The Daily Stoic for April 15th. “Pay your taxes”.
“Nothing will ever befall me that I will receive with gloom or a bad disposition. I will pay my taxes gladly. Now, all the things which cause complaint or dread are like the taxes of life—things from which, my dear Lucilius, you should never hope for exemption or seek escape.”
—SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 96.2
Honestly, I find today’s stoic meditation somewhat short-sighted, and lacking depth. It uses the concept of taxes for two very different things: to refer to the actual taxes that you pay on your income, and second, as a metaphor for the toll we pay for certain things in our lives.
The ultimate teaching of the passage is that you need to accept both.
“First off, taxes go to a lot of programs and services you almost certainly take for granted. Second, you think you’re so special? […] Get over it. Third, this is a good problem to have.”
I cannot accept this “everything’s black or white” approach. Let me elaborate on that.
Do You Love Your Country?
The other day, I received an angry message from a Spanish woman. She was clearly upset by the fact that I had a company in Estonia and were actively encouraging others to do the same.
She argued that, as I was Spanish, I should have my company in Spain. Her argument was the classical “you are using the roads, and the schools, and the doctors!” that Ryan Holiday used in today’s stoic meditation.
I tried to explain her that you and your company are very different entities, that your company doesn’t take its children to any school, or gets sick and needs medical attention, and that you pay personal taxes in your country of residence, not where your company is.
I also mentioned that I was not actually living in Spain and that, as a digital nomad, I don’t use those roads, hospitals and schools and, when I do, I pay for that services.
However, I soon realized I was wasting my time, trying to use rational arguments with someone who was viscerally speaking from her heart. Her closing argument was that I didn’t love my country, and was evading taxes.
Pay Your Taxes, But Choose The Best Alternative For Your Business
The world has changed. We are not forever tied to a country anymore. Do I love Spain, and the Spanish people? Of course I do. But that doesn’t mean I have to live and pay takes in my home country my whole life. And you shouldn’t either.
We live in a very competitive world. The rules of the game are different. If my country wants my taxes, or the taxes of my company, it has to earn them. Just as our family and friends have to earn our love and respect, so does my country.
This article from 5 years ago explains why Spanish citizens can’t be entrepreneurs. Nothing has changed in 5 years. Basically, we have one of the worst business systems in the civilized world, and I am not going to be part of it. I’m sorry, but no national sensibility can justify being stupid. Your business is what brings food to your table.
Estonia, on the other hand, has made an amazing job at that. After breaking the chains of Soviet occupation, it has found a way to thrive in our modern competitive society. Namely, by creating a business system that’s too good to be true. A system that allows anyone to open a company and manage it remotely. They are looking forward.
Do I think you need to pay your taxes? Of course! Estonia is not a tax haven. It’s a respectable European country. My company pays taxes comparable to the rest of European countries. Only, they have deserved them. And I choose the best alternative for me. So should you.
Pay Your Taxes In Life, But Don’t Endure Things You Hate
The second part of today’s stoic meditation refers to the tolls we have to pay in our daily lives.
“Everything we do has a toll attached to it. Waiting around is a tax on traveling. Rumors and gossip are the taxes that come from acquiring a public persona. Disagreements and occasional frustration are taxes placed on even the happiest of relationships.”
I can only partially agree with this. Of course, you are responsible for the life you have chosen and the decisions you have taken. They have their advantages and disadvantages. However, you shouldn’t endure a situation just because of that. You shouldn’t suffer a relationship you are not happy in or a job you are not comfortable with.
Just as you should not stay forever in your home country and pay taxes there simply because you were born there.
There’s always something you can do. You are never too old to change. Change your path, and seek your happiness. Don’t just turn the other cheek. Accept what your decisions imply, and be happy with your life. But if you don’t like something, change it.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “Pay your taxes”, suggest us to accept everything in our lives, just as we pay our taxes. I cannot agree with that vision. I do think that we need to be responsible of our decisions, but I do think that in today’s world, we have the chance of choosing, and we should choose the best options for us. Not just the ones that have been imposed on you.