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Are Taxes Voluntary? Federal Income Tax?

Persisting Question: Are Taxes Voluntary
Are Taxes Voluntary?

While everyone else is running out and filing their taxes, I keep telling them that I’ve heard that there is no actual law that makes people file taxes. Are taxes voluntary? Where is the law that makes people run out and file their taxes?

This is one of those great urban myths that goes around. There are plenty of folks in federal penitentiaries who can tell you.

Title 26 of the Unites States Code is the law otherwise known as the Internal Revenue Code. I wrote a previous article on the sections that impose a legal obligation on anyone with taxable income to file taxes. However, one section should remove all doubt about the matter:

“Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax imposed by this title or the payment thereof shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.”

26 U.S.C. 7201.

Some famous people who learned this the hard way include Richard Hatch. The first winner of the TV reality show Survivor failed to report his $1 million winnings and ended up behind bars. Willie Nelson wrote several albums and sold assets to pay a $16.7 million levy from the IRS for failure to pay back taxes.

I enjoy a good conspiracy and fess up to reading about space aliens visiting New Mexico. But those claiming the Government has no authority to tax have it wrong. The fundamental law against which all other laws are measured says this:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes … ”

U.S. Constitution, Article I Section 8.”

So, Are Taxes Voluntary?

The confusion on this subject is generated by the IRS itself, which has referred to voluntary compliance with the income tax. What they mean is that the reporting of all income and the calculation of the tax is voluntary. That means we’re all on our own to gather the information and to make the calculations. By contrast, for example, city and town officials determine property taxes and simply send a bill.

Adapted from “About the Law” originally appearing in Derry News, © 2012, Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co. By Andrew D. Myers.

2 thoughts on “Are Taxes Voluntary? Federal Income Tax?”

  1. I explain to people taxes are voluntary like the speed limit is voluntary.

    Plenty of people speed, some people go years without getting caught. But eventually you’ll get caught.

    1. Hi Sam;
      I guess that’s a good analogy. I’ve cited in the blog article the portions of the law that make it clear that paying income taxes is anything but voluntary, but people persist. Here’s my analogy: paying taxes is voluntary just like standing on a train track with an oncoming train is voluntary. You don’t HAVE to jump out of the way but …..

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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

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