For all my proselytizing on the benefits of government and its many valuable programs, you'd think I'd be overjoyed to pay my taxes. I mean, they do help provide the financing for services I care about, like libraries, public broadcasting, animal welfare services, roads, housing and health care. I'm also a fan of clean water, schools and garbage pick-ups. And yet, I have to admit it, I'm not skipping merrily down to the post office today all excited about the investments I get to make in our nation's infrastructure, safety and human services. Perhaps it's because I live in the District of Columbia where I don't actually have anyone who can vote on the best way to utilize those dollars (ah, the irony ' the Advocacy Guru has no one to advocate at!) So, to put myself in a better mood (and to get over my tax day blues), I'm going to put a positive spin on the dreaded April 15th. Yep, that's right.
Here are the Advocacy Guru's top five tips for feeling better about tax day: - Number 1 -- Remember what you get for your taxes: Although it sometimes feels like your tax dollars disappear in to a black hole, the truth is, these funds actually are invested in some pretty cool things. Local dollars go toward local services, like fire and emergency, track pick-up and sewers (think about that next time you throw something away or, well, flush your toilet). Federal dollars help finance roads, health care for older and poorer Americans, schools and a whole host of other important services. If you're curious as to where your tax dollars go, check out the National Priorities Project and their interactive tax chart at www.nationalpriorities.
org. Here you can enter the amount of taxes you actually paid (if it doesn't make you cry) and determine where those dollars went. Then, as you're filling out your 1040, pretend to yourself that you're making a donation to the programs you love best. That might ease the pain a little.
- Number 2 -- Advocate in favor of the investments you support: If you've looked at where your tax dollars are going and don't like what you see, let your elected officials know! For example, if you paid $5,000 in taxes, you'll find out that $2,100 went to the military and just over $1,000 went to health services. For some people those ratios are just fine: others believe that more should be going toward non-military programs. Wherever you stand on the spectrum, let your elected officials know what you think we should be investing in as a nation. You can reach them through a site like www.congress.org - Number 3 -- Thank your legislators: Believe it or not, many people actually yell at their elected officials on tax day.
It's shocking, but true. Imagine the attention you'll get if you were one of those few people who called to thank your legislators for the investments they've approved. And yes, I mean really thank them: in other words, do not call with a snarky "gee, thanks a lot" message. Instead, let them know what spending you're a fan of as well as the spending that you're less than enthusiastic about. You'll find that your advocacy for the programs you'd like to support will be much better received if you take this approach. - Number 4 -- Get involved in the elections: If there's a lot of spending that you're feeling less than enthusiastic about, one of the best ways to solve that problem is to get people into office who share your views.
And the best way to do that is to get involved in a campaign. This November citizens (that's you) will have the opportunity to vote on local, state and federal level candidates and issues. From city hall to Washington, DC you can "vote the bums out" and "vote new bums in." You could even consider working on the campaign of a bum or two. For more information on election activities in your area, go to www.
vote411.org - Number 5 -- Take a break: Frankly, I found that a nice glass of red wine really helped me get through the process of filling out tax forms and I'm sure the IRS will enjoy my alcohol-induced tax calculations. If things get too stressful just try to be thankful that at least you've got some income to pay taxes on, right? There are too many Americans struggling to make ends meet (especially in this economic climate).
So sit back, relax and enjoy the beverage of your choice, and just think that beverage might not have made it to your glass without some sort of taxpayer investment!.
Stephanie Vance, the Advocacy Guru at Advocacy Associates, works with organizations that want to impact public policy through effective advocacy techniques. She offers training and consulting services on getting government to listen and can be found on the web at http://www.advocacyguru.com