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Tax Avoidance

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bobsponge,

The "Good Germans" also thought that way, and look what happened.

I dont think that even you believe that that is a fair comparison. Should Amercia become a totalitarian state, I might join you. But until then, the government is worthy of my support (even if a large measure of that support goes to the welfare of others). We cant pick and choose the laws we wish to abide by. To do so would be anarchy.

Just out of curiosity, did you stop paying taxes because of your Objectivist beliefs, or are you using Objectivism to rationalize what you were already doing?

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I am happy to pay highway tax, fuel tax, sales tax, etc. for what I use because those make sense . . . .

3 points:

1. I am not happy to pay any tax.

2. Why does any tax--that is, the forced confiscation of one's wealth by the government--make sense? How can you abhor forced confiscation in one instance and be happy to comply with it, and claim that it makes sense, in another?

3. One of those things is not like the other. One of those things just doesn't belong. And that's the sales tax. With the highway and fuel taxes, you are paying the government for things the government provides you. With the sales tax, you are paying the government for the right to buy something someone else provides you. You're not really paying for what you use.

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Our congress, who has the ability to control the inflation of our currency, chooses not to, even though it is directly against the interest of the American people.
Be that as it may... do you think Congress would control inflation better than the Fed?

I do share your feelings on forced taxation, though.

The sad part of it is that if one person in five had the intrepidity to act on their beliefs to his extent, the problem wouldn't exist. They would have a hard task to put 60 million people in jail.
Wholeheartedly agree.

But, how are you going to convince 60 million people to simultaneously stop forking over money?
Harder things have been accomplished in this world (I wouldn't think it'd have to be exactly simultaneous.)

We cant pick and choose the laws we wish to abide by. To do so would be anarchy.
What about choosing to follow the just laws and picking out the objectively unjust ones?

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But, how are you going to convince 60 million people to simultaneously stop forking over money? That circumstance might allow you to quit "cold turkey" without any serious consequences, but it will not happen.

And who's to say those of us who pay taxes are not living on principle? And which principle? We are dealing with nationally-sanctioned criminals, not an ideal, reasoned society, so the rules are different. We still have the option to kick and scream against taxes publicly. Since the ultimate goal is to get the most out of one's life, under our particular national condition (pay or serve time), I think voicing opposition, in every way appropriate, is the best route.

One's own principles are the ones I have I mind. I have met a lot of people who are opposed to being sacrificial lambs but they open their veins every April 15th anyways. The Milgrim studies have shown that this obedience to authority does not end at any point of sanity. 66% of people will electrocute another human being so long as a man in a white lab suit tells them to do it. And he doesn't even have a gun.

Regarding the 60 million people being convinced, that 66% drops to 15% if they see another person refuse to obey. So I am happy that there are people who act according to their own will rather then according to the law. It sets a good example. Maybe it will start a trend. Probably not, but it can't hurt anybody but him to try. To be clear, this is not an advocation of anarchy. Neither he nor I are talking about vigilante-style taking the law into your own hands. It is simply non-compliance with injustice.

Also, this really only applies to the self-employed and business owners. With automatic withholding, employees have no realistic way of avoiding it.

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With automatic withholding, employees have no realistic way of avoiding it.

This would likely be the main reason why there has not been and unlikely will be any large scale tax revolt. I deal regularly with other self employed individuals, some of whom do not accurately report their income (if they report at all). I wish I could attribute to them some grand, morally principled stance, but I cannot. They dont pay because they think they wont get caught. I happen to know two people, both bar owners, who got caught not paing taxes. Both lost their businesses, their homes, and their credit. After more than a decade, neither has recovered. In my mind, tax cheats are just that: cheats. It is a short term gain that puts at risk long term success. I dont see any value in a life spent trying to stay one step ahead of the Feds.

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Have you read any of Thoreau's treatise on civil disobedience? It's a good read.
I'd be interested to see which parts you read as advocating covert disobedience. He did indeed go to jail for not paying his tax, and even wrote a public essay, using his name. Would you do likewise? Just curious to know if you'd object to being turned in to the IRS. That's a question, nothing more.

