While the popular rumor that taxes (and income taxes in particular) have never been legalized has come and gone for a long time, this one is easy to refute and disprove. After all, the law is meticulously documented and debated by lawyers; any loophole that could be, would be and will be. The “taxes are illegal” myth doesn’t quite shape up. You can see this page responding to claims that the 16th Amendment was never ratified, for example.
The IRS, in fact, has an entire page devoted to “frivolous” tax arguments relating to the legality of taxes. If you really want to know, you can peruse that site to find out about 1) the mandatory nature of taxes, 2) the meaning of income, 3) the meaning of other terms used in the Internal Revenue Code (because it seems like lawyers and nonlawyers both can and do quibble about such definitions), and 4) the various legal bases of various services and institutions related to tax.
So, that answers the legality question. But was that all there was at all?
I do not think so. With the increased popularity of groups like Tea Parties and the increased unpopularity of the IRS, I think people are asking (or protesting) something a bit different. The legality of taxes isn’t the central issue. Instead, it’s about the ethicality of taxes. Can we make a case here?
Fortunately, this is less about legalese and more about ideas.
Many politicians would like to help their constituents…in fact, all of them do, in some way or another, because it helps them get elected, and being reelected means another term of having a job.
How do politicians (and in that same branch, the government itself) help their constituents? They have to provide them with something. And those somethings (whether it be education, health care programs, safety and security, public works, or even bridges to nowhere) cost money. Now, some may be quick to point out that *taxes* don’t help most people out. But if politicians want to use the government to spend money for programs, plans, departments, and even a Congressman’s personal pork barrel, then they will need something to pay for these things, which *do* help at least someone.
Taxes pay for the government’s expenses. The myth that taxes are somehow unjustified stems from a myth that the government can operate without costs (or from the belief that government is unnecessary and shouldn’t be operating at all). Obviously, the former is untrue. In today’s world, in fact, the US government incurs more costs than it brings in revenue, so it is in deficit contributing to a monstrous debt. As for the latter, while some people might suggest that the government should limit spending (so it would have to tax so much), this is an unlikely solution to the problem of taxation.
After all, Congressmen have to be reelected somehow. Even if an individual doesn’t think that the government is necessary, it’s hard to imagine any politician willingly allowing his job to be phased out. As a result, it’s hard to imagine Congressmen *not* doing the things which will snag them the reelection.