The pleasures of paying tax

Barney Zwartz commends the task of paying tax for the benefit of all.

Decades ago, my wife decided I was paying too much tax, and popped along with me to tell my accountant so. He fixed her with a beady eye and pronounced: “Happy is the man who pays a million dollars a year in tax!”

Tomorrow, May 15, is the deadline for 2022-23 tax returns, so – with my customary (lack of) efficiency – I remembered in time to make an appointment for today. What I didn’t tell him (yes, still the same one), and never can because it would cause palpitations, is that actually I don’t mind paying tax. After all, Jesus instructs us to fulfil both our civic and religious duties.

Of course I’ve never come within a tiny fraction of my accountant’s definition of satisfaction, but I am very grateful to live in a country that provides basic services like roads and hospital care reasonably efficiently. Mind you, Melbourne now has well over four million cars, and I do wonder why every one of them wants to be on the same road as me every day, but that’s another column.

Some 200 years ago, Sydney Smith pointed out that “man is certainly a benevolent animal. A never sees B in distress without thinking that C ought to relieve him directly.” Nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than with taxation, but taxes are the price we pay for civilisation, and almost everybody values that.

As Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers rises tonight to deliver the Budget, wherein he gives me an account of how he is spending my money I trust he remembers the advice of Louis XIV’s treasurer: “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least amount of hissing.”

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