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Tax Day: Three Reasons April 15 is Actually Pretty Great

'IRS 1040 Forms Post Office April 14, 20112' photo (c) 2011, Steven Depolo - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Today is April 15, also known as tax day in the United States. People around the country are scrambling to meet the midnight deadline for filing, many of them groaning as they prepare to make sizable payments to the Internal Revenue Service. Tax day in America has become a national day of grousing for the most part, but it doesn't have to be—NETWORK Lobby is promoting a #taxpayerpride campaign on social media, and asking people to take selfies with some of the great things taxes pay for and post them to social media.

"Many of our faith traditions call us to pool our financial resources for the common good,"Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK wrote in the launch of the #taxpayerpride campaign. "What makes our country great is our commitment to everyone having enough and no one getting left behind."

We agree! So, to that point, here are three functions of the federal government that are funded by our taxpayer dollars and that support the biblical vision of community and nation as lifting up those who are vulnerable.

1) Earned Income Tax Credit

The earned income tax credit, or EITC, is a refundable federal tax credit (people apply while completing their income tax returns) that supplements the wages of low-income workers. Although there has been some debate on Capitol Hill about expanding the program to include childless workers--an expansion Bread for the World supports—EITC has historically had bi-partisan support, a rare hand-up that most members of Congress can get behind.

The working poor often shoulder a greater share of the tax burden relative to their income, contrary to the conventional wisdom in some circles. A 2012 Citizens for Tax Justice study found that the poorest fifth of Americans, a group with an average cash income of $13,000 per year, saw 17.4 percent of their incomes go to taxes—including payroll tax, sales tax, and excise tax—in 2011.

The EITC helps offset this a bit by allowing low-income workers to keep more of what they earn.    In 2010, this credit lifted 5.4 million people out of poverty—including 3 million children.

2) Food-Aid Reform

Even people who don't complain about paying taxes may express concern about our government's stewardship of tax dollars. One example of our tax dollars being used wisely is food-aid reform, the movement to update our government's outdated practices related to food aid, the assistance our nation provides to hungry people across the globe.

Food aid already helps feed people overseas at very little cost—less than .05 percent of the federal budget each year. And smart, simple changes to  food-aid programs (as outlined in Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters) would allow food aid to benefit millions more people each year — at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Better utilization of existing tax revenue in a way that helps more people is something tax payers can feel good about.

3) Safety Net Programs

When people are asked to cite some of the great things their tax dollars fund, they often mention national parks, public museums and libraries, or bridges and roads. While Americans are fortunate to live in a country where our government values and invests in things like cultural enrichment and infrastructure,we're even more privileged to live in a nation that has a social safety net in place to catch people before they fall into poverty.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), about 12 percent of the federal budget in 2013, or $398 billion, supported programs that provide aid  to individuals and families facing hardship (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits). Included in that figure are SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, and many other important programs.

A CBPP analysis shows that government safety net programs kept some 41 million people out of poverty in 2012.  Although not nearly enough of our tax dollars go toward helping people in need, the good news is that the money we do spend on social safety net is vital and does much good, something that should make taxpayers feel very proud.

 

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