During the next few weeks, the California legislature will focus on the state budget.  With a supermajority, California Democrats will be in full control of the process but it is unlikely to be smooth sailing for them.

State tax revenue is coming in significantly below projections.  A recently enacted gas tax increase has put some Democrats on the hot seat.  Even within the Democratic Party business interests have helped elect more “moderate” Democrats who do not always have the same priorities as the state party.

Perhaps, most importantly, Governor Brown has been determined to get the state’s fiscal house in order before the end of his final term and what very well might be his farewell to elected public service.

No one likes taxes but they are inescapable in modern society.

So what does the Church teach about taxation and our duty to pay them? What is the moral dimension of paying taxes and taxation? What does the Church teach about the requirements of government in the use of such tax revenues? And, in the case of taxes being used for injustice, are we obliged to pay taxes at all?

As Jesus says, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mk 12:17). Complimenting this duty of citizens, in this partnership for the common good between citizens and the state authorities, the Church teaches us that the state is obligated to act in prudence toward the upholding of a just social order for the common good, including the prudent and moral use of tax revenue.

As members of society, we are morally required to obey legitimate authority and just laws, as well as to do our part for the common good through paying taxes among other means. (CCC 2240) Additionally, and arising from this same responsibility, we find that tax evasion to be morally illicit (CCC 2409).

Great care must be given to the planning, collection, dedication, and distribution of taxes to ensure conformity to justice, sound reasoning and the common good. While it is true that due to sin, ignorance and human weakness, some laws and state actions may be unjust. As long as we do not share the intention of the unjust action, our material cooperation with these evils through paying taxes is remote enough to free us from any direct guilt. Furthermore, the greater obligation toward the common good still requires us to pay taxes. We ought, in these cases, to work for a more just society through other legitimate means.

In summary, the duty to pay taxes arises from humanity’s natural requirement to live in an ordered and just society, which necessitates civil authority. Indeed, Our Lord, the Church and sacred scripture (Mk 12:17, Rom 13:1 -7) teach us that while our worship and greatest allegiance belongs to God alone, in whose image we are created, the payment of taxes is morally obligatory under the virtue of justice, to pay to each their due. 

Full story at California Catholic Conference.