It’s tax season in America! Of course you’re as excited as I am, assuming that we’re in the same tax bracket. My wife and I are expecting a nice bit of change this year and I’m counting down the days ’til that refund hits my checking account. I’ve been doing the math, for about a month now, to determine what combinations of bills we can pay with this Spring’s Christmas gift from the gub’ment. Two years ago, I may have bought rims for my Honda, or maybe taken an all-expense-paid trip to Panama City Beach for Spring Break, but time and student-loan debt has taught me that splurging may not be the best idea.
According to information made available by the IRS, the average refund issued in 2013 was approximately $2,800. That’s an average return for the more than 140 million Americans that filed taxes for 2012. In the grand scheme of our economy, that’s not a great deal of money, but in some circles, that’s well over one month’s wages. If we consider the fact that, in 2012, the national average salary in the United State’s was slightly more than $44,300, then three stacks is indeed almost a month’s wages (check it out for yourself at ssa.gov).
What could you do with $2,800 that you won’t regret before the year is over? According to findthedata.org, the average cost-of-living in the U.S. is about $5,000/month for a two-parent household with three kids. That includes housing, food, healthcare, childcare, transportation and other necessities. A $2,800 tax refund would serve that family well; that’s almost a one month cushion. That refund could be home improvement money, money for new major appliances, or it could be used for car repairs. There are plenty families that can use the sigh of relief that an extra $2,800 can deliver. It would be great to spend those extra funds on family necessities, but what if minority communities pooled that money together? Yes, there is a need for milk in the fridge and air conditioning in our house, but isn’t life deeper than that?
What if, instead of spending that tax refund, communities pooled it together? Real problems can be solved. Let’s take incarceration for example: the best hedge against the incarceration of our youth is to educate them. Information issued in 2013 by the US Census Bureau about education financial information in 2011 suggests that Mississippi spent roughly $7,928 per student in elementary and secondary schools. Multiply the average tax refund amount by fifty people and you’ve got enough money to cover the cost of about seventeen students for a year (census.gov). That’s not a lot, but that’s a difference being made in the community for an entire classroom. That refund, multiplied by fifty people, is almost two years of tuition at Harvard Law, alma mater of President Barack Obama. At thee Jackson State University, the same amount of money could pay for two students to attend for up to four years. Think of the impact that you and just forty-nine other people could have on the children in your community knowing that in 2011, only 18.4% of blacks 25 and over had a bachelors degree (census.gov). Now, think about the number of people that attend your church, or frequent your barbershop/salon if you’re wondering where fifty people might come from.
By most accounts, black buying power is within the trillions of dollars, meaning black people collectively spend billions upon billions of dollars each and every year on goods and services. We get our tax refund and go straight to the store. We make a lot of money, collectively, and spend most of it. It’s been said that if all black people were in a country of our own, based on the amount of money that we spend, we’d be the 16th wealthiest country on the planet; that’s 16th out of roughly 196 countries. But, we don’t have a country of our own and 27.6% of the black population live in poverty (census.gov).
So, this Tax Christmas, what’s on your list? Will it be rims, a new wardrobe, or four months’ rent for someone who could really use it? Christmas is the season of giving, and by my calculations, there is a lot that we can give to our communities and to our future. I’m not saying that you’ve got to go and give away all that you have, but Santa Sam has been good to many of us and, who knows, maybe we could be good to someone else. Tis the season to be frugal.