Monday, June 17, 2019
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Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.” Romans 13:6

will never forget my shock at my first time of filling tax forms at our NNPC Warri Head Office more than three decades ago. Let me recall the event below as my memory will permit. The Tax Officer shouted at me speaking in pidgin English as I was leaving his office after submitting my tax papers. “Come back Mr. Man! What did you fill in your form, you mean you don’t have wife and children? If you no get one you no fit write the name of one woman? You no know say tax go take all your money go!" He said this while waving the paper at my face.That was the tax officer! Literally rebuking me for not forging papers to avoid taxes!

My colleagues and I were young employees of Petrochemical plant in Ekpan near Warri, in Nigeria. The bulk of my peers had filled in fictitious names of wives and children to avoid or reduce taxes. We were young and unmarried, but highly privileged to have one of the best jobs in Nigeria at the time, yet the bulk of us wanted to avoid paying taxes. I had challenged my colleagues for doing that in the office and never expected the shock of being admonished by a tax officer for not committing the same fraud. As Dr Damages will say - who did this to us!

That day, as a young man, I told the tax officer how disappointed I was in him. What I did not know then was that all those who forged their tax documents gave him some bribe. The basis for his outburst was only that I had not given him such a bribe. To this day, Nigeria is a nation that hates paying taxes.

When I emigrated to Canada, one of the famous sayings in the financial circles is that two things in life are compulsory: taxes and death! In Canada, even in death you will still pay tax! No wonder you see development everywhere.

It is interesting that the verse I opened with is not from the newspaper or Forbes Magazine. This is the bible teaching us about our civic responsibilities. We all know that Jesus paid taxes. Even though the quotation "give to Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser", is used in our time for inappropriate issues. Jesus still meant it for the proper cause - pay your taxes.

Some may ask, why do we pay taxes? Or, why should I pay taxes when the government or some people may abuse it?

A mini-article I read online provided some answers and offered some great reasons to feel good about paying your taxes. Below are three of my favourites out of ten.

  1. Taxes put out fires, keep our streets safe, provide our children with education, provide our families with health care, ensure our food and water are safe, create legal safeguards for businesses and employees, provide parks – in other words, provide us benefits every hour of the day, every day of the year.

  2. Past generations paid taxes for what we have today - schools, hospitals, courts of law, roads, public transit, parks. Our taxes today allow us to pass along those benefits to future generations - our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Talking about past generation reminds me of the story, where an eatery had a sign post :’Eat free and your grandchildren will pay later.’ When a man saw it, he was excited and had a good dinner. As he was about to leave the waiter gave him a bill. Protesting, he said did you not say we should eat free our grandchildren will pay later? The attendant said -you are correct, you are not paying for your meal, we just want you to pay for your grandfather! You may laugh, but guess what your taxes helps to take care of future generations!

  3. Money begets power, which begets more money, and more power. Taxes provide a counter-balance, by softening extreme disparities in wealth, power and benefits.

Brethren, it is our Christian obligation to pay taxes as required by whichever nation you live in. Permit me to say it is a New Testament doctrine under grace. Don’t get me wrong I don’t enjoy paying taxes but I know it is the right thing to do and I do my best.You too should.

To be specific I want to encourage Nigerians to cultivate the culture of paying taxes. We all cry about lack of development of infrastructures and yet we refuse to pay our taxes for that development. Permit me to say

officials like the tax officer I met in my NNPC days are unfit for such jobs, don’t be mentored by them and don’t go that route. If you find yourself as a tax officer. You are a child of God, do the right thing always not sometimes or only when convenient. Payment of taxes is part of our Christian obligation to society.

Besides, as the idiomatic expression goes ‘Someone is sitting in a shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago’I think that is what the Holy Spirit is saying today by paying your taxes you make life better for the living and the unborn.

Finally, don’t just pay your taxes to government, pay your tithe to God also. “Then Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Mark 12:17. You have a duty to both humanity and divinity, you are a product of both!