5 Ways to Green Your Taxes
It’s income tax time again. Just like other special occasions, one would expect the green blogosphere to erupt in lists of eco-advice (see Five Super-Simple Steps to Green Trick-or-Treating or The 12 Green Days of Christmas). Since I can only think of one method to green up tax time (e-file), I will share my thoughts on income taxes and how they could/should benefit the environment instead of creating a list of 5 ways to green your taxes.
Unlike many people I know, I actually don’t mind paying taxes. The problem I have with taxes is that I don’t agree with how the money is spent by the government. In return for my payment of taxes, I expect peace and health for all world citizens, as I do feel this is our responsibility as a wealthy nation engaged in a global economy. These expectations are clearly tied to the environment, of which I expect my tax dollars to consider in every expense.
I wish I could choose how my tax money was spent by the government. I would tell the government not to use any of my money for war, human rights violations, resource exploitation, big oil companies, etc. and instead delineate what percentage of my dollars should be spent on education, universal health care, environment preservation, etc. I understand it would not be practical to allow Americans to decide how all of their tax money is spent, as a certain amount would need to be set aside for infrastructure, but why couldn’t we be given a checklist of prioritized choices to accompany our 1040s?
Since it is unlikely my ideas of choice will be implemented, I wish that Americans were given more tax credits for living green. If was I was in charge of the IRS, I would let CFL and carbon credit purchases be used as a deduction, much the way larger energy saving home improvements are allowed currently. I would give tax credits beyond hybrid vehicles to biofuels, bicycles, and public transportation. I would give tax credits for people living off the grid, eating organically, recycling, etc.
Our founding fathers fought against taxation without representation. Although I am technically represented by elected officials, most of which I did not vote for, my ideals are not represented by many of our government’s policies. I am not alone in this regard, when considering 81% of Americans think “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” I believe we have taxation without moral representation. I wish I was as brave as Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner, documented in An Act of Conscience, who lost their home and freedom in protest of income tax funded war. This pacifist couple filed 1040s, then donated the money to peace charities instead of the government.
Obviously, I am not a tax expert, but I do insist on self preparing my taxes each year. I don’t think our founding fathers in 1862 (when the first income tax was enacted to fund a war) or when the 16th Amendment was added in 1913 , envisioned a system so complicated Americans had to hire and pay someone to figure out their income taxes. I think the time has come to green our taxes by letting the government know how we want our tax money spent. Perhaps I will send the IRS a list with my taxes this year.
Image credit: consumerist