The Word of God, when read with an open heart and mind, can prove to be a painful experience. That might come as a surprise to some, especially those that follow false teachers of the "prosperity gospel" perversion. However, the old axiom stands true in that "the truth hurts". Why? Because when we look into the perfect reflection of truth with an open heart our faults become obvious and we can't help but feel the sting of our shortcomings.
The truth of God's word is sharp, piercing, and when it has a way of not letting a heart feel at ease until it conforms to it.
That is what this post is about. You see, I want to confess a sin that I have lead my family into sometimes in ignorance and sometimes knowingly.
I am a no better than a common thief.
No, I may not be one for lurking around in the shadows snatching purses and holding up banks at gunpoint, but I am guilty of stealing nonetheless. So what exactly am I talking about? I'm guilty of not paying the State of Oklahoma and local municipalities their due cut of Use Tax. Surprised? You probably shouldn't be. Research shows that 96 percent of Oklahoman's don't pay any use tax. With the popularity of online shopping exploding in popularity, that number is outrageously high. If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, check it out below.
There it is.
I have been online shopping for approximately 10 years and have never paid use tax on any of those purchases. Which leads me to ask the question, "why?"
Originally I could claim ignorance. Paying sales tax in our culture today is just something we are used to happening at the point of checkout. Those of us that don't run a shop or sell goods or services for a living are not used to collecting and passing along sales tax to the local and state governments. Many of us either are genuinely ignorant of of the requirements of the law in regards to use tax or, like me, would like to claim ignorance in order to skirt the moral responsibility that knowledge places on us. Side note: I almost used the phrase 'legal and moral' into the previous sentence but chose to use only moral because regardless of what the FBI director may say, our ignorance of the law does not relieve us from the obligation to abide by it or any of the due penalties for breaking it. It is likely that most Oklahoman's fall into one of those two categories. However, I think there may be another reason use tax doesn't get paid.
It is no secret that Oklahoma is a fairly (very) conservative state. As such, the concept of self enforcing ourselves to give up even more of our money to the government, local or otherwise, is absolutely unthinkable to most Oklahoman's. I freely admit to falling into this category for far too many years. I am familiar with the arguments one uses to justify failing our obligation to pay up, I've used them for years.
"They won't use the money wisely!"
"They waste too much of our money!"
"They should make it easier to pay!"
"I can use that money in much better ways!"
Whether or not any of that is true (it likely is), none of those justifications are new. In fact, I bet the same word were being spoken over 2,000 years ago when Jesus was asked for the truth about paying taxes to what Jews considered a vile, idol worshiping and foreign government occupying their lands.
Whatever problems we may have with our current government, let's not pretend that they didn't have it worse. The same answer given by Christ then certainly still applies today. Which is why when I filed my income taxes with the state this year I went back and calculated all my back Use Tax and paid it. All 12+ years worth of Amazon purchases. Was it easy? No. Was it fun? No. Did I enjoy sending that large chunk of money to the state? No. Would I have rather given it to a charitable organization (such as Timothy Hill Children's Ranch)? Absolutely!
But I love Christ, and He said,
Including giving to Ceasar what is Ceasar's.
Want to do the same. Here is the process that used.
- Lookup your online purchases
- As an example, I'll be using where a majority of our household online purchases occur, Amazon.com
- Log in to Amazon.com, click "My Account"
- Click "Download Order Reports"
- Set your parameters (Maybe you can only afford to pay back a bit at a time. If you are like us you have 10 years worth of purchases to pay back taxes on.)
- Export your report.
- From here, you will need to open it in Excel and highlight the "Item total" column and run a SUM function on the amounts.
- Paying the taxes (I AM NOT A TAX EXPERT - ADVISING ONE WOULD BE PREFERABLE! However, I will let you know what I intend on doing to pay this back)
- Go to https://oktap.tax.ok.gov/oktap/web/_/#1
- Follow the instructions
- Enter in the total of use tax you wish to pay back
- Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's
Disagree? I'd love to hear from you!