Many feel that they are overtaxed, and they long for a more equitable system. Others want no taxes at all. Is tax relief on the way?
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As the adage goes, “Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes.” Many people feel that they spend their whole life paying the “tax man,” and then they die. Yet, even at death, the reality of taxation continues in the form of inheritance taxes.
All industrialized nations of the world tax their citizens to one degree or another. The list of taxes one is required to pay seems endless. In the United States alone, there is federal, state and local income tax, social security, Medicare, property tax, sales, luxury, gasoline, clean air, scholarship, value added, gas guzzler, hotel room, hidden taxes and, just to make sure you pay your fair share, alternative minimum tax!
If most were to figure the total amount, they may find that 40 to 50 percent of their income goes to pay taxes. Some pay more—much more! In 2004, the average citizen worked 101 days just to satisfy their tax burden.
Still, governments, whether local, state or national, never seem to have enough of their citizens' money. Constantly spending beyond budgetary means, politicians work and rework the system of taxation, finding ever new ways of separating people from their hard-earned cash. Believing that the higher a person's income, the higher the percentage of tax he should pay, many opt for a “progressive” tax code. “The rich ought to pay more!” is their cry. Yet, it is never enough.
At the turn of every year, American citizens must wade through a variety of complicated and sometimes mind-boggling tax forms. Taxpayers spend hours upon hours to make sure they are in compliance with endless volumes of confusing tax code. Many make a mad dash to file by the April 15th deadline. Post offices in larger cities stay open until midnight for last-minute filers. For many, this is not enough time to comply and so they file forms requesting an extension. Daunted by this, thousands willingly pay others to prepare and file their taxes for them.
Trying to hold on to as much of their hard-earned cash as possible, individuals find ways to “shelter” their income, even to the point of going into debt. They invest in money-losing ventures, or place it in tax-deferred accounts where they cannot access it for decades without incurring stiff penalties. People will do almost anything, just as long as the government does not get their money!
Why does it—why should it—have to be so difficult to figure and pay what you owe? And why so much?
After the nation of Israel had entered the Promised Land, they were led under a system of judges with the Levitical priesthood ruling on religious matters. God's fair and equitable laws of tithing were practiced. Yet, after roughly 400 years under this system, Israel decided that they wanted to be like the nations around them. They came to Samuel, who had served as a judge and priest, insisting that he set a physical king over them. In doing so, they rejected God's government and His rule over their lives.
God permitted this, setting up Saul as their king. However, God gave a stern warning of what was to come: “This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear [plow] his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth [tax] of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth [tax] of your sheep: and you shall be his servants. And you shall cry out in that day because of your king which you shall have chosen you” (I Sam. 8:11-18).
God knew that His tithing system would eventually be abused and misused by men. They would misapply it, turning it into a burden that it was never meant to be. There would be military drafts and property would be taken “for the good of the state.” More and more money would be needed to finance endless projects. And, over time, this would only grow worse.
By the time Solomon's son Rehoboam ascended to the throne over Israel, the people were crying out for relief. Solomon had taxed the nation heavily for the construction of his own palaces, stables and vineyards. Through their spokesperson Jeroboam, the northern ten tribes of Israel asked Rehoboam to lighten their tax burden: “Your father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make you the grievous service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve you” (I Kgs. 12:4).
Rehoboam refused, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (vs. 14). Instead of providing relief, Rehoboam increased the labor and tax demands.
As a result, the northern ten tribes, under the leadership of Jeroboam, broke away to form a separate nation. Eventually, this northern nation of Israel became lost to the world's view. But those people still exist today. (To learn more about what happened to the “Lost Ten Tribes of Israel,” read our book America and Britain in Prophecy.)
Most everyone welcomes a tax cut. To one degree or another, most citizens feel that they pay too much in taxes. One of the reasons for the American Revolution was excessive taxation. The Boston Tea Party and the battle cry “Taxation without representation” helped pave the way for the colonies' separation from England.
The U.S. tax system as we know it was not instituted until March 1, 1913. Since that time, it has only grown in size and scope. Feeling the pressure mounting, the population routinely cries out for relief. While most feel that some taxes are necessary, a growing minority want no taxes at all. Some in this group actively refuse to pay taxes.
Many politicians have run for office on the platform of tax reform. Promising to reduce the amount you owe, they plead for your vote to put them in office. In fact, tax reform was one of the deciding issues in last year's Presidential election.
Endless proposals are made, from abolishing income tax altogether in favor of a national sales tax, to varying forms of a flat tax, to all sorts of new deductions or tax credits. Yet, it is never easy to pass tax reform legislation. After all, there is much money to be made in the collection and allocation of taxes. No one wants to be on the losing end.
For example, if a simple flat tax were to be adopted, think of how many people would have to find a new occupation. It would affect thousands of IRS employees, tax attorneys, tax preparers, accountants and all individuals and businesses whose livelihood is dependent on the status quo. Others do not want to lose the tax dollars that come their way in the form of public works. While many are for such reform, others would be absolutely against it.
