By JJ MacNab | February 5, 2008
KCUF Media wrote:
The IRS line about â€œvoluntary complianceâ€ is a blatant lie.
The â€œvoluntary complianceâ€ rhetoric from the IRS is weaselly at best, and deserves to be thrown out of court on that basis, at the very least.
Sigh.Â 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.Â Nah.Â If you question your anti-tax arguments too carefully, you might have to admit that you have to pay taxes.Â Instead, they incorrectly believe that “Taxes are voluntary — I don’t have to pay.Â 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.Â You’re in your car approaching an intersection, and the traffic light is red.Â 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.Â So why do you stop?Â Because you riskÂ gettingÂ 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.Â This is an example of voluntary compliance.Â You’re volunteering to stop at the light,Â 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.Â It’s an honor system that has consequences if you cheat.
Now compare that to a train crossing.Â You’re in your car approaching the train tracks, red lightsÂ are flashing, and a barrier prevents you from going forward.Â 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.Â This is an example of an enforced compliance system.Â 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,Â 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.Â To slow cheating trends, payroll withholding and income reporting regimes were put in place, which I find unfortunate.Â If more people had to physically write a check to the US government each week, month, or quarter, I thinkÂ voters would take a far more active interest in whittling down government abuses and waste.Â But because paying the taxes has become automated, they just don’t think about it much.Â Â
Those who cheat on their taxes therefore hurt us all in more than one way:Â 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.