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Voluntary Compliance

By JJ MacNab | February 5, 2008

KCUF Media wrote:

The IRS line about “voluntary compliance” is a blatant lie.

The “voluntary compliance” rhetoric from the IRS is weaselly at best, and deserves to be thrown out of court on that basis, at the very least.

Sigh.  Considering the IRS, Congress, the Department of Justice, the Treasury, and who knows how many journalists over the last century have used the phrase repeatedly to describe our income tax system, you’d think that the tax denier crowd might be curious as to what it actually means.  Nah.  If you question your anti-tax arguments too carefully, you might have to admit that you have to pay taxes.  Instead, they incorrectly believe that “Taxes are voluntary — I don’t have to pay.  Yippee!”

I hate to disappoint you, but almost all of our laws in America are based on a system of voluntary compliance.

Perhaps an analogy will help with the confusion.  You’re in your car approaching an intersection, and the traffic light is red.  As you near the intersection, you look both ways and see that if you don’t stop, the approaching cars are far enough away that you’ll make it safely through the intersection.  So why do you stop?  Because you risk getting an expensive ticket if you don’t and because if there were no traffic laws at all, travel by car would end up impossible in all but the most rural areas.  This is an example of voluntary compliance.  You’re volunteering to stop at the light, but if you don’t, you’ll be fined by the traffic court and may even lose your license if you try it too often.  It’s an honor system that has consequences if you cheat.

Now compare that to a train crossing.  You’re in your car approaching the train tracks, red lights are flashing, and a barrier prevents you from going forward.  As you near the tracks, you see that you have plenty of time to cross the tracks safely before the train arrives, but you can’t move forward because of the barrier.  This is an example of an enforced compliance system.  You have no choice in the matter of whether you move forward.

Filling out your own Form 1040 and calculating the taxes yourself is voluntary, just as stopping at the red light is voluntary, but there are significant consequences if you don’t.

Since mixing the honor system with money matters is problematic, we’ve had to move farther away from the voluntary compliance system over the years.  To slow cheating trends, payroll withholding and income reporting regimes were put in place, which I find unfortunate.  If more people had to physically write a check to the US government each week, month, or quarter, I think voters would take a far more active interest in whittling down government abuses and waste.  But because paying the taxes has become automated, they just don’t think about it much.  

Those who cheat on their taxes therefore hurt us all in more than one way:  when they cheat, the rest of us pay more, and when enough people cheat, our system of voluntary compliance by necessity converts into one of enforced compliance.

Topics: Tax Deniers | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Voluntary Compliance”

  1. Doktor Avalanche Says:
    February 5th, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    I’m really all for the enforced compliance. That way nobody has any illusions that you have to pay your taxes.

  2. silence dogood Says:
    February 10th, 2008 at 2:02 am

    Unfortunately the fact of all this matter is: By filling out a 1040 you are not complying with any law. In your traffic stop argument, you state that by stopping at the traffic light you are “voluntarily complying”. This is true because there is a law. I just wish to see the law that by filing a 1040 I would be “voluntarily complying” with.

  3. James Says:
    February 10th, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I doubt you have ever read the statute which makes running a red light a crime. You probably never read the applicable statute that makes armed robbery a crime. About about rape? Why don’t you use that agrument next time you get a speeding ticket to see where it gets you. You believe what you want because it is convenient for you.

    Nevertheless, the IRS even has a web site that addresses many of these tax denier arguments, with the code sections. There are many other web site which also SHOW YOU THE LAW. Care to read them?? I am sure you will never read it for you wish to continue with your argument that no one has showed you. Children need to be shown. Adults should have learned to investigate, and if they do not understand, get competent assistance. But then I forget, all the Judges, senators, congressmen, attorneys, CPAs, college professors, etc. have a secret covenant to keep the myth going.

  4. silence dogood Says:
    February 11th, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    ONCE AGAIN, I’LL START BY USING THE TERM UNFORTUNATELY.

    UNFORTUNATELY, I’M AN AVID READER OF FL STATE STATUTES AND A NOVICE OF UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE AS WELL AS U.S. CODE. SO AS TO YOUR COMMENT ON MY IGNORANCE OF TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS:

    316.074 Obedience to and required traffic control devices.–

    (1) The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto, placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, subject to the exceptions granted the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle in this chapter.

    (2) No person shall drive any vehicle from a roadway to another roadway to avoid obeying the indicated traffic control indicated by such traffic control device.

    (3) No provision of this chapter for which official traffic control devices are required shall be enforced against an alleged violator if at the time and place of the alleged violation an official device is not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person. Whenever a particular section does not state that official traffic control devices are required, such section shall be effective even though no devices are erected or in place.

    (4) Whenever official traffic control devices are placed in position approximately conforming to the requirements of this chapter, such devices shall be presumed to have been so placed by the official act or direction of lawful authority unless the contrary shall be established by competent evidence.

