We’ve asked our staff to help us unpack the complex justice issues that we’re working on. Using our General Synod pronouncements as the basis for these reflections, we hope to provide insights into the issues you care about that are rooted in our shared faith, and can inform your advocacy efforts. This month, Edie Rasell, our Minister for Economic Justice, reflects on the role of taxes in our communities and General Synod’s recent call to advocate for a just tax system as a matter of Christian stewardship.
Sharing in God’s Abundance
Taxes are a murky issue that many of us would just as soon forget about until sometime in early April (except when we are expecting a refund and try to file as early as possible). But the UCC’s General Synod recently put procrastination and confusion aside and squarely addressed our federal tax system.
At its meeting in early July, the Synod approved an important resolution Advocating for Tax Reform as Christian Stewardship and Public Duty. Synod reaffirmed our commitment to a tax system that is fair, progressive (with the burden falling most heavily on those with more money), and adequate, that is, raising revenue sufficient to meet society’s needs. The resolution also called for a number of tax reforms.
While few people like to pay taxes, a sound tax system is necessary for a just and healthy society. Many serious problems that plague the country today are either created or exacerbated by a flawed tax system: the large number of poor and near-poor families who fail to receive the financial support they need and the opportunities they deserve, the severe shortage of good jobs, the unaffordable cost of higher education, the millions of people who lack health insurance, the roads and bridges that are crumbling, and the high level of income inequality, just to name a few. While multiple factors contribute to these problems, our inadequate tax system also plays a key role.
Christians are called to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are called to care for the hungry, the thirsty, and the sick, and for orphans, widows and others who cannot care for themselves. As people of God, we recognize that in a modern society, caring and sharing occur in many ways including, very importantly, through a system of progressive taxation that pays for a social safety net, the universal provision of public services, and opportunities for all. We are thankful that Synod affirmed a strong, fair, progressive, and adequate tax system.
The resolution called for a number of tax reforms:
- a financial transaction tax to reduce financial speculation;
- taxes on capital gains that match those levied on wages and salaries;
- a strong estate tax to reduce the transfer of massive wealth across generations; and
- reform of the corporate income tax to 1) boost revenue, 2) close loopholes and stop the use of tax havens, and 3) end incentives that encourage corporations to move jobs offshore.
Synod also called on national staff to investigate a tax on carbon as a way to address climate change.
To get these tax reforms passed by Congress will require strong advocacy efforts by all of us. But we “shall run and not be weary, [we] shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 30:41) as we work for a society where everyone shares in God’s abundance and participates in God’s vision for fullness of life. Watch for advocacy opportunities in the coming months.
For more information about taxes and these tax reforms, see JWM’s The Tax System: A Matter of Faith, Fairness, and Flourishing Communities.