Theological Implications of Tax Returns

CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
So I came across an article today detailing a tax preparer in Kentucky who is refusing to prepare tax returns for married same-sex couples.
On a window outside Aries Tax Service in Radcliff, Kentucky, signs promote how customers can e-file returns for $55 as long as they provide 10 things to Ken Randall, the registered tax return preparer at the Hardin County business.

The alphabetized list includes documents, forms and information they need to provide when they complete their taxes.

But the last thing Randall lists on his "I Need" placard is something he doesn't want:

"Homosexual marriage not recognized," the bottom of the sign reads.

So far, so typical. Commercial services being denied on the basis of sexual orientation is something we've chewed over before at great length and is perfectly legal in Mr. Randall's jurisdiction. Then I came to this bit:
Randall, 65, told The Courier Journal in an email he has "moral objections to homosexual marriage."

"I have filed and do file for homosexuals who are single, as I do not ask about sexual preference prior to filing a return," Randall said, adding "this is legal, as I have already researched this."

So Mr. Randall claims to be fine with (or indifferent to) homosexuality both as an orientation and in practice, what he objects to is same-sex couples being able to file a joint tax return with the U.S. federal government. Assuming he's sincere, what kind of theological basis is there for this position? Being gay is okay but not joint tax returns? Was this something specified by Paul in his epistle to the Actuaries?

If this is in the wrong forum for this topic I ask a kindly host to relocate this thread.

Comments

  • It's merely the latest spin on the "I won't photograph your gay wedding / sell you flowers / bake you a wedding cake" position. People in that position generally choose to believe that people they do business with are straight, or at least celibate, but for them, any form of recognition of a gay marriage would be them endorsing gay relationships (in a way that selling a gay man a newspaper wouldn't be).

    So Mr. Randall won't file taxes for a gay couple, because he thinks he'd be personally endorsing gay marriage by doing so. I can assure you without a shadow of a doubt that he doesn't think that being gay is OK - but if someone is gay out of his view, he's content to ignore it.
  • questioningquestioning Shipmate
    I thought this was going to be a reflection/debate about the practice in some jurisdictions of receiving income tax credits for donations to church and parachurch organizations!
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    I recently spotted a gay bakery here (judging by the names of the proprietors), and wondered whether they might refuse to do wedding cakes for straight couples...
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    I recently spotted a gay bakery here (judging by the names of the proprietors)

    Do gay people have different names in France? Does the Académie Française keep a list of officially approved gay surnames, from which gay Frenchmen select as part of an official coming-out ceremony? Have the proprietors taken on the noms de pain of B. Dover and P. McCavity?

    Enquiring minds, and all that...
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    From the title I thought this was going to be a discussion about the moral connection between building up the Common Good and the duty to pay tax in order to promote it.
    Not about homophobia.
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    @Leorning Cniht it's run by two guys sharing the same surname and I'm pretty sure they're not brothers.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    edited April 8
    So Mr. Randall won't file taxes for a gay couple, because he thinks he'd be personally endorsing gay marriage by doing so.

    But I'm fairly certain he doesn't think that about any other information on the tax forms he prepares. If someone presents him with a W-2 (for non-Americans this is the form employers issue to their employees summarizing their wages for the past year and how much of those wages have been withheld for various taxes) Mr. Randall isn't personally vouching for the fact that the the employer has, in fact, paid that much money to their employee in the most recent tax year. Any determinations he'd be making would be about the applicability of various laws. (e.g. Yes, you can claim a livestock deduction for your cows. No, you cannot claim a rat infestation as livestock. Verifying the actual existence of either the cows or the rats is beyond the scope of a tax preparer.) Mr. Randall's opinion about what federal tax law should be is irrelevant to his job.

