You know the drill: once or twice a month you get paid for the time that you have worked, minus a series of taxes that have been conveniently deducted out of your paycheck before you even receive it. Because you never get to deposit that money into your bank account, paying taxes may seem like wasted money. In actuality, taxes are an untapped resource that pay for and subsidize many services and programs in your community.
Programs Funded By Your Tax Dollars
Below is a list of resources that are free or subsidized by your tax money. Check with your local county or city government to see if these programs and services are available in your own area.
- Free tax prep service for low to middle income families. Instead of paying for an accountant or tax prep professional next April, use the volunteer tax service  your tax dollars have prepaid for.
- Subsidized compost bins and free compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Many local governments, electric companies, and communities have implemented programs to increase environmental awareness and to decrease energy use. Take advantage of this by purchasing a subsidized compost bin for your garden, signing up for a free CFL lightbulb, etc.
- Free classes. Most communities offer free classes in accounting (for personal finance), Spanish language, ESL (English as a second language), basic computer skills, exercise (outdoor community yoga is always fun!), resume writing and job searches, etc. Some other fun classes I have found are for learning how to compost, local gardening instruction, and cooking. You may be surprised what classes are offered.
- Parks, and environmental education. Parks are a wonderful opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature. Many parks offer free canoe rentals (or a subsidized cost that is cheaper than a private canoe rental place), tours, environmental education classes, outdoor barbecue pits (bring some foil if you don’t like the idea of cooking after someone else), fire pits, etc. You can use park grounds for birthday parties, anniversary parties, or other parties for free or a small donation, saving you money on event planning. Upkeep of the parks and all of these programs are funded through your tax dollars.
- Use of facilities. Community fitness centers are much cheaper than private gyms (memberships are often half the price). Libraries have books to borrow as well as DVDs, and you can take advantage of the Interlibrary Loan System (ILL) to borrow books and DVDs from many libraries around your state, giving you much better variety with a little bit of patience.
What programs have you used that were paid for with your taxes?