    (5) Any official traffic control device placed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter and purporting to conform to the lawful requirements pertaining to such devices shall be presumed to comply with the requirements of this chapter unless the contrary shall be established by competent evidence.

    (6) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.

    NOW TO ARMED ROBBERY:

    812.13 Robbery.–
    (1) “Robbery” means the taking of money or other property which may be the subject of larceny from the person or custody of another, with intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the money or other property, when in the course of the taking there is the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.

    (2)(a) If in the course of committing the robbery the offender carried a firearm or other deadly weapon, then the robbery is a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life imprisonment or as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

    (b) If in the course of committing the robbery the offender carried a weapon, then the robbery is a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

    I WOULD SHOW YOU THE INFORMATION ON RAPE BUT IT’S QUITE EXTENSIVE SO I’LL JUST PROVIDE YOU WITH THE STATUTE NUMBER, 794.011

    ON TO YOUR SECOND PARAGRAPH.
    “Nevertheless, the IRS even has a web site that addresses many of these tax denier arguments, with the code sections.”
    YOU DO UNDERSTAND THAT CODE IS NOT LAW, RIGHT? IT’S BUT A REFERENCE TO A LAW OR SOME ADOPTED RULE OF A GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION; PUT INTO CODE TO MAKE REFERENCE EASIER. BASICALLY IT’S ALL A BUNCH OF NEEDLESS BANTER UNTIL BACKED UP WITH SPECIFIC STATUTES.

    “There are many other web site which also SHOW YOU THE LAW.”
    IF YOU HAVE THE ENLIGHTENING MATERIAL I WOULD MUCH APPRECIATE THE GESTURE AS TO BETTER UNDERSTAND MY EXISTING QUANDARY.

    “Adults should have learned to investigate, and if they do not understand, get competent assistance.”
    I FUNDAMENTALLY AGREE ACROSS THE BOARD WITH THIS STATEMENT. SO PLEASE IF YOU COULD OFFER SOME COMPETENT ASSISTANCE WITH THIS MATTER, I WOULD BE MUCH OBLIGED. AND IF YOU CANNOT OFFER COMPETENT ASSISTANCE I WILL DISMISS ANY OF YOUR FUTURE COMMENTS AS INCOMPETENT.

    “But then I forget, all the Judges, senators, congressmen, attorneys, CPAs, college professors, etc. have a secret covenant to keep the myth going.”
    I’M AMUSED AT YOUR SARCASTIC PRESUMPTION TO THIS BEING A BELIEF OF MINE. THE TRUTH IS I AM NOT A TAX DENIER AND I FILE ANNUALLY. BUT I AM ON THE SEARCH AS TO WHAT ALL OF THIS MEANS.

    THANK YOU JAMES FOR YOUR TIME.

  5. JJ MacNab Says:
    February 12th, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Oh dear, yet another person just asking honest questions…

    Yeesh.

    http://www.hereisthelaw.com

  6. Doktor Avalanche Says:
    February 16th, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Honestly insane questions.

  7. silence dogood Says:
    February 26th, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    To view any question as insane, hints at true insanity.

  8. Mike Says:
    February 26th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    My compliance with a red light or railroad barrier isn’t out of fear of a ticket or court time, it’s because I don’t want to get injured or killed in a traffic accident. There’s a town in the Netherlands that removed all streetlights and regulatory signs from one of its intersections, and the accident rate at that intersection dropped in comparison to the others.

    That said, I’m all in favor of trashing the withholding system. Ending rid of the fraud, waste and abuse would be the icing on the cake — getting rid of the ever-growing welfare state is the cake.

  9. Jim Says:
    April 23rd, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    James, it is now April 23 and you still haven’t responded to Silence Dogood’s well thought out and exremely accurate rebuttal to your ignorant accusations. I’ll check back in a couple months to see what you’ve come up with.

  10. Jessica Says:
    April 28th, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I stumbled here from Wikipedia and really enjoyed JJ’s turn of phrase with his voluntary compliance analogy. My impression, correct or not, is that the form is a tool to assist the IRS and taxpayers to factually document compliance of the law. Upon ratification of the 16th Amendment, someone came up with this lovely thing: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/1913.pdf — The first 1040. As a note, payroll withholding came five years later. Another note: the minimum filing requirement is still $3,000 of annual income.

    As of March 19, 2008, $1.2 billion of unclaimed refunds from 2004 were sitting in the U.S. Treasury. Not filing to collect your refund is both perfectly legal and incredibly foolish. That is, unless you want to donate your hard-earned income to the government — my public school education thanks you.

  11. Bernhard Vyfvinkel Says:
    May 10th, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Strange logic for paying tax. Where is the law? Not the codes, procedures, trial results, sentencing records,etc. Where is the simple compliance with the constitution, rather than the results of a bunch of terrified and thoroughly cowed and intimidated jurists knuckling under? ” I paid, so you have to” is morally bankrupt.