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I'd be interested to see which parts you read as advocating covert disobedience. He did indeed go to jail for not paying his tax, and even wrote a public essay, using his name. Would you do likewise? Just curious to know if you'd object to being turned in to the IRS. That's a question, nothing more.

I know they'll figure it out eventually-- their computers will probably start squawking sometime soon. I don't really care, though. There's really nothing they'll be able to do to me unless they go and violate all sorts of international laws (wouldn't be a first! ;)) It has to be worth their time to follow up on the myriad crap they would have to follow up on, and in the end they'll be running into a long list of dead ends.

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In my mind, tax cheats are just that: cheats. It is a short term gain that puts at risk long term success. I dont see any value in a life spent trying to stay one step ahead of the Feds.

I understand that it is not without risk. It is also risky to fend of someone who tries to mug you. You might get shot. Why would that make them a cheat? Who are they cheating exactly?

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It is a short term gain that puts at risk long term success.

I agree. As a side business, I prepare taxes for people and having seen what kind of financial devastation and emotional turmoil follows after someone has been caught - I don't consider it worth it. It is also not a short term risk; it is an ongoing state of living in breach of law - of having to look over your shoulder all the time. For me it is no way to live and especially if you have a child.

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I agree. As a side business, I prepare taxes for people and having seen what kind of financial devastation and emotional turmoil follows after someone has been caught - I don't consider it worth it. It is also not a short term risk; it is an ongoing state of living in breach of law - of having to look over your shoulder all the time. For me it is no way to live and especially if you have a child.

I understand your position but that is a matter of individual context. It may be entirely different for bobsponge. It is one thing to say I would not or am not able to do it for these reasons. It is another to make the moral claim that someone who does is a cheat.

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I understand that it is not without risk. It is also risky to fend of someone who tries to mug you. You might get shot. Why would that make them a cheat? Who are they cheating exactly?

If Barry Bonds has been on steroids and he gets the home run record, who has he cheated? The fans? Not really. They have been entertained by him. The game of baseball? Maybe. But wasnt one of baseballs best seasons the season that Sosa and Mcguire (both likely steroid induced) battled it out? The real victims are those players who played by the rules and Bonds himself. The same is true of tax cheats. Like Bonds, tax cheats or tax evaders believe that they are above the rules that apply to the rest of us. Like Bonds, tax cheats are dishonst. If Bonds believes that steriod use is good for baseball, he should stand up, admit his usage, and fight for its legitimacy. Same applies to tax cheats. If they believe taxation is wrong and wish to take a principled stand, then that is great. Stand up and do it. Dont hide in the shadows. But in baseball, the real victim is Bonds, who has to live with the fact that he cheated his way to the top of baseballs greatest list. Tax cheats are their own victims. They cheat themselves. Like it or not, tax evaders are criminals. They have chosen, essentially, a life of crime. And as scofflaws, they must spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder, and trying to stay one step ahead of the government bean counters. This hardly seems rational, nor something that would serve a man's long term rational interests.

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All of us are forced to comply with many laws that violate our rights. Those laws cannot be corrected by mere disobediance or futile martyrdom. They must be fought ideologically.

People should not pick and choose which laws are convenient to obey. Selective compliance undermines the integrity of the entire legal system, which leads to anarchy. For those reasons, I do not support people who break laws even if unjust.

