Taxes are the most important, and the most visible, source for funding government in Oklahoma and elsewhere. Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization. We often don’t connect taxes with what they accomplish for the public good. Any service that benefits the general public will require taxes to pay at least some of the costs. Consider how our state and local services might look without tax financing.
- Schools and colleges would have to charge the full cost of educating students; most families could not afford educating their children, even at the elementary school level.
- Roads would have to be fully financed by tolls or other charges. If streets could not collect enough tolls, they would close. Driving would be slower and much costlier.
- Public safety services would have to be financed through charges or fines. Firefighters would respond to the fire only if the property owner paid a fee. Police officers would only respond to calls that would generate fees or fines. People might go to prison only if their victims were willing to pay the cost.
- More than half of Oklahomans would be without health insurance, forcing many hospitals and ambulance services to close and reducing our overall health dramatically.
We may not like taxes, then, but we certainly need them.
There is no such thing as a perfect tax. Taxes rarely treat people in similar situations exactly the same way. They are often unfair to those at the lower or upper end of the economic spectrum. They are difficult to understand and they make people behave differently than if there were no taxes. Nonetheless, taxes are essential if we hope to achieve common goals for our state and society.
This section describes Oklahoma’s tax system and give users a better set of tools to evaluate the tax system. It consists of several separate discussions, which you can view by clicking on the links below or just follow the next page links below.
- Characteristics of an Effective Tax System
- Oklahoma’s Tax Mix
- How Oklahoma Taxes Compare
- Oklahoma Tax History
- State and Local Tax Distribution