There's Only One Way to End IRS Abuses

by Harry Browne

April 11, 1998

Those who hate the income tax (roughly 99% of Americans) cheered when a Senate committee allowed IRS victims to tell their heart-breaking stories to the TV cameras.

So what will come from these revelations of Internal Revenue Service abuse?

Absolutely nothing. The politicians will play on the IRS as a campaign issue, but they won't do anything to soften it.

An enormous government, costing $1.7 trillion a year, requires a pitiless, energetic, take-no-prisoners tax-collection agency. If the IRS were reined in, revenue would plummet and the politicians would have to reduce government. No chance.

So despite the grandstanding, no one is going to "pull the IRS up by the roots" or "drive a stake through its heart." They may change its name to the Benevolent Revenue Service, but its methods won't change.

A flat tax won't eliminate the IRS. You might file your return on a postcard, but your friendly IRS agent will still summon you and all your records -- forcing you to prove you don't have unreported income or fictitious exemptions.

And it's misleading to think a flat tax or a national sales tax will lower your tax burden. Proponents of either proposal talk of tax rates in the 15% - 20% range, replacing the current 15% - 40% income tax rates. It might sound great, but it's pure fiction.

Whether a flat tax or a sales tax, by the time the politicians exempt the poor and their most important political backers, a tax rate of 30% or more will be required to finance a $1.7 trillion budget. Who's going to support a 30% tax?

"Tax reform" merely redistributes the awful burden of big government. The more people who are exempted, the more you will pay to cover the lost revenue. The come-on is that you'll pay less; the truth is that you'll pay more for the goodies the politicians give to their friends.

Spokesmen for the flat tax tell us it will produce "more prosperity, higher incomes, and higher revenue."

Oh really? With the revenue it receives now, the federal government is destroying our education and health-care systems, and it's regulating companies and property owners into bankruptcy. Just think what it could do to you with even more revenue.

The flat tax, sales tax, and IRS reform are con games whose time will never come. They are issues politicians can use to raise money and gather votes, but they will never be realities.

We can be free of the IRS only by reducing government to its Constitutional functions -- eliminating the need for an income tax and the IRS, and letting the present level of tariffs and excise taxes pay for the remaining activities of government.

At the same time, the only way to reduce government by even one dollar is to repeal the income tax -- because voters won't support reductions in government programs without a major incentive. By combining a massive downsizing of government with the outright repeal of the income tax, we can propose the Great Libertarian Offer to the American people:

Would you give up your favorite federal programs if it meant you never had to pay income tax again?

Only in this way will we ever reduce government, and only in this way will we get rid of the IRS.

So while Republicans and Democrats posture with "tax reform," Libertarians are working for nothing less than the total repeal of your income tax through a massive reduction in the size of the federal government.

Which side are you on? Or, more important, who's on your side?