When we look at taxes and their various guises (council tax, road tax, income tax, value added tax etc etc) it’s very easy to get frustrated by these things. Tax at this point seems like the bad guy and we dream of a world where they didn’t exist.
However what can soften the blow of taxes is to know where they come from and what taxes are for – so we at least realise our money is going to a good cause and that the alternative wouldn’t be a whole world better.
Essentially to answer the question of what taxes are for, all you need to do is to look around you. If you’re in an urban area then you are going to see roads, pavements, monuments, phone boxes, bins and more. Of course this stuff didn’t just magically appear and left to its own devices it would rapidly deteriorate. Thus in order for all those things to stay use-able, it is necessary for the local council to have the money to buy the raw supplies and pay for the labour. These are your council taxes and things like road tax. That’s just a small part what taxes are for however.
At the same time, the taxes you pay also go towards various services – things such as the police force and schooling. Without those things schools would be ‘private’ meaning that you would have to pay to send your children to school and the only form of law enforcement or protection would be achieved by private lawyers and bodyguards.
Finally another part of what taxes are for is to provide benefits and bail outs to those who can’t sustain themselves. If you were to find yourself in a serious accident then you would get money from the government to pay you some wages as you’d be unable to work. This aspect of what taxes are for can be seen as either an ‘insurance’ for yourself, or as a way of helping your fellow man – almost as a charity. This is also why things like income tax are higher for the higher earners – this doesn’t bring everyone to the same level, but just ensures that the gap isn’t too huge.
Lastly taxes can be used as an incentive or as a deterrent. Things like cigarettes for instance are taxed highly to try and prevent smoking, as is petrol to try and protect the environment. Meanwhile things like electric cars are taxed less thus acting as an incentive for people to embrace alternative energy.
Of course this all helps society to work as it does and that’s really what taxes are for. There is the argument that some feel you should be able to opt out of taxes if you do not wish to use the public services or have the safety net of benefits, but in reality this would not be highly practical. The only variation is on how different political parties and groups choose to spend their taxes and what areas they intend to tax. If you feel your money is going towards an unworthy cause and being wasted and that this is not what taxes are for, then you use this to inform your voting at the next election.