Questions From Readers
● Are Christians obliged to report and pay income tax on ‘side jobs’ or tips?
The basic answer today is the same as when Jesus answered a tax question: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:17-21) If the law of the land is that a worker or employee must pay income tax on his earnings, Christians pay it.
In many places the government receives from the employer a statement of what a person earns, and the required taxes are withheld from the individual’s pay. In such a case, settling with the government is usually straightforward. If in figuring and reporting his yearly income a Christian sees that he must pay money in addition to what was withheld, he ought to do so. Or if, perhaps because of his having certain legal deductions, too much has been withheld, he can apply for a refund.
However, in some instances a person is required to report his own income and then he must pay all the tax, such as when he is self-employed or in business for himself. Or the tax may have been deducted by an employer on his regular job, but not on some temporary or side job done for which he is responsible to pay the tax. Not all persons pay such taxes, judging by a headline in the New York Times of January 15, 1978, which reads: “Unreported Work May Cost U.S. Billions in Taxes and Impair Plans.”
Just what items are considered income on which taxes are legally required are multitudinous and vary a great deal from place to place. In some lands income taxes are not expected on a small amount of earnings below a set total.* But if they are ‘side earnings’ and one has a regular job, usually the law requires that it all be reported and the income tax paid on the whole amount. Also, in some places, even tips, such as a waiter in a restaurant might get, are viewed by the government as taxable income.
Where does this leave the individual Christian worker or employee? It leaves him with personal responsibility to acquaint himself with the tax laws of the country, and then to be honest and pay the income tax required of him. The apostle Paul wrote: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities. . . . Keep doing good, and you will have praise from [the superior authority]. . . . But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword; for it is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad. There is therefore compelling reason for you people to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath but also on account of your conscience. . . . Render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax.”—Rom. 13:1, 3-5, 7.
Christian workers can see the wisdom in this. For example, they thus avoid being prosecuted. Also, there is the matter of their clear conscience, certainly a valuable thing. The newspaper article quoted above reported that a government official said about the extent of unreported income tax: “How much of it exists, God only knows.” That official may have been merely using a colloquialism. But true Christians are sure that God, who sees all, does know when a worker intentionally cheats, such as by doing work “off the books” so as to avoid paying income tax. To have a clean conscience, Christian employees strive to be honest in all respects, including the paying of their taxes.—Heb. 13:18.
Also, what Paul said about receiving praise proves true. Jesus’ followers have often been praised by officials for their honesty, their trustworthiness as to paying taxes. This can be seen in the case of an African country that persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses for not joining the ruling political party. When the government used as a public pretext the charge that the Witnesses would not pay their taxes, thinking people earth wide knew better for they were aware of the Witnesses’ record. Regarding this persecution, Dr. K. Jubber recently wrote: “In obedience to their Christian beliefs, Jehovah’s witnesses pay their taxes, obey the law, are conscientious workers, . . . The Watch Tower Society does not encourage its members to refrain from paying taxes: on the contrary, the Society seems to encourage conformity in this regard.”—Social Compass, XXIV/1 1977, pp. 128, 130.
Yes, the counsel that Jesus gave on the matter of tax is what Christians should strive to follow. This does not mean that others should pry into a person’s affairs on the suspicion that he may not be honest in this matter; we believe that Christians will be conscientious in complying with Caesar’s requirements. With honesty and a desire for a good conscience, they render to Caesar the income tax he demands.
● At 1 Corinthians 2:9, was Paul quoting from an apocryphal book?
No, there is no reason to believe so.
This text reads: “But just as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.’”
It appears that Paul was quoting from Isaiah 64:4. But his words do not exactly match those of Isaiah 64:4 in the Hebrew text or the Greek Septuagint translation. Hence, some commentators have suggested that Paul was quoting from apocryphal (noncanonical) books entitled “The Apocalypse of Elias” and “The Ascension and Vision of Isaiah,” for they both have the same statement as is found at 1 Corinthians 2:9. However, a number of points weigh against that idea.
None of the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures (New Testament) ever quoted from such works saying, “It is written . . .” Also, it cannot be determined when these two apocryphal books were penned. Even if they were written quite early, they could have been altered later to include Paul’s words, as other apocryphal works were later edited and changed.
The law still may require that the income be reported, and, perhaps, other taxes be paid, such as Social Security tax in the United States.