Switch to Barter as a Tax Resistance Strategy

Paying in cash is one way to keep transactions off of the government’s radar and make them more difficult to tax. You can take another step in the same direction by switching to barter.

When the IRS told tax resister Karl Hess “that they would take every cent, literally 100 percent, of every penny I might earn and that they could discern”…

I asked… how they would handle it if I decided to just barter for a living. They had a ready answer: “If you get some turnips for your work, we’ll take the turnips.” Fortunately for me, either the IRS is surfeited with vegetables, or turnips are a good deal more difficult to track down than cold cash.

And so I survive. The other day I welded up a fish-smoking rack for a family in Washington, D.C. It will earn me a year’s supply of smoked fish. At about the same time, I helped a friend dig a foundation. He’ll help me lay the concrete blocks for a workshop. Part of my pay for a lecture at a New England college was the use of the school’s welding shop, to make some metal sculptures. Three such sculptures have paid my attorney’s fees in maintaining the tax resistance which is the reason barter has become such an integral part of my life.

It is increasingly easy to get ones needs met by engaging in off-the-books (or at least out-of-the-mall) transactions — not just under-the-table cash payments or barter, but also swaps and freebies. There are a number of websites and other innovative projects that facilitate things like this. You can go to yerdle or Trade A Favor, for instance, and join a community of sharers, or you can “turn what you have into what you want” at swap.com, or you can visit the “barter” or “free” sections at your local craigslist, or find a neighbor with a hedge trimmer you can borrow at NeighborGoods, or swap the books you’ve finished for ones you’d like to read at PaperBack Swap, or pass along the clothes your growing child just outgrew through thredUP, or rent a car from a person rather than an agency with Getaround, or join your local Freecycle network to help useful stuff find good homes.