    I guess the question is to what degree someone should substitute their own judgement for what the law should be in place of the actual law itself, and whether or not acting as the legal agent of other people changes that calculus. For example, if Mr. Randall believed, based on his morals/religion, that the U.S. should have a child tax credit of $3,000 per dependent child (as opposed to the current rate of $2,000/child) would it be legitimate from a religious/moral point of view for him to take that stance when filing other people's tax returns and claiming the higher write-off? Or that the best solution is for him to simply refuse to do tax prep for anyone with dependent children? Is there a significant difference between this hypothetical and substituting his judgement as to what constitutes a legal marriage under the federal tax code?
  • Crœsos wrote: »
    Verifying the actual existence of either the cows or the rats is beyond the scope of a tax preparer.) Mr. Randall's opinion about what federal tax law should be is irrelevant to his job.

    Right - he doesn't verify whether the cows and rats exist, and he doesn't verify what his potential client does or doesn't do in the bedroom. He just refuses to work for gay couples who want him to file taxes as a married couple for them.
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Is there a significant difference between this hypothetical and substituting his judgement as to what constitutes a legal marriage under the federal tax code?

    I think there's a subtle difference. Mr. Randall isn't saying that the gay couple aren't legally married - he's saying, much like the photographers, bakers and so on did, that by filing their taxes as a married couple, he'd be endorsing the existence of their marriage, and he chooses not to do that.

    Perhaps one might imagine a taxpayer who wished to file taxes on his illegal earnings from pimping out street prostitutes. The IRS will accept taxes paid on illegal income (and in fact expects you to pay taxes on illegal income - remember that Al Capone was prosecuted for tax evasion). It's not implausible that a tax preparer could decline to work for a pimp, on the grounds of not wanting any kind of involvement with his business. I wonder whether Mr. Randall would make such a choice, or if, like many of his fellow business people, he'll work for anyone at all unless there's a gay marriage involved.

    I see no difference at all between his case and those of all the bakers and photographers. I think it's a load of crap, of course, but I think it's exactly the same crap.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    @Leorning Cniht it's run by two guys sharing the same surname and I'm pretty sure they're not brothers.

    They could be cousins; even “kissin’ cousins”😜

  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    Croesus

    It's an interesting question. There is a tradition illustrated by the Amish, based on the scripture "Come apart and be ye separate" found in Isaiah 52 and reiterated in 2 Cor 6 when considering unequal yoking of believers and unbelievers. It also includes the phrase "and touch not the unclean thing". Grandpa Lapp quotes it in the movie "The Witness".

    There is also a scripture in Ecclesiasticus (13v 1) which says "touch pitch and be defiled" but curiously that one seems to be about close association with the rich! That's apocryphal for Protestants, not for Catholics and Orthodox but I'm pretty sure that scripture has had some impact on traditional beliefs.

    The underlying premise seems to be that you can become contaminated in some way by association with people who you believe are 'unclean'.

    What amused me was I am absolutely sure this person has no scruples about handling the tax affairs of the rich, sees no risk of personal defilement as a result.

    And of course the basic idea, that separation is necessary to avoid being defiled, was not universally accepted amongst Christians. 'In the world but not of it' is a much more common approach to matters of association. And Jesus seemed to have no problems in associating with people who his culture regarded as unclean. But I suppose that simplicity gets overlooked when the underlying motivation is self righteous prejudice.
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    I'm self-employed as a translator and interpreter. There aren't many jobs I turn down on principle, but there are some. For instance, I won't do anything that directly promotes the interests of the tobacco industry, porn ("you can improvise the subtitles, they don't matter much", I was told) or (having been caught out once) illegal drugs (that hydroponic system wasn't to grow tomatoes...). Nor will I accept an interpreting job that insists on the interpreter being a man. My principles consitute discrimination of a kind, don't they? I don't advertise my no-go list, though.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    If it's not on the list of illegal forms of discrimination where he's active, then whether one disapproves or not, isn't he just as entitled to decide who he'll do business with as @Eutychus is?

    Didn't we have a discussion a year or two back - possibly on the old ship - about whether a restaurant proprietor had been entitled to refuse to serve one of the more obnoxious Trumpist Republicans?

