Let’s face it, nobody likes to pay taxes and complaining about them seems to be a national pastime, especially at this time of year. The annual process of gathering information then completing what seems to be a mountain of paperwork can leave us feeling frustrated and irritated. And if you are like 99% of Americans you want to pay as little as possible and maximize any refund you may be entitled to.
With so many reports of corporate tax loopholes and large companies paying lower federal tax rates than some low and middle-income families, it easy to think, “If they can cheat, why can’t I?”
That is all very understandable. However, gaining that refund through lying and cheating is not the way to do it. As children of God, we are called to be honest in all situations even if we don’t like the situation.
The IRS Oversight Board published its taxpayer attitude survey in December. While some people indicated it was “OK to cheat on your taxes a little” the vast majority of those surveyed did not agree with cheating on taxes and most of them thought it was proper for the cheaters to be held accountable.
The survey also indicated that the top reason for not cheating was personal integrity. Integrity is sometimes loosely defined as “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” A variety of systems and situations in society rely on our integrity and honesty.
For instance, on Halloween children know they are supposed to take only one piece of candy from those delicious-looking bowls full of treats. As we grow into adults, we’re trusted to act with integrity in many situations. Some people do so because they are afraid of the consequences associated with getting caught. Others do so simply because it’s the right thing to do. And others do so because it is God’s call for us to be honest and act justly in all situations.
People may tell you to avoid paying taxes at any cost. After all, they will reason, look how much the government wastes and squanders. But the Bible tells us to pay our taxes. “Everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God…That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them….” (Romans 13:1, 6-7) It’s certainly permissible to reduce taxes by using legal tax deductions, but we should be careful not to make unwise decisions and manipulate the truth simply to avoid paying taxes.
This means when it comes to tax time we must report all income from every source, even if a large portion of our income is in cash. It also means being totally honest with the deductions we take. Things such as the costs for commuting to and from work, unqualified business expenses, legal fees, and medical expenditures for pets are not allowable.
While it may be tempting to cheat on your taxes to save money or get a large refund, it definitely is not worth the risk. If you do decide to cheat, you may have your return audited by the IRS. We’ve been audited by the IRS and it is not a fun experience and I highly recommend avoiding it. And the bottom line is that cheating is both dishonest and a sin.
When people make a decision on whether or not to be honest, the first filter they use is trying to figure out if they’ll get caught or if they can get away with lying. But if we are living from a Scriptural basis, then our decisions are based on what will please God, and we don’t base decisions on what we can get away with.
When we cheat on our taxes, we may rationalize that it’s the government suffering the loss. Yet, if we look at the bottom line, it is our fellow taxpayers from whom we are stealing. Dishonesty always harms an individual. Any time we are dishonest, we are harming one of God’s children.
So as you calculate your tax bill this year, keep the following Bible passages in mind.
The first verse is from Mark 12:14-17, “‘Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?’ Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.’ They brought one to him and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They replied to him, ‘Caesar’s.’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’”
The second verse is from Judges 17:6 “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
Even though we may not realize it, each of us makes many small decisions every day about being honest. Deciding whether or not to fudge the numbers on a tax return to get more money back is one of those decisions.
Too many times in our society, honesty is a relative thing. People say things like “I don’t quite remember” or “As I recall …” which indicate they may be manipulating the truth.
Society thinks that honesty is relative – you can exploit the truth to get what you want. But the Bible says we must be honest with everything at all times. The eighth commandment is “You shall not lie.” There are no exceptions to that statement.
Society tells us to only deal with the facts that can be seen. Yet the Bible tells us to act in a way that displays our faith in the living unseen God. In John 14:6, Jesus tells us, “I am the truth” We need to follow him and also be truthful.
Our actions speak louder than our words. We can not be good Catholics, and be dishonest at the same time.
So you may not like your current local, state or national government officials, and you may think taxes are too high, and you may not agree with how the government is spending your money, but you still have to pay your taxes.