true, what about people who syphon their earnings overseas? I know. They’re asshats. They are the sort of people who take you for dinner at a supermarket cafe during a two-for-one and ‘split the bill’ without telling you about the deal. Then they explain how fucking lucky you are to have someone rich like them around boosting the economy, not paying anything. If you’re the sort of person who goes to great lengths to not pay tax, then you’re quite likely to be the sort of person who will be paying sweatshop workers fuck-all in China and not contributing to our economy anyway. Asshats. I know. But this isn’t the point. Shhh.

“I don’t pay tax because I have to or because I’ll get arrested if I don’t. I pay it because I want to live in a society I have a stake in.”

‘Research has shown’ that we really mostly can’t be arsed changing our bank, utilities, etc. Choice is boring. Imagine if we had to decide what company would collect our rubbish or educate our children. In fact, it’s almost worth thinking of civil servants as our personal valet service, because that’s what they’re basically doing. They’re doing what a lifestyle concierge does for rich people (yeah that’s a thing, OK? Lookit). I am already stressed as fuck about Royal Mail. I just don’t have time to look at the options for all of the rest of the things that enable me to live my life.

Paying your dues is about showing you’re part of society. It’s, well, it’s just RUDE not to! It’s like turning up to a party, drinking all the booze, eating all the food and fucking off without clearing up or even bringing a box of Twiglets. Or, not wishing to be rude about IKEA (I have had some of my finest meatball experiences there) but it’s like buying all your furniture from IKEA and whinging that you have to put it together yourself.

The reality is that most of us in this country rely on the tacit support of a whole range of state services that are so ubiquitous as to be invisible to us. We also rely on, mostly, people obeying the rules because we can pay for a state to uphold the rules. There aren’t many failed states that are havens of peace and one of the things I pay my taxes for is the constant knowledge that if we break the rules, the justice system will fuck us up. That makes me feel safe.


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Written by Hazel Davis

Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".