  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    Isn’t One of the differences that @Eutychus does not have a sign up informing potential passing customers that they won’t get their porn (or whatever) translated by Eutychus?
  • It would be interesting to know how he responds to such requests. Does he say, "No, I won't do that because I don't do porn" or simply, "I'm afraid I'm unable to do that"?
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    edited April 9
    Maybe Eutychus wouldn’t dream of casually informing the world and its neighbour What Eutychus and Co Disapprove Of?

    And
    That s the thing I just don’t get. Why would anyone, and in this case Mr Tax Person, set themselves up as Moral Judge In This Town?
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    It would be interesting to know how he responds to such requests. Does he say, "No, I won't do that because I don't do porn" or simply, "I'm afraid I'm unable to do that"?
    I can't remember exactly how I turned the porn job down. For Big Tobacco, I told my client I just didn't want to do it any more because of the industry (my client was an agency I still do lots of work for on other topics). And for the job that wanted a male interpreter, I told them in no uncertain terms that they were in my view breaking discrimination law.

    I suppose not having the equivalent of a sign in the window allows me to have quite some latitude, not only in terms of what I turn down but also in terms of how I turn it down.

  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited April 9
    That's what I was guessing, thanks.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited April 9
    Ethne Alba wrote: »
    Isn’t One of the differences that @Eutychus does not have a sign up informing potential passing customers that they won’t get their porn (or whatever) translated by Eutychus?

    I suspect that @Eutychus doesn't get work in quite the same way that tax preparers do. At tax time, it's normal for people to walk in off the street with a bag of papers and ask a tax preparer to do their taxes. Tax preparers like that tend to have signs saying "these are the things you need" because it's more efficient than having to talk to people.

    Once you have the sign that says "make sure you have all these documents", if you won't take any gay couples, it seems only sensible to put "don't be a gay couple" on the list.

    (The tax preparer in question charges $55 to file your taxes, assuming you give him all the right bits of paper. He's not expecting to spend all that long with you at $55 a go.)
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    It might be a pond thing.


    Looks to me like a moral masochistic thing.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited April 9
    Also it is on reflection an Epiphanies thread so I’m asking Admin to move it.

    Barnabas62
    Purgatory and Epiphanies Host
  • LouiseLouise Epiphanies Host
    edited April 9
    Hello,
    As this thread is now in Epiphanies please bear in mind our different guidelines.

    Under guideline 3
    Some phrases or sources may be ruled off limits on a particular thread.

    I realise that what is acceptable changes over time but old jokes which treat gay men as figures of fun wouldn't be OK here - so just a heads up that you're in a more closely hosted forum where issues and identity significantly overlap and that it's a bit different from Purgatory.

    Many thanks.
    Louise
    Epiphanies Host
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    If it's not on the list of illegal forms of discrimination where he's active, then whether one disapproves or not, isn't he just as entitled to decide who he'll do business with as @Eutychus is?

    I'm not questioning the legality, but rather the moral reasoning. For example, the American Civil Rights Movement would often deliberately break laws mandating racial segregation. Most would argue that the Civil Rights Movement was morally right even if it was legally in the wrong (under the laws as they existed at the time). I'm not sure the same could be said of Mr. Randall, who seems mostly interested in making life as hard as possible for others.
  • Crœsos wrote: »
    I'm not questioning the legality, but rather the moral reasoning. For example, the American Civil Rights Movement would often deliberately break laws mandating racial segregation. Most would argue that the Civil Rights Movement was morally right even if it was legally in the wrong (under the laws as they existed at the time). I'm not sure the same could be said of Mr. Randall, who seems mostly interested in making life as hard as possible for others.

    Most people today would argue that the civil rights movement was correct, because we all think racism and segregation is wrong. I'd suggest that, prior to the success of the civil rights movement, the majority of people - certainly the majority of white people - thought segregation was just fine.

