Giving to Caesar and Giving God the Glory

By Jennifer Johnson

I just finished two hours of sorting paperwork, receipts, and credit card printouts into piles: Business travel. Charitable giving. Home office expenses. Mortgage payments.

05_4C_taxmoney_JNI’m not sure it’s possible for taxes to be any more complex than mine are this year. I’m self-employed, which in itself is a carnival of fun. Halfway through the year I got married and moved to Pennsylvania, which has state income tax, from Tennessee, which doesn’t. I left a house behind, which I’m now renting through an agent. My new husband is a minister, which comes with its own set of tax rules, and has two kids whom we’ll claim as his dependents but not mine.

My six-year-old Mac will be shooting sparks out of its USB ports.

As TurboTax and I tackle this headache, I think about the ways my “contribution” will be spent. According to and CNBC, in recent years about 20 percent of U.S. tax revenue went to Social Security, a heartening prospect for those of us who will turn 67 the exact year the system starts to run short. About 8 percent finances interest on existing debt. Only 4.5 cents out of every dollar goes to fund education, and just 1 cent out of 100 is earmarked for foreign assistance.

Calvin Coolidge once said, “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” The trouble comes in trying to define what’s necessary. Should we fund Medicare with $486 billion a year instead of overhauling the health insurance system? Should unemployment benefits continue to incentivize not working? Should these decisions be made by politicians who also spent $175,000 to study the effect of cocaine on Japanese quail?

Regardless of how we feel about what we pay or where it goes, we can all get behind helping other people meet the requirement with dignity. Milligan’s VITA program is a win for everyone: community members receive help, the college gets well-deserved positive PR, and students learn a skill while earning school credit.

Giving to Caesar is never fun, but Milligan has found a way to give glory to God at the same time. Now if they’d just open a Philly location.

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