Our “Voluntary” Tax System: Dispelling the Myth

Every once in a while, some uninformed bloke or other will pontificate about how income taxes in this country are all “voluntary,” and therefore those who don’t pay aren’t really violating the law.

But the IRS points out that the requirement to pay taxes is NOT voluntary and is clearly set forth in Section 1 of the Internal Revenue Code, which imposes a tax on the taxable income of individuals, estates, and trusts, not to mention Section 11 which similarly imposes income tax on corporations. And beyond all of that, Section 6151 requires taxpayers to submit payment with their tax returns. Failure to pay taxes could subject the malingerer to criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment!

And in discussing Section 6151, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals noted, “when a tax return is required to be filed, the person so required ‘shall’ pay such taxes to the internal revenue officer with whom the return is filed at the fixed time and place. The sections of the Internal Revenue Code imposed a duty on Drefke to file tax returns and pay the ….. tax, a duty which he chose to ignore.” (United States v. Drefke, 707 F2d 978, 981, 8th Cir. 1983)

And the same goes for the actual filing of returns — not “voluntary” either, according to IRC Sections 6011(a), 6012(a) et seq, and 6072(a). And as the IRS will tell you, the word “voluntary,” as used in IRS publications, refers simply to our system of allowing taxpayers to determine the correct amount of tax and complete the appropriate returns themselves, as opposed to having the government determine the tax for them.