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This may be the only thing all Americans agree on. In addition to the yearly tax frenzy in April, we pay taxes throughout the year on myriad items. Often these incremental taxes are off our radar, buried in monthly bills and daily expenses:

  • On retail & grocery sales
  • At the fuel pump & auto licensing bureausIMG_1226
  • Tacked into telephone & cable bills
  • Added to utility bills
  • Added in various formulas to property tax bills
  • Estate taxes

We pay taxes in so many ways that it takes a mathematical genius or an economist to really know what percentage of our personal budget is siphoned off for the greater good.

I am curious how much of our personal budgets should be set aside to keep the country humming. If we could scrap the entire mess we’ve got, if we could envision a new way to fund our community, both local and larger, how much of our wallet would we happily part with? I think this concept is hard for Americans to even fathom. When I ask the question, I get all sorts of push back about formulas and flat taxes vs. incremental taxes. I am posing a purely theoretical question.

So far I’ve received answers that plumb both extremes:

One individual is happy to pay 40% of her income. But she does not live in America. She lives in a country in which her contribution buys her “great public infrastructure, a health system covering her and her family with good (not luxurious, but reliable!) health care, good schools, free higher education, and PEACE OF MIND!”

At the other end of the spectrum, one person suggested that 15% should suffice.

Of course, what we are willing to pay is also predicated on what we expect to receive for what we pay. And that is a whole other can of worms. For now I am interested in one simple question:

All things being equal, how much of your income would you feel was a fair contribution to the country we are all so proud of when we aren’t gnashing our teeth and pointing fingers at each other?

There may be a follow up question, if I have the courage to pursue this polarized topic.