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This post was written as part of a series on tax excuses that don't work.

Tax protesters claim that the filing of income tax returns is optional. They say that there is not a requirement to file a tax return. So if you want to avoid paying taxes, just don't file a tax return and you're off the hook.

Not so fast. This lie is based upon an incorrect interpretation of what a "voluntary" tax system is, which is mentioned in some IRS instruction booklets. A voluntary system under the tax laws of the United States doesn't mean that paying taxes is voluntary.

It means that taxpayers "volunteer" their information to the IRS, including how much income they have and the resulting tax due. However, taxpayers are obligated to provide this information. The IRS gives us a chance to correctly report the numbers, and they may later go in and do clean-up via an audit or other inquiry.

But the use of the word "voluntary" doesn't mean you don't have to report your income to the IRS. You do.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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Angrywoodchucksblog

That doesn't make any sense.

First you say that taxpayers volunteer their information to the IRS. Okay...so what if don't volunteer it? To volunteer is to "freely offer to do something." What if I don't "freely offer" it? Based on your logic, I have a choice, I can "freely offer it" or I can have the opposite of "freely offering it" which would be the IRS, based on the information it has on my income for the year, determining what I owe and then telling me what to pay. Right? I mean, they already know because my employer and my investments already told them what I earned, so why don't they just send me a bill?

The IRS knows what my income was already and you know this because you say the IRS may "go in and clean up the numbers" later. So my "volunteering" of the numbers is supposed to be me just telling them what they already know, and they have the option to "clean it up" or not, right?

Volunteering my numbers means there is no repercussion for not volunteering my numbers, right? Either I volunteer what I think I owe or the opposite of volunteer, which would be the IRS telling me what I owe.

But no. There is a repercussion. I can go to jail. If I do not VOLUNTEER my numbers, even though the government already has all of the information, they will come after me, audit me, and take either some or all of my property, my freedom or both. In what other context can anyone think of in the world where the failure to volunteer something of your own free will leads to a prison sentence? If the failure to volunteer something leads to a 6X9 cell, then it's not volunteer, it's obligated, mandated, required, demanded.

I mean, look at the garbage you wrote. First you said, "It means that taxpayers "volunteer" their information to the IRS" and then you write, "taxpayers are obligated to provide this information." How can you have the word volunteer in front of the word information in one breath, and the word obligated in front of the word information in the same breath, and pretend that isn't a gross contradiction?

"volunteer to provide their information" = "obligated to provide their information"

Gimme a break. Do you WORK for the IRS? C'mon.

January 25 2012 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply