Death and Taxes

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. ~ Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy (November 13, 1789)

I had it all worked out. My Dad suggested taxes as a blogpost, which worked out perfectly for my Thursday, April 14th posting. Quite timely for the April 15th tax  deadline.

And then I found out the deadline for 2011 is April 18th. I understand if April 15th were to fall on a federal holiday or the weekend. But that’s not the case this year. Time to investigate.

Come to find out publicized IR-2011-1, Jan. 4, 2011 which tells us,

The Internal Revenue Service today opened the 2011 tax filing season by announcing that taxpayers have until April 18 to file their tax returns.

(They make it sound like it’s the opening day of baseball!)

April 16 is Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia. If the 16th falls on a Saturday, it’s observed on April 15th. Thus changes in the IRS deadline for filing taxes. Obviously, Emancipation Day has nothing to do with being emancipated from taxes!

Having worked all that out, what can we say about taxes? Franklin’s famous quote notes the certainty of both death and taxes. When questioned about paying taxes as a means to trap him, Jesus replied with his famous, “render unto caesar what is caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

I think there’s something simple and profound about both of these quotes and taxes. In the eternal scheme of things, there are things that are inevitable. Knowing that, what can I do to make the best of an inevitable event? For me, planning and prevention go a long ways in doing what I can do with something that’s inevitable. Death is inevitable, but I may be able to minimize or prevent some illnesses that making dying so unpleasant by eating right and exercising. I know I’m responsible for paying certain taxes, therefore I plan for that event and have the appropriate amounts withheld. The idea is to get everything to zero out when I file my tax return: I’ve paid in exactly what I’ll owe and the government will not have used my money, interest free.

Finally, I think Jesus was purposefully ambiguous about his response to taxes. I realize I’m saying that without going into a hermeneutical discourse on the subject. What he wasn’t ambiguous about was giving to God the thing’s that are God’s. In the eternal scheme of things, we each are a unique, unrepeatable, miracle of God. God’s spirit dwells in each of us. When I give myself back to God to be used as an instrument of love and caring, my thoughts are elevated above the inevitable to the possible. And that makes a difference to me and the world around me.

BTW: we were totally unaware of the amended filing date and got everything filed early. I guess we can celebrate Emancipation Day after all!



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