On this tax day, take a moment to celebrate the unity and beauty of paying taxes.
“There’s something beautiful about taxes at their best,” says Camille Walsh, a UW Bothell assistant professor. Walsh holds a law degree and a Ph.D. in history and studies the history of taxation. “When we pay taxes, it links us to other people whom we have never met. I care that someone I've never seen before gets access to education or to health care because of the taxes I pay.
It’s easy to give resources for those in our own immediate circle – taxes require us to acknowledge our connection and our responsibility to everyone else.”
Walsh studies the intersections of law, inequality, race and class. She is currently revising her book, “Racial Taxation: School Finance and ‘Taxpayer Citizenship,’ 1869-1973.”
“This can be seen as a boring field, but precisely because of that perception it is a field with a lot of power – a lot of unexamined power,” she says.
The United States has a long history of using taxation rhetoric to exclude certain classes of people from access to rights, Walsh says. “Tax arguments were used by people on both sides of school desegregation debates,” she notes. “In fact, the supposed proportion that people pay into the system is still being used against various groups today.
It’s easy to make false assumptions … like ‘poor people don't pay taxes’. But we're actually all taxpayers. If everyone is participating, then who are we excluding by using this category?”
Taxation, Walsh says, is a civil rights issue. But it also helps us help each other. “Paying tax can be a way to express solidarity with other people,” she says.