Jan Helfeld: …if the government is in the business of forcefully taking money from some people in order to provide welfare benefits to others, how will the people whose money is being taken feel about the government?
Harry Reid: Well, I don’t accept your phraseology. I don’t think we “force” people…
Helfeld: Taxation is not forceful?
Reid: Well, no.
Helfeld: It’s voluntary?
Reid: In fact, quite to the contrary. Our system of government is a voluntary tax system.
Helfeld: Oh… if you don’t want to pay your taxes, you don’t have to?
Reid: Of course you have to pay your taxes, but…
Helfeld: The government will force you to pay, or they’ll fine you or imprison you. Won’t they?
Reid: We have a voluntary system. The fact of the matter is, that if when you pay your taxes — you see, in many other countries, it’s not voluntary. For example, in many countries, the government makes sure that your employer takes out every penny. Many countries don’t file income tax returns. Why?
Helfeld: We have withholding here too, don’t we?
Reid: Pardon me?
Reid: With some program, yes. But I’m talking about in some countries, European countries as an example, there… you don’t file an income tax return. There is no need to, because your employer takes all the money out. That’s the difference between a voluntary and an involuntary system.
Helfeld: But can…? Can…?
Reid: You can choose to not pay your taxes, but I don’t accept your phraseology, that you forcibly take money from somebody else and give it to others. You know, that’s the way it is on any program. I mean…
Helfeld: Can the taxpayer…?
Reid: …highway program is the same. We…
Helfeld: Excuse me.
Reid: We take money, we “forcibly” take money in your phraseology, but…
Helfeld: But can…? Let me ask you something.
Reid: …build highways with it, put people in the Army.
Helfeld: Can the taxpayer decide not to pay his taxes if he wants?
Reid: He can… He can not pay his taxes if he wants.
Helfeld: What will be the…? What will happen?
Reid: He’ll be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
Helfeld: They’ll put him in jail — they’ll use force against him. He pays… everybody pays taxes under threat of jail or fines: on the threat of force. In other words, you are forced to pay your taxes. Whether you fill out your form voluntarily or whether its withheld by your employer, you don’t have a choice on whether you can pay taxes that are going to be used for welfare programs — you can’t make that choice.
Reid: Well, but the reason our system is called a voluntary tax system — and I recognize, you know, that ultimately you can’t cheat your taxes, but our… We have many provisions in the law they don’t have in most countries: we have deductibility for home interest on mortgage payment, they don’t have that in most countries, we have deductibility for certain excessive expenses as relates to health — doctors, hospitals — we have all kinds of tax — some people call them “loopholes” but others would call them “incentives for people to do business” — and that’s why… You know, you’re not “forced” to pay certain taxes. There are ways… if you decide to buy a home and…
Helfeld: You can decide not to pay taxes? In the United States?
Reid: I mean, I really don’t understand what you’re trying to get at. If you’re… What… the point of the matter is…
Helfeld: Because you objected to my phraseology. You said that… you say that the government isn’t forcefully taking money from some people to provide welfare benefits to others, and, in fact, that’s what it’s doing, because all taxation is forceful. It’s backed up by physical force. If you don’t pay your taxes, the government will intervene with you forcefully. So you don’t have a choice. It’s not voluntary. You can’t decide not to pay and not suffer consequences. If you don’t pay, you’ll go to jail. So: you’re forced to pay.
Reid: You don’t… you don’t go to jail. Some people go to jail. There are all kind of civil penalties if you don’t pay your taxes: you pay interest and you pay penalties. The fact of the matter is, our system is a voluntary system.