Is it Possible to Pay Zero Taxes?

From a discussion I’m involved in over at the Claire Files Board:

Good questions all, and hard ones. I’m currently living sustainably at a level where I don’t owe federal income taxes. To be sustainable, I have to bring in a minimum of $15,000 per year; I can bring in $25,000 or more and still stay under the line by using deductions and credits. I’m not poor enough to qualify for EITC. To bring in $15,000 in income, I’d have to pay some FICA.

So, while I’m avoiding the federal income tax, I’m still giving money to The Man. And these days they get about as much from FICA as from the income tax. So that is a real concern.

If I close my eyes and plug my ears and go to that happy place, I can tell myself that FICA only funds social security and medicare, which, although highway robbery of a sort no good libertariish fellow can condone, at least doesn’t involve tearing the arms off of little boys with guided missiles. However, if I open my eyes and unplug my ears, I notice that all the money is really going into one big trough surrounded by politicians with forks and knives. (This deception will become easier to swallow in the near future when FICA contributions start to be less than Social Security / Medicare spending)

So if I really wanted to stop funding the government completely, I’d have to eliminate FICA contributions too. I could do this by not having any earned income (wouldn’t it be nice if I could live off $15,000 a year in interest and capital gains!) But I’m not so lucky, and it isn’t really a path I could recommend to anyone but the lucky.

I could also do this by being a minister (yep, it’s one of the rare FICA exceptions). I’m still looking for the congregation who’s willing to pay me $15,000 a year to be their pulpiteer.

I could lower my income and standard of living further and get to a point where my FICA contributions are matched by my EITC credit. This would be the most consistent position for me to take, given my momentum and my rhetoric. I’m not sure I have the balls for it, though, so I’m sticking with my half-way position for now. I’m one of those wade-in-to-the-pool rather than dive-in-to-the-pool sorts, I’m afraid.

I’d need to take excise taxes into account, too. I’ve already stopped paying the excise tax on my phone bill, but there are taxes on gasoline, beer, ammunition, and even vaccinations to deal with. I suppose I could do without, or factor those in to the FICA — EITC equation.

By this I assume you mean the deductions I claim for putting money in retirement funds, spending it on education, etc. Do things the government thinks are responsible or good for society and they give you a pat on the head and a tax break.

It is condescending, but for me this isn’t much of an issue. I think that putting away money for retirement is a pretty wise thing to do, so I don’t chafe at this being a requirement for qualifying for a credit. The education deduction I can take or leave. If I want, I can earn an extra so-many thousand dollars in a year and spend it on some classes; if not, I don’t earn or spend the money. No problem.

My whole tax resistance scheme is such a broad-brush lifestyle change in reference to the tax code that these little things are just details.


Thanks to John Elder for giving a thumbs-up to The Picket Line on Elderbear’s Den.


Here’s another well-researched report from the Project on Defense Alternatives: Disappearing the Dead: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Idea of a “New Warfare”. It’s about the “casualty agnosticism” in which the military and politicians make grand claims about how precision warfare limits civilian casualties, while at the same time claiming that there’s no way to really know how many civilians are actually killed or maimed, so there’s no reason to bother counting or estimating the number.


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