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If Barry Bonds has been on steroids and he gets the home run record, who has he cheated? The fans? Not really. They have been entertained by him. The game of baseball? Maybe. But wasnt one of baseballs best seasons the season that Sosa and Mcguire (both likely steroid induced) battled it out? The real victims are those players who played by the rules and Bonds himself. The same is true of tax cheats. Like Bonds, tax cheats or tax evaders believe that they are above the rules that apply to the rest of us. Like Bonds, tax cheats are dishonst. If Bonds believes that steriod use is good for baseball, he should stand up, admit his usage, and fight for its legitimacy. Same applies to tax cheats. If they believe taxation is wrong and wish to take a principled stand, then that is great. Stand up and do it. Dont hide in the shadows. But in baseball, the real victim is Bonds, who has to live with the fact that he cheated his way to the top of baseballs greatest list. Tax cheats are their own victims. They cheat themselves. Like it or not, tax evaders are criminals. They have chosen, essentially, a life of crime. And as scofflaws, they must spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder, and trying to stay one step ahead of the government bean counters. This hardly seems rational, nor something that would serve a man's long term rational interests.

There is a huge difference between tax evasion and steriods in MLB. If Bonds takes a principled stand, he could get kicked out of the MLB, which is the MLB's right because Bonds doesn't own it. If Bobsponge makes a principled stand, he could get kicked out of life which is not the government's right because Bobsponge does own it. It's the difference of lying to gain a value and lying to avoid having a value of your destroyed by someone who doesn't have the right to do so. To put it another way, if a gunman comes to your house and asks you where your children are, is it being dishonest to tell him that they are at a friend's house instead of in the kitchen, where they really are?

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All of us are forced to comply with many laws that violate our rights. Those laws cannot be corrected by mere disobediance or futile martyrdom. They must be fought ideologically.

People should not pick and choose which laws are convenient to obey. Selective compliance undermines the integrity of the entire legal system, which leads to anarchy. For those reasons, I do not support people who break laws even if unjust.

And if the law is so non-objective (like the tax code) that it is impossible to know if you're breaking it? Have you made a contract in restraint of trade recently?

Even ignoring the problem of non-objective law, why is there any obligation to fight ideologically when there is a gun to your head? You can't use your mind to convince someone who wants you to abandon your mind. Would you rather Bobsponge simply give himself up and go to jail? Hey Mr. Robber, you have no right to my wallet but because you have a big gang behind you, I'm going to say you have no right and let you shoot me instead of saying you have no right and hiding my wallet. Selective compliance doesn't undermine the integrity of the legal system, selective justice of the legal system undermines its integrity.

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And if the law is so non-objective (like the tax code) that it is impossible to know if you're breaking it? Have you made a contract in restraint of trade recently?

I meant knowingly break the law.

Even ignoring the problem of non-objective law, why is there any obligation to fight ideologically when there is a gun to your head?

I am neither ignoring the problem of the existance of non-objective laws nor did I claim that one has an obligation to fight them.

What I said was - if one does not agree with a particular law one ought to fight it on ideologicall level and not by civil disobediance. Such thing leads to anarchy.

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What I said was - if one does not agree with a particular law one ought to fight it on ideologicall level and not by civil disobediance. Such thing leads to anarchy.

But why do you owe the enforcers of unjust laws the choice of complying or fighting on an ideological level? To reuse a favorite example of mine, if a gunman comes to your house and holds a gun to your head asking where your kids are, do you owe him to choose between complying (giving up the location of your children) or fighting ideologically (trying to convince him he has no right to your children and then letting yourself get shot)? Can't you be disobedient (tell him the kids are at a friend's house)?

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But why do you owe the enforcers of unjust laws the choice of complying or fighting on an ideological level?

It is not because you owe the government such choice. It is in recognition that the government is an enforcer of all the laws, some of which protect your rights, and it is not in your or anybody's best interest to allow people to choose which laws they find convenient to obey.

I would like to remind everyone that one of the things that distinguishes the US nation from, for example, nations of Middle East is the sanctity of your legal system. Don't take it for granted.

To reuse a favorite example of mine, if a gunman comes to your house and holds a gun to your head asking where your kids are, do you owe him to choose between complying (giving up the location of your children) or fighting ideologically (trying to convince him he has no right to your children and then letting yourself get shot)? Can't you be disobedient (tell him the kids are at a friend's house)?

A gunman in your example is not an enforcer of the law.