Is an equitable, fairly administered system possible? If so, how will it come about and who will bring it?
There is a fair and just system of taxation, and it has been in existence for millennia. Its earliest mention is found in the book of Genesis. Around the year 1900 B.C., there lived a man named Abram—later called Abraham. He is described as a man who obeyed God—one who kept His charge, commandments, statutes and laws (Gen. 26:5).
After rescuing his nephew Lot from hostile forces—and, in the process, having taken many valuable spoils of war—Abraham stopped with his servants near the ancient city of Salem (later known as Jerusalem). He was greeted by Melchizedek, the King of Salem, who brought out bread and wine to refresh them. Unlike the kings of the surrounding cities, Melchizedek (who later became Jesus Christ) was not only King of Salem, but also the High Priest of the true God. He blessed Abraham, saying, “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand” (Gen. 14:19-20).
Following this blessing, “he [Abraham] gave Him [Melchizedek] tithes [or a tenth] of all” (end of verse 20). Abraham recognized that God owns everything, and has a prior claim to it (Psa. 50:10-12). Because Abraham obeyed the Eternal, he kept His tithing law. But, unlike the tax laws of men, which take 25 percent or more of a person's income, God only requires that we pay a tithe—10 percent—in return.
This is the same financial law that God gave to Israel through Moses. Notice: “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord” (Lev. 27:30).
God further instructed, “I have given the children of Levi all the tenth [tithe] in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Num. 18:21). The Creator always intended tithes to be used for His purposes. This system is the means by which God has always financed His Work, and it has been in effect since long before Abraham. In ancient Israel, the tithes were paid to God, who then gave them to the Levites for the work they performed.
In essence, tithing is a simple 10-percent flat tax paid on an individual's wages. Under God's system, all pay their fair share. No one is undertaxed or overtaxed. Whether you earn a dollar or multiple millions, the rate is the same. It truly is fair and equitable and, when practiced, yields blessings (Mal. 3:8-10). There are no complicated forms to fill out; no need to spend hours upon hours trying to figure out what you owe; no need to go into debt or lose money in business ventures just to “shelter” your money to avoid a higher tax rate.
How simple are the ways of God. His tithing laws truly are progressive! When kept, God's laws always produce every good result.
Jesus Christ's physical ministry took place during the time when the Roman Empire ruled Judea. As with all governments of men, it imposed a heavy tax burden on its citizens. More than once, there had been a tax revolt involving the Jews under Roman domination. Feeling it to be excessive and unjust, many simply did not want to pay it. It had become a source of much debate and contention.
At one point, certain religious leaders asked Christ for His opinion on the matter: “Tell us therefore, what think You? Is it lawful to give tribute [taxes] unto Caesar, or not?” (Matt. 22:17). Of course, their real motive was to trick Christ. If He said not to pay the taxes, they could accuse Him of speaking against Roman law and turn Him over to the authorities. If He said to pay the tax, they could accuse Him of siding with Rome. Regardless of His answer, they sought to trap Him.
However, Jesus answered them wisely. “Show Me the tribute money,” He said, and then asked, “Whose is this image and superscription?” The religious leaders answered, “Caesar's.” Concluding the matter, Christ said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's” (Matt. 22:19-21).
Governments have the authority to collect taxes. Christ's words do not support the views of those who refuse to pay taxes. On another occasion, Christ, with His disciples, paid a tax (Matt. 17:24-27). While it may not be pleasant, if the government levies a tax on your income, you are required to pay it.
Did you notice that while Jesus said we are to fulfill our tax obligations to our nation, state or local community, He also commanded that we keep our obligations to God? He said, “Render. unto God the things that are God's” (Matt. 22:21).
The Jews were very zealous and meticulous about paying tithes. Yet, in other areas of God's Law, they were lacking. Teaching on these issues, Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23).
Christ was saying that tithing is an important obligation to God that we must faithfully keep, as with all of His Law.
Remember, God owns everything and has a prior claim to it. But He allows man to use what is His to earn an income. In return, He only asks for a tithe. As mentioned, this system is the means by which God has always financed His Work. That Work is publishing the very magazine you are reading.
Under man's system of taxation, it can be difficult, time-consuming and frustrating trying to figure out what you owe to humanly-devised governments. Under man's financial laws, it can be difficult to make ends meet after paying all the required taxes.
Yet, true, effective tax relief is coming. When practiced correctly, God's tithing law is never a burden. The very same system of tithing that finances the Work of God today will, at the Return of Jesus Christ, replace the complicated, inequitable and unjust taxation imposed at the hands of man. That time is just ahead. If you would like to know more about tithing, the blessings that flow from it and how to better manage your finances, read our booklets End All Your Financial Worries and Taking Charge of Your Finances.