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Income Tax

What should tax protestors do?

Since I started this web page, I have had much e-mail correspondence with people who seem to believe fervently that there is no law requiring most Americans to pay income taxes and who devote tremendous energy to the subject. Many of them can quote chapter and verse of the minutest details of age-old court opinions, section 861 regulations, or definition sections in the Internal Revenue Code. They've obviously put a whole lot of time and effort into this.

How sad to see all that energy wasted! If only the same energy were directed to useful activity, something might actually be accomplished.

My advice to tax protestors: redirect your energies.

Tax protestors, why don't you redirect all that energy? Move away from arguing "there is no law requiring payment of income tax," and instead argue "Congress should lower or eliminate the income tax."

Organize yourselves politically. Take action. If you all joined together and agitated politically for reduction or elimination of the income tax, you might get somewhere.

Stop living in a fantasy world! Trust me on this, there really is an income tax. The Constitution permits it, Congress passed it, and it's there. Arguments to the contrary are wasted effort. It's a bizarre, fringe position and it's not going to accomplish anything.

But the same Congress that passed the income tax could repeal it. If you don't like the income tax, the way to deal with it is to try to get Congress to lower or eliminate it.

And the big advantage is that, unlike the position "there is no income tax," which is a fringe position that's going nowhere, the position, "Congress should lower or eliminate the income tax" is a mainstream position with a lot of support. Heck, the Republican party always wants to lower income taxes. Many of its members want to eliminate the income tax altogether. I don't favor that plan myself, but plenty of people do.

So channel your energies into something useful. Stop wasting endless hours learning intricate details of arcane, bizarre, hopeless arguments about the history of the 16th Amendment or the regulations implementing section 861 or what the Supreme Court said about taxes a century ago. Instead, spend that time learning which members of Congress might favor repeal of the income tax, what you could do to help get more people with that position elected, and how you could convince more of your fellow citizens that income tax is a bad idea.

That's real politics. That the grown-up way to deal with laws you don't like.

Look, no one says you have to like the income tax. But it does exist.

A child faced with an unpleasant reality shuts his or her eyes, screams, and refuses to acknowledge it. An adult acknowledges the reality and asks what can be done about it.

Pretending that income tax doesn't exist is childish. Organizing politically and trying to get income tax lowered or repealed is an adult response.

Protestors, I admire your energy. I admire your willingness to spend lots of time and effort on income tax issues. I just think it would be so much better for you if you directed your energy toward efforts that might actually accomplish your goal.