I had a full on temper tantrum this morning Lottie. I was a twenty-seven year old woman crying and cursing and stamping my feet. Why? I got my annual tax bill. And I could not afford to pay it. I’m not frivolous with money, not at all really. I work in the arts, and I work hard. A lot of planning and preparation goes in to my work. I work as often as I can, and have become adept at juggling a freelance schedule. There are few promotions, rare pay rises, no sick pay, no cancellation fees, and no pension agreements*. So when I got my tax bill, I naturally had a big paddy and texted everyone I knew saying there must have been some kind of mistake. And everyone texted back saying there wasn’t.
Then I gave myself a good talking to while I was in the shower. Because actually, taxes are a good thing. They’re a genius, brilliant thing.
In order to restore calm to my Monday morning, I decided to find out EXACTLY where my taxes are going. Below is a bar chart of how much I spend per day on services in the UK through my taxes and where they go to. (Last year I earned just over £15,000, it obviously varies depending on an individuals earnings.)
(I hadn’t drawn a bar chart since about 1999, so much fun… must make them more often!)
In total I spend £2.12 per day on taxes. My biggest expense at 74p a day is Helping Others. Do I mind? Of course not. It’s 74p. There’s a lot of talk at the moment surrounding ‘benefit culture’, claiming people are taking a free ride at the cost of others. Looking at a breakdown, I can see that only 3p per day of my tax goes to the unemployed. This barely noticeable amount not only supports others, but becomes my safety net. If I were to suddenly find myself unemployed for whatever reason, this would support me too, I’m investing in my possible future as well as the lives of others. I choose to work because I enjoy it, for me this is a far more rewarding choice than staying at home, as it is for most people. I certainly don’t want to see us revert back to a Dickensian Britain; a nation where security is not a given for as many as it is now, and ending up on the streets is a reality faced by a lot more people. I want to live in a country that cares about everyone, regardless of their situation or life choices.
Taxes going in to Education and Healthcare mean equal opportunities for all, and even the poorest families in Britain have access to these services. In countries like America (perhaps not so much post ACA act, but certainly before) people have been known to lose everything due to unexpected medical costs. I am more than happy to spend my 55p a day to ensure this doesn’t happen to me, and that I get as good a shot as anyone, should I ever get seriously ill.
I don’t believe in war of any form, I don’t know many that do. And I disagree with many of our government’s decisions regarding ‘Defence’ during my lifetime. But if someone did try to attack us, I know that I’d want to be protected. I do think this money could be managed better, that’s another can of worms that I’m not going to open right now. (We can talk about it any time you want though.)
Culture, Order, Safety, Our Streets and the Environment are all things that make this country a better and safer place for us to live in.
So, I can see that I am receiving some fantastic services for my taxes. Yes, I may have to take my social life a little easy for a couple of months, make cut-backs on food bills and go swimming a bit less, whilst I negotiate my tax bill, but when I look at what I have in comparison to other parts of the world, I am so very, very lucky. Lucky to have been born in to a country that supports me in this way, and lucky to be better off in the long run for paying taxes; if I got whacked with a £2130 medical bill (average cost of a wrist fracture in USA), I’d be screwed.
When you’re older, whatever your job, you will, in one way or another, pay taxes. Looking and seeing all your hard earned money being filtered off in to the country’s bank account can be a little disheartening. The lesson I’ve learnt is to be more prepared, make sure you are too if you’re self-employed (or if you’re not, be aware that tax will be deducted from your pay packet each month.)
I vow from this moment to never be anything but grateful for being taxed, because when you think about it Lottie, taxes really are nothing other than a very good thing.
(*The benefits of freelancing are that I am my own boss, I choose when I work and I simply LOVE every single job I do.)
(Calculations are estimates done via my own mathematical brain and this brilliant website: http://wheredoesmymoneygo.org/dailybread.html )