A Guide to Taxes, Voting and Civic Responsibilities

No matter where you are from, or what citizenship you have, there are a few duties and responsibilities that every person has. These include doing taxes, voting, and civic participation, including mandatory military service in certain countries. Even though the processes differ between each country, everyone should know the basic overview of their civic responsibilities. Unfortunately, these duties are not taught to us in school and many of us have to struggle and find out the hard way. Sometimes, it is inevitable to come across obstacles when doing these duties. We might even have to rely on help from others before we learn them ourselves. These are definitely life skills that we need if we want to contribute to our community.

The majority of countries around the world require people to pay taxes of some form to the government. Overall, there are three types of taxes that people generally have to pay: taxes on what you earn, taxes on what you buy and taxes on what you own. Within each category, there are more specific taxes. Every dollar paid as tax is a dollar of what you earn – if you are not earning income of any kind, you do not have to pay tax until you do. The differences between the types of taxes is when you are required to pay the tax. For example, for taxes on what you buy, you must pay the tax upfront when you buy the item. Taxes on what you earn are paid when you earn that income. For taxes on what you own, like an estate or other assets, they are paid on a regular basis.

10 and one 10 us dollar bill
(Credit: Jason Leung)

Taxes on what you earn include individual income taxes, which is most relevant to us. These are taxes that are levied on our individual wages, salaries and investments. They are progressive, meaning that the tax rate increases as your income increases. These taxes range from 10-37% of your income. Taxes on what you buy include sales tax. These are consumption taxes that are paid when you are buying a product or using a service or eating at a restaurant. If you look at the bottom of your receipt, you will notice that you pay a small fee as tax. In some countries, customers are required to pay a value-added tax (VAT), which is a consumption tax that is already included into the price of an item in its production stage. If you ever own land or an estate, there is property tax – an essential source of revenue for many governments. Every country has its own electronic filing and payment systems that are easy to use.

In democracies, voting is a civic responsibility that all citizens have if they want to have a say in choosing who represents them and leads their community. In most countries, voting is not compulsory, so it is up to the individual when they reach the age of 18. In these cases, there is a deadline for voter registration. Registration is made convenient for all citizens – they can simply apply online or go to a convenient location and do it in person. For citizens overseas, the online option is available, as well as a postal option, although this may take longer. After registering, citizens will receive a voter registration card, which lists the individual’s details and their local polling station. During the election period, registered citizens can head to their polling station and cast a ballot. This requires filling out a confidential form in a private booth and submitting it.

Some democracies like Singapore and Australia, as well as a few others, make voting mandatory for all citizens. In these cases, when it is time for an election, citizens will receive a notification in the mail to enroll to vote. Enrolling can be done easily and conveniently online. In this process, citizens will select a local polling station and vote there when the time comes. Similarly, they will fill out a questionnaire and cast their vote.

In a few selected countries around the world like Singapore, Israel and South Korea, just to name a few, it is part of a citizen’s civic responsibilities to fulfill military service. In Singapore and South Korea, all men must serve around 2 years. In Israel, both males and females must serve. Prior to service, they must undergo medical checkups and training sessions, which will determine which division they will serve in. Some divisions require more vigorous activities than others, but they all have the same purpose – to serve their nation and perform their civic responsibilities.

وثائقي اسرائيلي: إمرأة بالموساد مهّدت للتطبيع الخليجي - المدن
Female soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (Credit: EVAN LANG)

Taxes, voting and military service (in some countries) are the most essential civic responsibilities that people have and are experienced by almost everybody. Everyone may have different paths in life, but it is highly likely that they will have to go through these processes. Despite this, these basic life skills are not taught in school and it may take us some trial and error to get it right, especially as a first-time voter or taxpayer. However, these skills are part of adulting, whether we like it or not.





Feature Image: Olga DeLawrence


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