Three Principles of Taxation Consistent with Liberty

By what standard shall we judge proposed tax reform plans? Let us assume for argument’s sake that it “be found necessary to curse this land with these hateful excisemen,” (Antifederalist 30-31, 10/31/1787.) and therefore leave open the question of whether taxation be wholly inconsistent with liberty.

The Declaration of Independence contains an indictment against the King of Great Britain, in part: “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:…For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent….” We again suffer such tyranny: our tax rules are drafted by a body of the executive branch and reviewed by a tribunal that is part of that same executive branch body, in violation of Article I Section 1 (“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States”) and Article III Section 1 (“The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested…in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”) of the Constitution for the United States.

“The authority to lay and collect taxes is…the great engine of oppression and tyranny in a bad [government].” (Antifederalist 1, 10/18/1787.) To return to the liberty for which the War for Independence was fought, taxes must be: (1) locally determined, (2) locally collected, and (3) indirect (no provision of information under penalty of perjury).

Locally Determined: “The mode of levying taxes is of the utmost consequence;” and should not be “determined by those who have neither knowledge of our situation, nor a common interest with us, nor a fellow feeling for us.” (George Mason, speech to Virginia Ratifying Convention, 6/4/1788.) Our fifty states united are diverse; forms and objects of taxation that might be valid in one state are clearly invalid in another. For instance, while taxation of orange crops might prove fruitful in Florida, in Alaska such taxation would yield no fruit. Only a local body politic has the ability to determine what works best for the People.

Locally Collected: “[I]f ever it should be found necessary to curse this land with these hateful excisemen, [no] one, but a fellow citizen, should be entrusted with that office!” (Antifederalist 30-31, 10/31/1787.) Local collection protects both the People and the local body politic.

Our Founders presciently warned that, when subjected to federal taxation, the citizens of the several states will be haled into distant court when charged with a tax crime; we now have lawyers sitting in Washington, D.C. working both civil and criminal cases against citizens of the several states. Indeed, even the “local” Anchorage IRS office is staffed by IRS personnel residing in Washington and Oregon. What of the executive branch tribunal called “Tax Court”? The members of the federal executive branch who sit on that tribunal fly in from D.C. to hear cases in the several states; so much for the Common Law right to trial by a jury of citizens from your vicinage.

Local collection of taxes also ensures funding of the local government. Otherwise, the states “must dwindle away, and, as before observed, their powers absorbed in that of the general government.” (Antifederalist 1, 10/18/1787.) Prior to 1913, each state legislature elected that state’s U.S. senators and the states funded some of the federal budget. The system has since been turned on its head, and the federal government (often unlawfully) now pays the States to do its (rather than the People’s) bidding (Common Core being one example). This problem is eliminated if the money flows downstream from the People to the local and state governments to the federal government.

Indirect: Under the proposed 1754 Excise on Spirituous Liquors in Massachusetts, consumers would have been obligated to declare, under penalty of perjury, how much alcohol they had consumed. This was declared by John Lovell, Boston schoolmaster to the likes of John Hancock and Samuel Adams, to be the “Most pernicious attack upon English liberty that was ever attempted!” The governor refused to sign the bill, calling it a violation of “natural rights.” For this reason, our Constitution of 1787 forbade direct taxation. Today, the IRS requires taxpayers to sign an information return under penalty of perjury, declaring such things as: income, marital status, number of children, and religious affiliation. Such a requirement is incompatible with liberty. “I never will give up the power of direct taxation but for a scourge.” (Patrick Henry, 1788.)

If there be any taxation consistent with liberty, it must be (1) locally determined, (2) locally collected, and (3) indirect, not requiring the provision of information under penalty of perjury. (This article is based upon my speech given at the Gathering of Alaska Patriots in Wasilla on 10/10/15, video of which is available on my Website.)

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