A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 83% of Likely U.S. Voters believe that when most businessmen pay their taxes, they try to pay as little as possible. Only 12% feel they are more concerned with paying their fair share.
Bill Quick calls out what’s wrong with the way this survey is worded:
1. “Avoid paying taxes.” The implication is that taxes should never be “avoided,” even if the tax code specifically permits you to follow procedures that lessen your overall tax burden. A further implication is that taxpayers should not do this at all — because, really, it isn’t your money, is it? If the government lets you keep any of “your” money (which it actually regards as its money), well, isn’t that nice of the government?
2. “Try to pay as little as possible” versus “fair share.” I really hate this notion of “fair share,” because it loads the calculus in the direction that “fairness” requires you to hand over to the government as large an amount of your own wealth as possible, to be “fair.”
Wealthy people pay by far the largest amount of taxes in this country. If you want to talk about actually fair shares, what about the enormous number of people who don’t pay taxes at all.
More eloquently, Judge Learned Hand, then on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals:
Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.
Opinion in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Newman, 159 F.2d 848, 1947. Then again, it was a dissenting opinion; the government, once it was awarded droit de seigneur with regard to your paycheck, has consistently argued that the award was deserved.