University School - Hunting Valley
Instructor: Jack Somers
The Scamming of America's Teens
The Scamming of America's Teens
Like most teenagers, I am looking forward to getting a job and enjoying the relative independence that making my own money can grant me. What I dread however, is paying taxes from my future paycheck to fund government endeavors that I have no role in shaping. In America, while teens are taxed the same as adults by the government, they are not afforded the right to choose the officials that set the laws shaping their everyday lives. Teens like me, who plan to work as soon as they are of age, will end up paying years of federal income and payroll tax, not to mention the sales tax we are forced to pay on every purchase. Don't get me wrong; I am not against paying taxes. I am, however, against taxation without representation.
Our great American history is based on the idea of liberty and justice for all. Following the Stamp Act of 1767, James Otis's rallying battle cry of "no taxation without representation" gathered steam, leading to a revolution that was distinguished by American colonists standing up to British tyranny. After the war, representatives from all states agreed on the necessity of a new charter of government, called the Constitution. They then came together to debate about what needed to be included in the new Constitution. One of the articles written in the Constitution stated: "Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among several states." This means that states will be taxed only if they are represented. Following this logic, no individual should pay taxes without representation in government, and yet this hypocrisy and logically inconsistent injustice happens daily.
Some argue that teens should pay taxes by pointing out the ability of their parents to choose elected officials. These arguments ignore the fact that some teens may not agree with their parents' choices and that politicians rarely consider the interests of teens when deciding how to appropriate tax dollars. In addition to federal income tax, most teens must pay federal payroll tax for social security and Medicare, as well as state income tax. What's more, most teens these days are extremely busy, burdened by a heavy course load at schools and vying for a spot in a competitive field of college admissions, all the while trying to work a few hours a week in order to save some money. That is one of the reasons that many are unable to maintain employment year-round and instead choose to get summer jobs. This results in them being hired as seasonal or contracted workers, receiving a 1099 tax form which often carries higher deductions for social security and Medicare than a normal W-2. Given all these factors, it hardly seems fair to take away part of their hard-earned money, rather than allowing them to reinvest that money in themselves or in activities that might help them grow as people or benefit them in their future careers.
Even if teens end up making little money and getting refunds on their paid federal tax, why add to their already busy lives by forcing them into a dreadfully complicated system of filing taxes? Complicating matters, most teens have no idea what the process of tax filing looks like and what is required of them, as many schools tend to teach for success on standardized testing, while ignoring the need for teaching real life skills such as how to manage one's finances or file taxes. These factors add up to unnecessary, sometimes overwhelming stress for teens.
All these circumstances beg the question: why would society burden teens with adult responsibilities while not extending the rights of adults to them? Society shouldn't burden teens with this and there is an easy fix to the problem: allow teens to work tax free. Motivate them to get jobs and contribute to the local economy, which in turn will not only afford them better life experiences, but also help keep them in school, improving life for everyone in their communities.