Income Tax Myths
"The laws do not make anyone 'liable' for income taxes."
Where's the Word "Liable"?
Anti-tax zealots sometimes lay great
stress on the fact that the income tax laws don’t expressly
state who is “liable” for the payment of income taxes.
The tax protestor will point out that with regard to certain other taxes—the
excise tax imposed on liquor, for example—the tax code has a section
headed “Persons Liable for Tax,” which expressly states
who is “liable” for the tax imposed. (You can see this particular
example at 26 U.S.C. § 5005.) There is, tax protestors say, no
comparable section stating who is “liable” for income taxes.
There’s nothing magic about the word “liable.” There’s no rule that says that Congress has to use a particular word, such as the word “liable,” to tell you to pay income taxes. The English language provides many synonyms and many different ways to express the same point. Congress can use any words that adequately express what it’s trying to say. The statutory statement that you “shall pay” the tax is a perfectly adequate way of saying that you have to pay the tax. Congress doesn’t have to use the word “liable” any more than it has to use the word “abracadabra.”