Blog post

If I pay my taxes, why should I also give to charity?

2 min read
15 Apr 2021

This article is part of a series addressing common concerns about charitable giving.

If I pay my taxes, why should I also give to charity?

Most people around the world pay a significant portion of their income in personal income tax to support government services. Fulfilling this large, obligatory payment can feel like a significant financial burden, and perhaps make people feel complacent about the need for charitable giving. However, while tax revenue can fund important social services, taxes are not a replacement for charity.

Governments collect taxes from their constituents and predominantly use that revenue to pay for services that benefit their constituents. Some tax revenue is spent on altruistic goals such as helping lower-income nations via foreign aid, but the amount is substantially less than most people believe. Often, foreign aid is an exercise of soft power --- it increases the reputation and influence of the benefactor government.

Aside from voting and engaging in activism, there's little that an average citizen can do to influence government spending. However, individual donors can exercise complete agency in directing their personal charitable donations. While governments typically need to factor in political viability when making decisions, individual donors can choose to only support the most effective charities.

Donors can also choose to help groups who are not able to vote for their own interests, and/or whose interests may not be well served by government policies. These groups include (in no particular order):

Donors can also support groups that, while able to vote, are not adequately served by government programs.

In the essay Famine, Affluence, and Morality, Peter Singer argues that "if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it."

This post is part of our Common Concerns About Donating to Charity page. Multiple authors contributed.