Tax protesters are frequently penalized for raising the "frivolous" argument that the individual income tax is not mandatory but voluntary.

Can anyone provide the specific provision of the tax codethat states that the income tax on individuals (not businesses) is mandatory and not voluntary?

I have not found it myself, but I would like to have it to reference when I am approached with this topic in conversation.

  • 2
    @ohwilleke I think it would be better to close it as a duplicate of As a US citizen, what law requires me to pay income tax? I've voted to reopen, but if it is reopened I would vote to close as a duplicate.
    – phoog
    Feb 20 at 7:06
  • @bdb484 I think it's s bit dangerous to cite that law as far as frivolous tax arguments go, because, while I have filed many returns and made many tax payments, I have never submitted either to any internal revenue officer nor indeed had any dealings with any internal revenue officer whatsoever. This is ripe ground for an entire class of frivolous arguments that I've certainly never encountered before (though this of course doesn't mean that nobody has yet tried them).
    – phoog
    Feb 20 at 7:10
  • @phoog I don't understand. If you didn't submit your returns and payments to an internal revenue officer, how did you submit them? I suspect that like most people, you submit them either by mail or by using the commissioner's e-filing system. Either way, you've paid your taxes to the commissioner, who is an internal revenue officer.
    – bdb484
    Feb 20 at 13:36
  • The Tax Protester FAQ cites several cases in which the idea that income tax is "voluntary" is refuted. Feb 20 at 16:37
  • @bdb484 I mailed them to an IRS office, or, more recently, filed them electronically. The checks I've sent were payable to the US Treasury, not to any officer. There is nothing in the process that even purports to involve any individual.
    – phoog
    Feb 20 at 16:40

1 Answer 1


The 16th Amendment to the Constitution says:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."

Congress has exercised that power and the main controlling law is in the United States Code, Title 26, Subtitle A, Chapter 1, Subchapter A, Part I - Tax on Individuals.

You can read it yourself at: US Tax Code

There are multiple possibilities based on your situation, which you did not specify, but, for example there is this:

Tax on married individuals

As far as mandatory, vs. voluntary, the code also gives the Internal Revenue Service the power and authority to enforce the Internal Revenue Code:

26 U.S. Code § 7608 - Authority of internal revenue enforcement officers

It also has numerous sections on the penalties for failing to obey the code, which I will not quote here, but which you can easily find for yourself.

So in answer to your question:

  1. The US Constitution gives Congress the power to levy income taxes on individuals.
  2. The USC lists specific taxes and amounts levied.
  3. The USC gives the IRS the power to enforce the Internal Revenue Code.
  4. The USC provides for specific fines and other remedies for violaters.

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