10 Most Common Questions About Taxes

Why Do We Pay Taxes? What's the Point?
Law enforcement is just one of the things your tax dollars pays for. Imagine if there were no police to call in times of trouble. John Moore/Getty Images

This is a fair question, and it's one that every American citizen should be able to answer. The whole point of taxes is to raise money to help pay for programs and services authorized by state and federal governments. Here are some examples of what your federal and state income taxes help to provide.

Federal taxes help pay for:

  • National defense – Securing America and protecting its interests overseas
  • Social Security – Providing a secure safety net for older Americans
  • Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP (Medicaid for children) – Ensuring access to quality health care for low-income families, children and the disabled
  • Science and medical research – Finding cures and funding innovation
  • Education – Making college more affordable through Pell grants
  • Regulation – Keeping the water and air clean, and products and services safe

State taxes help pay for:

  • Public schools – Providing free, quality education from grades K-12
  • Public colleges and universities – Subsidizing the education of in-state residents to promote employment and economic development
  • Infrastructure – Building and maintaining highways, roads and bridges
  • Medicaid and CHIP – States also cover a portion of health care costs for lower-income families
  • Public safety – Both state and local governments hire police and firefighters, and operate prisons

In short, taxes are the price we pay for living in a society that looks after the elderly and less fortunate and takes an active role in educating and protecting its citizens. If you feel that state or federal governments are spending tax money unwisely, write your representatives and support candidates who share your values.