    Mr. Randall claims to take the moral position that homosexual acts are sinful, as are, as a consequence, same-sex marriages. He deems it his responsibility - part of his Christian witness, perhaps - not to encourage sinful acts, so he refuses to assist gay couples who wish to file taxes as a married couple.

    In common with many people in his situation, Mr. Randall's scruples seem to be uniquely related to homosexuality. It's not clear whether being gay is the only thing Mr. Randall considers sinful, or if it's just the only sinful act that he refuses to abet by filing someone's taxes.

    If I follow your argument, does the question of whether history records Mr. Randall as a reactionary bigot, or a righteous upholder of all that is right and proper not depend on the moral view that our future society takes of homosexuality? It's natural to assume that we're making moral progress, and that our future, accepting, society will have out-lasted and out-competed the bigots, but I don't think that outcome is necessarily guaranteed.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Mr. Randall claims to take the moral position that homosexual acts are sinful, as are, as a consequence, same-sex marriages. He deems it his responsibility - part of his Christian witness, perhaps - not to encourage sinful acts, so he refuses to assist gay couples who wish to file taxes as a married couple.

    In common with many people in his situation, Mr. Randall's scruples seem to be uniquely related to homosexuality. It's not clear whether being gay is the only thing Mr. Randall considers sinful, or if it's just the only sinful act that he refuses to abet by filing someone's taxes.

    Except that according to Mr. Randall it's not homosexuality he objects to. According to the article cited in the OP he claims to have filed tax returns for homosexuals without objection. He just objects to homosexuals being able to file a joint tax return. To me that seemed to be an interesting place to draw the line.
  • Crœsos wrote: »
    Except that according to Mr. Randall it's not homosexuality he objects to. According to the article cited in the OP he claims to have filed tax returns for homosexuals without objection. He just objects to homosexuals being able to file a joint tax return. To me that seemed to be an interesting place to draw the line.

    I read his argument as though by filing for a gay couple as married, he was endorsing their homosexuality in a way that he wouldn't be if he filed taxes for a single gay person. It's the same argument as the bakers who don't want to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, but will happily sell a gay man a birthday cake.

    If I had, for example, moral objections to the drinking of alcohol, it would seem reasonable for me to avoid working in a bar, or producing advertising copy for a distillery. But I probably wouldn't feel an obligation to not sell the owner of a local brewery a cup of coffee.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Except that according to Mr. Randall it's not homosexuality he objects to. According to the article cited in the OP he claims to have filed tax returns for homosexuals without objection. He just objects to homosexuals being able to file a joint tax return. To me that seemed to be an interesting place to draw the line.
    I read his argument as though by filing for a gay couple as married, he was endorsing their homosexuality in a way that he wouldn't be if he filed taxes for a single gay person.

    Does filing a tax return count as an endorsement of your marriage by your tax preparer? That's a very weird way of looking at it. Does Mr. Randall not have any clients about whom he thinks "they really shouldn't be together"?

    I thought the preparer's "endorsement" was mostly a check that you had followed all applicable laws in your filing and hadn't missed any deductions for which you are eligible.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    The line of argument that says: it's not that we have anything against gay people - it's just that we think marriage is between a man and a woman, has been going on for long enough that statistically someone has to actually come to believe it?
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited May 1
    Another case of someone (quite wrongly) believing that marriage somehow belongs to the church and not the state.

    That's what it boils down to.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    Another case of someone (quite wrongly) believing that marriage somehow belongs to the church and not the state.

    That's what it boils down to.

    And here in Sydney, Abp Glenn gave $1m to the No campaign at the opinion poll about same-sex marriage - $1m which had been given to support widows and children, not enter politics. And to make matters worse, he gave it at a time when it was clear that Yes was going to win.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    Another case of someone (quite wrongly) believing that marriage somehow belongs to the church and not the state.

    That's what it boils down to.

