Corruption, Incompetence Erode U.S. Tax Compliance Culture

As I mentioned a few days back, the IRS is eager to manufacture a public consensus that taxpaying is honorable and good and noble and, above all, normal. The most efficient way to enforce the tax laws is to create a compliance culture in which the citizens police themselves. But if people see their neighbors getting away with not paying their share, or perceive that people in high places are getting away with tax dodging, they’re much more likely to say “to hell with it!” A majority of Americans believe most members of Congress don’t pay all their taxes.

In other news: A new TIGTA report says that in tax year , the IRS issued $43.7 billion dollars via the Earned Income Tax Credit. $10–$12 billion of this was in error. That’s about 25%. The tax system is a mess.

The following comes from a letter from Henry David Thoreau to Thomas Cholmondeley, . Cholmondeley had visited America and spent time with Thoreau but then returned to England to volunteer in its military after hearing of setbacks in the Crimean War.

I cannot say that I am surprised to hear that you have joined the militia, after what I have heard from your lips; but I am glad to doubt if there will be occasion for your volunteering into the line. Perhaps I am thinking of the saying that it “is always darkest just before day.” I believe it is only necessary that England be fully awakened to a sense of her position, in order that she may right herself, especially as the weather will soon cease to be her foe. I wish I could believe that the cause in which you are embarked is the cause of the people of England. However, I have no sympathy with the idleness that would contrast this fighting with the teachings of the pulpit; for, perchance, more true virtue is being practiced at Sevastopol than in many years of peace. It is a pity that we seem to require a war, from time to time, to assure us that there is any manhood still left in man.

I was much pleased with [James John Garth] Wilkinson’s vigorous and telling assault on Allopathy, though he substitutes another and perhaps no stronger thy for that. Something as good on the whole conduct of the war would be of service. Cannot [Thomas] Carlyle supply it? We will not require him to provide the remedy. Every man to his trade. As you know, I am not in any sense a politician. You, who live in that snug and compact isle, may dream of a glorious commonwealth, but I have some doubts whether I and the new king of the Sandwich Islands shall pull together. When I think of the gold-diggers and the Mormons, the slaves and the slaveholders and the flibustiers, I naturally dream of a glorious private life. No, I am not patriotic; I shall not meddle with the Gem of the Antilles. General Quitman cannot count on my aid, alas for him! nor can General Pierce.

My father and mother and sister all desire to be remembered to you, and trust that you will never come within range of Russian bullets. Of course, I would rather think of you as settled down there in Shropshire, in the camp of the English people, making acquaintance with your men, striking at the root of the evil, perhaps assaulting that rampart of cotton bags that you tell of. But it makes no odds where a man goes or stays, if he is only about his business.