When I was in high school, I found a part time job so I could save money for college and also have money to spend on other things that I enjoyed. Although working meant I had less free time to hang out with my friends, I knew it was worthwhile because disposable income is ultimately freedom.
After working hard for a few weeks, my first paycheck finally came. During the week prior, I had calculated how much I was going to get paid and already decided what I was going to spend the money on. I eagerly opened the envelope but to my surprise the amount on the check was less than what I expected. My first thought was that I had miscalculated, but as I looked closer at the pay stub I quickly saw that a certain amount of money had been deducted from the total. I had forgotten about taxes! The government had mercilessly taken some of the earnings of a young worker who was not even eligible to vote.
In the federal system of the United States, citizens are represented in local, state and national governments. At the age of 18, citizens can vote in elections for individuals to represent them and for specific measures to change policy. Representation is a fundamental characteristic of the American system as it allows individual members of our society to participate in decision-making processes that affect our daily lives. In fact, one of the American colonists’ chief objections to the rule of the British was the colonists’ complete lack of representation in Parliament. This concern, in part, led to the American Revolution and the formation of an independent United States of America. If the issue of representation was large enough to warrant a revolution, why are young American workers legally required to pay taxes when they cannot vote?
One solution would be to change the voting age. By lowering the voting age to allow all working Americans to vote, all taxpayers would be represented. In 1971, the 26th amendment to the Constitution changed the voting age from 21 to 18. The reason for this amendment was that 18 year old men could be drafted and sent to war but could not vote. Although less extreme, the idea of taxing minors holds the same sentiment.
However, lowering the voting age would not be the best solution. First, it is very difficult to amend the Constitution and therefore unlikely that the voting age would be changed again. Second, lowering the voting age would introduce new problems.
A more simple solution would be ending the taxation of minors all together. The government only receives a small portion of its revenue from taxing people under the age of 18. The little amount that minors are taxed may be seen as a small burden on the individual workers. However, because the government does not really need this money, it is not necessary for there to be any burden at all. From a moral standpoint, taking money that is not needed from children who have no real representation is wrong.
Creating and implementing a new tax policy that excludes young American workers is simple. Once implemented, the change in the government’s total tax revenue would be marginal. Taking money from people who do not have a say is stealing and because it is unnecessary, it is even worse. I appeal to the legislators in our government to change this policy on behalf of all young American workers under the age of 18 and to end taxation without representation.
Parker Short is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University.