Rangel-ing About Taxes

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
(GETTY IMAGES/Mark Wilson)
Among the biggest myths associated with the federal government is the claim that our tax system is "voluntary."

I was reminded of that this morning as I watched House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-NY, outline his plan to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax by imposing more taxes on high-income earners.

"The tax system in the United States of America is a volunteer system," Rangel lectured reporters this morning.

Come on, Charlie. As Chairman of the powerful tax code-writing panel – you know better.

Compliance with the tax cod is no more voluntary than is compliance with traffic lights. If you get caught, you get nailed.

Of course, the Internal Revenue Service itself propagates the myth by stating in its Form 1040 instruction book that "the filing of a tax return is voluntary."

But if you go to the IRS website, it explains what it means by "voluntary" in a document titled "The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments."

It says "the word voluntary ... refers to our system of allowing taxpayers to determine the correct amount of tax and complete the appropriate returns, rather than have the government determine tax for them."

It then admits the myth about "voluntary" by stating: "The requirement to file an income tax return is not voluntary and is clearly set forth in sections 6011(a), 6012(a), et seq., and 6072(a). See also Treas. Reg. § 1.6011-1(a).

"Not voluntary." Like there was ever any doubt about it.

Make a note of it, Congressman Rangel.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.