    Not only that, but that federal tax returns belong to the his church, not the state.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    Another case of someone (quite wrongly) believing that marriage somehow belongs to the church and not the state.

    That's what it boils down to.

    Yep
  • Which is something the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster don't seem to realise. They say, "Marriage between one man and one woman was ordained of God and is therefore a divine institution. Since civil government is to base its laws on marriage upon divine law, the law of the land should uphold the divine institution of marriage. It follows that while marriage is also a civil contract, no civil government has the right to change the divine institution of marriage".

    But we're getting off-topic.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Except that according to Mr. Randall it's not homosexuality he objects to. According to the article cited in the OP he claims to have filed tax returns for homosexuals without objection. He just objects to homosexuals being able to file a joint tax return. To me that seemed to be an interesting place to draw the line.
    I read his argument as though by filing for a gay couple as married, he was endorsing their homosexuality in a way that he wouldn't be if he filed taxes for a single gay person.

    Does filing a tax return count as an endorsement of your marriage by your tax preparer?

    Is the point that, by filing a joint tax return, he is enabling them to take advantage of some kind of married-couple tax break? And therefore he is helping them to profit from an activity that he considers immoral?

    Whereas if he is filing a tax return for an unmarried gay person, then he might not approve of their private life but he isn't actually helping them get any financial advantage from it.

    On paper, and granting his premises, that doesn't seem completely unreasonable, although I would question how far he's willing to extend that principle or if it's just gay people that offend his conscience.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Which is something the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster don't seem to realise. They say, "Marriage between one man and one woman was ordained of God and is therefore a divine institution. Since civil government is to base its laws on marriage upon divine law, the law of the land should uphold the divine institution of marriage. It follows that while marriage is also a civil contract, no civil government has the right to change the divine institution of marriage".

    But we're getting off-topic.

    Well no, we're not getting off topic. This really is the topic.

    The fascinating question is why this rule only applies to marriage. It doesn't seem to apply to any number of topics for which the Old Testament in particular has abundant laws available.

    It's also a view that fundamentally treats the Bible as a source of "law" in a way that is anachronistic, because laws working in the way we now understand them is something that only started happening a few centuries ago.

    So it's a wrong view in my opinion. But it's also a deeply held one. People invoke God as a higher source of law that overrides the legislature (and indeed a country's constitution).

    Seeing as we're talking about tax, there are also people who argue they don't have to pay taxes Because God (and I actually thought that might be what the thread was going to be about). Here in Australia there was a family ultimately evicted from a property for refusing to pay rates to the local council, mounting some thoroughly unconvincing argument about how the council wasn't allowed to interfere with God's work (which of COURSE they were doing) in this way. It's not just Christians either, a Muslim organisation tried to pull basically the same trick.
  • Ricardus wrote: »
    Is the point that, by filing a joint tax return, he is enabling them to take advantage of some kind of married-couple tax break? And therefore he is helping them to profit from an activity that he considers immoral?

    Married couples get to file taxes on their joint income, so if you have a couple where one spouse has a decent wage, and the other spouse earns little or nothing, they'll pay a lot less tax together than they would pay as two individuals. But a married person can't file as single, because they're not: our married gay couple has a choice to file as married, or to file as "married, filing separately" which is the worst of all the possible tax filing statuses. You almost never want to do that.
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Whereas if he is filing a tax return for an unmarried gay person, then he might not approve of their private life but he isn't actually helping them get any financial advantage from it.

    Something like that, although it seems to have more to do with the act of asserting that they are married than getting them a financial benefit because of it.
    Ricardus wrote: »
    On paper, and granting his premises, that doesn't seem completely unreasonable, although I would question how far he's willing to extend that principle or if it's just gay people that offend his conscience.

    In the case of the bakers and photographers that we've had before, having a same-sex marriage is the only thing that seems to matter. I don't think we've ever heard of, for example, a Catholic baker refusing to bake a cake for a lapsed divorced Catholic who is remarrying in a secular marriage, for example.
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