Harry Reid Says Paying Taxes is Voluntary

Robert Stacy McCain and I have had several posts citing disagreements with each other, generally after we’ve wound up commenting on the same article in Memeorandum with opposite opinions. He had some snark yesterday at the expense of Harry Reid which I actually do agree with. Having just received this year’s completed tax forms from my accountant yesterday, I am particularly sympathetic to McCain’s objection to this claim about taxes.

McCain posted a video of Harry Reid trying to explain how our taxes are voluntary. Reid is using a definition of voluntary which is also used by the Internal Revenue Service which is rather Orwellian. To Reid and the IRS, taxes are voluntary because people do send in their returns every year along with checks minus what was already withheld. (Some even give the government an interest free loan by allowing more to be withheld than they owe)

People might send in their checks, but just try to avoid doing so. Anyone really want to try sending in their tax returns with a note saying Harry Reid says this is voluntary and not pay any taxes? Unless we can do this, payment is not voluntary.

Reid also tries to justify the claims that the taxes are voluntary by discussing their necessity. That is a totally different subject. While hard core libertarians will not accept this, both liberals and conservatives support involuntary collection of taxes (with the differences between what liberal and conservative politicians advocate collecting being minimal compared to the hyperbole coming from the right on taxation).  Being necessary does not mean it is voluntary. Humans are perfectly capable of agreeing intellectually that taxes are necessary and also refraining from paying if really given this option.

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  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Taxes are voluntary in the most technical sense of the word. One signs an agreement to pay one’s taxes when one gets a job. If one does not wish to pay taxes one is free not to work.

    Now, I won’t pretend that this is not an extremely hair-splitting definition of ‘voluntary.’ And that such ‘voluntarism’ is merely coercion by indirect means.

    However, I take issue with Mr. McCain and other conservatives who attack this system of ‘voluntary’ tax-paying as anything other than voluntary. These are the same people who defend the concessions of one’s civil rights to employer in today’s hideously repressive corporate employment agreements as a mutual, ‘at will’ arrangement. If he believes that employees have ‘volunteered’ to give up large portions of their civil rights in exchange for the ‘freedom’ not to join a union, then Mr. McCain has no business attacking the ‘voluntary’ nature of taxation.

  2. 2
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Oh, just to make sure no one thinks I was defending Harry Reid or his point, Senator Reid is a jackass and of courses taxes are not voluntary. I was simply teeing off on the hypocrisy of conservative attacks on ‘coercive’ taxation when they support massive coercion of prospective employees by corporations, using exactly the same ‘voluntary’ model as taxation.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Plus conservatives (as opposed to the more extreme/consistent libertarians) support essentially the same coercive taxation. The amounts some pay is a bit different, and their uses of the money might be different, but they are essentially quibbling over a small percentage.

  4. 4
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Also true, but they work very hard to score political points railing against taxes and the evils of taxation figure into every one of their arguments against spending bills they don’t like.

    Jenn Q Public and I (there I go ruining her right wing street cred again) agreed that both left and right are essentially ‘conservative’ about maintaining the status quo of the tax code as it exists now. I’ve written about more systemic reform of the system, but the simple fact is that there is a government agency invested in the tax code as it stands on the collection side and a whole industry invested in the tax code as it is on the other side, helping people NOT pay.

    I admit it, my original comment was a gratuitous excuse to take shots at conservatives over ‘right to work’ and ‘at will.’ 🙂

  5. 5
    Fritz says:

    Ah, Eclectic… The Constitutional rights that employers insist we give up.

    Actually I agree with you.  For instance, my employer has rules against me carrying a pistol at work (or even keeping one in my car) even though I have a Concealed Pistol License.  This is a violation of my Second Amendment rights.

    And my employer, like most, has all sorts of rules against verbal abuse.  Luckily, our hallway has a “No HR Zone” policy, so we get away with a lot more than the letter of the employee handbook would indicate.

  6. 6
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I am not even talking about ‘controversial’ issues like weapons polices or harassment policies, where there might be political disagreement. Employers can and do fire employees, under the current law, for exercise of rights that conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and socialists can all agree should not be infringed.

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