I am now on day fifteen of tax disobedience. This year I refused to file taxes on income earned as an independent contractor. In the past I had always had jobs that paid a wage, where taxes were withheld by my employer. Because my earnings in years past have always been so paltry, I filed paperwork only because I knew I would be getting some money back. But last year I worked as an independent contractor, and so the onus was on me this tax season to write a check to the federal government. I disobeyed. I’d like to explain why I’m telling the world and why you should too, if you’re a tax rebel like me.
I’ve told people before the publishing of this article that I refuse to pay income taxes (and SS taxes, and Medicaid, etc.) and I’ve been met with concerns such as “aren’t you worried about the risks of getting caught?” The answer, of course, is that yes, I am afraid that I’ll be thrown into a cold steel and concrete cage for refusing to fund a criminal organization. But then I have to remind the person I’m talking to that there are risks in obedience, too. And these are very real risks that deserve a lot more attention than they get.
The first, and most ethically relevant issue in paying taxes, is the risk in negatively affecting my conscience. As much as the statists love to paint tax rebels as a bunch of greedy no-goodniks, the truth is we tax rebels know better. We know that by paying off the extortionists, we’re merely attempting to shift the violence of the state away from us and onto others. That is simply not an option for me. No amount of wealth or creature comforts can make life enjoyable with a guilty conscience.
Second, by funding the state I risk empowering it to run even greater roughshod over my life. Every dollar I give it will help the state to hire more bureaucrats, purchase more tazers and ankle bracelets, and build more prisons. The state is a growing parasite with an insatiable hunger. I cannot appease the state. It will continue to demand more until I am destroyed. If destruction is my fate at least I will not have helped to dig my own grave.
Third, even if I were to cower in fear and pay the demands of the state, there is always a real possibility that either I or one of their bureaucrats will make a technical mistake. A technical mistake could be interpreted as intentional tax evasion. And tax evasion elicits just as much rage from the state as tax disobedience. With all of the countless tax codes in existence it is simply impossible not to break the law. In other words, my life is in just as much danger by obeying the state than by not obeying. The state has actually incentivized me not to pay taxes.
Fourth, and least of all likely, but still a tangible risk, is that by paying taxes I will become corrupted into expecting Social Security or Medicaid be available for me later in life. Surely, there are many anarchists, at least philosophical if not practicing anarchists, that have been tamed into not biting the hand that feeds them. The state knows it’s much easier to get people to tow the line when their meal ticket comes in the form of Social Security and Medicaid.
There are probably more risks in obedience than I’ve outlined above, but I’d like to discuss the risks of getting caught. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my short life it is that the law gets broken constantly, by just about everyone, and rarely does anything bad ever happen. We see people speeding, smoking marijuana, owning illegal firearms, or working under the table. We see over ten million so-called illegal immigrants in the U.S. alone. There are people sharing movies and music illegally, jaywalking, engaging in prostitution, contracting without a license, and yes, even refusing to file taxes. Granted, there are a lot of people in prison. But for every person in prison there are one hundred people engaging in illegal activity that aren’t. Simply put, it’s a numbers game.
If you don’t believe me when I say that there are a lot of “Americans” that don’t pay taxes, it’s only because most people aren’t public about it. Tax disobedience is rampant and the feds are powerless to do anything about it. The best they can ever hope to do is go after some big names to make an example and hope to scare more people into compliance. It’s a bluff. I encourage you to listen to this liberal-slanted piece by NPR on the state of affairs for income taxation. I found it to be highly encouraging.
So, now that I’ve covered the risk vs. reward of tax rebellion I’d like to explain why I’m open about my disobedience. I get a lot of my courage and inspiration from the LGBT community. I’m pretty sure they showed all of us law-breakers the way towards positive change. This is a community that has long-suffered at the hands of the state. But something changed in the western world starting about three decades ago. Individuals within the LGBT community started coming out of the closet in droves. Historically, many within the LGBT community lived secret lives for fear of retribution if discovered. One could lose their job, their family and friends, and even be arrested or beaten. And this happened frequently for those who were “caught.” But once the LGBT community stopped acting like second class citizens and started living proudly as who they were, societal and legal changes commenced. Many people outside of the LGBT community learned that there was nothing to be afraid of, and that these people are our brothers and sisters, not child molesters and perverts.
The same is happening today with cannabis users. People are much more open about their cannabis consumption than they were twenty years ago. And as a result, its usage has become normalized. The peaceful and productive pot smoker is replacing the imagery of the deadbeat, careless, thief. The same level of courage and pride needs to come from us tax rebels. If we try to sneak by we will always be seen as moochers and freeloaders, or rich people who don’t want to pay their “fair share.” The truth is we are principled, compassionate, and productive. We’re somebody’s brother or sister, parent or child.
There are risks in coming out of the closet. But there are risks staying in the closet as well. And if history teaches us anything, the risks are lessened by us openly disobeying. Join me. If you are a tax rebel like me, tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell anybody who cares about you that you do not pay taxes. That is how we will change hearts and minds.