Edited by ~Sophia~

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I don't think I follow.

The gunman is not the enforcer of a just, rights based law, but he is the enforcer of the law of "might makes right". That is the exact law the IRS enforces when they prosecute a tax evader.

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Like it or not, tax evaders are criminals. They have chosen, essentially, a life of crime. And as scofflaws, they must spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder, and trying to stay one step ahead of the government bean counters. This hardly seems rational, nor something that would serve a man's long term rational interests.

By this reasoning Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were traitors and outlaws as well. And they were, but does that make them immoral? If it is in their particular best interests depends on the individual persons context. I pay my taxes as well since I see no way to avoid it. But my belief that it is in my best interests(so to speak) to comply does not make it immoral for someone in another situation to act otherwise.

I very often break osha regulations since their one size fits all restrictions cause no less then a 50% drop in productivity and very often put me at more physical risk then I would otherwise be. Am I also cheating? If so who? Should I go down to the osha office and say," I am going to break your laws when they put me in danger. Thought you should know." And then wait for them to put me out of business? All the while hoping that my principled stand will convince them of the error of their ways. I am risking fines in the $20,000+ range so I have to judge each time if the likelihood of being caught is worth the risk. I also have to judge whether the increased danger to my health is worth risking the fines. It is inconvenient to be on the other side of corrupt laws but this is the price I pay for living under an immoral government. Blaming the victims of outrageous government policy for attempting to limit the damage inflicted upon them is in poor taste and incorrect.

The fact that fighting ideologically is generally the most effective approach to serious longterm political change does not impose an obligation on people to act in that way. It also has no bearing on an individual taking steps to protect themselves individually. It isn't an either/or kind of choice. You can also do both or neither. And I would add that keeping all of that discretionary income they would otherwise be stealing increases you're ability to fight ideologically.

The comparison to a privately held company's rules violation is a poor example for the reasons cogito mentioned and I suggest another comparison.

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The gunman is not the enforcer of a just, rights based law, but he is the enforcer of the law of "might makes right". That is the exact law the IRS enforces when they prosecute a tax evader.

A gunman is violating the law (law which protects your rights) whereas the IRS is enforcing the law (a proper function but the law happens to be violating your rights). Clearly not the same and thus proper way of dealing with each is different. In the second, the law is the problem not the function therefore if you disagree you ought to fight the law instead of disobeing its enforcement (an act against the function of government).

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In the second, the law is the problem not the function therefore if you disagree you ought to fight the law instead of disobeing its enforcement (an act against the function of government).

At what point, if any, do you believe disobeying an immoral law would be moral?

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There is a huge difference between tax evasion and steriods in MLB. If Bonds takes a principled stand, he could get kicked out of the MLB, which is the MLB's right because Bonds doesn't own it. If Bobsponge makes a principled stand, he could get kicked out of life which is not the government's right because Bobsponge does own it. It's the difference of lying to gain a value and lying to avoid having a value of your destroyed by someone who doesn't have the right to do so. To put it another way, if a gunman comes to your house and asks you where your children are, is it being dishonest to tell him that they are at a friend's house instead of in the kitchen, where they really are?

My point about Bonds was more along the lines of who the victims of his actions were. But you are right, he is lying and cheating to gain a value he might not otherwise gain through honest means. But if the man had any integrity, he would argue in defence of steroid use regardless of the consequences, but he will not because he values the record books higher than personal intergrity. With regard to taxes, the government may not have the 'right' to take your wealth, but it certainly does have the legal power to do so. Look, I am no defender of taxation, but I see nothing moral in tax evasion. It is ultimately self-destructive. If a man spends a lifetime building a business, a career, and a family, but does so while evading taxes, he could, and probably will, lose everything. Explain to me how that is rational. If you want to protest taxation, then by all means protest. But until the tax laws are changed, obey them.

In regards to the gunman scenario, is it dishonest to tell him a falsehood about the whereabouts of your children? Yes. Is that bad? No.

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