Be a tax-prayer

Tax. Let's pray about it!

The self-assessment tax deadline on 31 January has left many rushing to complete their tax returns and make any payments that are due. Paying tax is one of life's inevitabilities but is it just a grim burden? Could the payment of taxes be something we do with more positive feelings, even with delight?

We're going to set aside a moment at our 11am service on 3 February to be tax-prayers.

The avoidance of tax is big business. Goldman Sachs recently backed away from a plan to pay bonuses to well-paid staff after the new lower top-rate is introduced. And they're not the only ones. Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, recently attacked the idea of fiddling the dates to avoid proper tax payments in response to a parliamentary committee.

Big players Amazon, Google and Starbucks attracted widespread criticism over the way that their earnings in the UK lead to relatively low payments of UK tax.

Jesus was once asked whether tax should be paid. His answer was an unequivocal yes.

We all pay tax but not all of us pay as much as we should. For most of us, income tax and VAT are the big ones. 20% of the purchase price of much of our shopping basket goes straight to the Treasury. The marginal rates of tax for low earners can be very steep.

The way that our taxes are used should concern us all. The democratic process allows many of us to choose who decides to do what with the taxes we pay. But paying tax is a way of supporting the common good; it's not just a personal cost, we can see it as a wider investment in the society in which we live.

We'll be praying with thanksgiving for all the good things we have, for the wealth that comes our way, earned or not. And we'll be praying that our taxes will be used for the common good. We'll commit ourselves to pay what's due, what's simply right (not what's the absolute legal minimum), what Jesus would himself have urged upon us.