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Harry Browne on Tax Reform

2000 Libertarian Nominee for President


Repealing federal income tax will end state income taxes too

You might worry that state and local governments will offset federal reductions in taxes and spending with higher state taxes and spending. That’s possible, but not probable. More likely, state income taxes will disappear shortly after the federal income tax is repealed.

Today a half-dozen states don’t have an income tax. But there isn’t a large migration to those states because people still have to pay federal income tax-which is a far greater burden.

Source: The Great Libertarian Offer, p. 74-75 , Sep 9, 2000

Don’t simplify or replace taxes-shrink government instead

We don’t need a simplified income tax. We don’t need a replacement tax. Our lives will be better only when we reduce the burden of taxes by reducing dramatically the cost of government. We’ve seen that you can’t get rid of government spending so long as you try to do it one program at a time. The pressure to keep any one program will be concentrated and intense, while the incentive for eliminating the program will be dispersed and diluted among millions of people.

Americans will rally to large reductions in government only when they’re offered a large reward. And that reward is the total repeal of the income tax. We will never cut federal spending by even one dollar unless we offer the American people the complete repeal of the income tax as an incentive to reduce government. And we can’t repeal the income tax without reducing federal spending dramatically. The two tasks are inseparable. To attempt to do one without the other is a formula for failure.

Source: The Great Libertarian Offer, p. 69-72 , Sep 9, 2000

Removing marriage penalty isn’t good enough-veto it

Q: Would Browne, if elected President, sign into law or veto a bill which would remove the “marriage penalty” from the tax code?

A: Libertarians always want to lower taxes. Harry Browne is determined to end the income tax - reducing the marriage penalty isn’t good enough so he would veto it.

Source: Phone interview with Jim Babka, Browne’s Press Secretary , Aug 9, 2000

Shut down the IRS as an Executive Order

The IRS is part of the federal branch. The President can stop the collection of an income tax by changing the management policies of the IRS with tools like a hiring freeze, failing to allocate the money needed for printing forms, giving the staff extra days off, etc. This would force Congress to pass a bill to keep the IRS open. And that in turn, would open the issue to the court of public opinion. Sure, we’d like to abolish the 16th amendment, but it’s not a required first step.
Source: Phone interview with Jim Babka, Browne’s Press Secretary , Aug 9, 2000

Principle is zero tax; Bush’s is 1/3 of income as tax

Q: How would Harry Browne get his tax plan to eliminate the IRS through Congress?

A: If Harry Browne got elected, we’d have some Libertarian Party members in Congress too, and there wouldn’t be enough votes to override a veto. But the important aspect of Browne’s plan is the principle behind it. The operating principle of Bush’s tax plan is that you shouldn’t pay more than a third of your income in taxes. Harry Browne’s operating principle is that you shouldn’t pay any of your income in income taxes.

Source: Phone interview with Jim Babka, Browne’s Press Secretary , Aug 9, 2000

End income tax & replace it with nothing

Q: What should be done with the existing budget surplus? A: The question isn’t surplus or deficit. It’s returning to the ideal of the founders by limiting government to the small size that they spelled out in the 9th & 10th amendments. Once we do that, we can end the Income Tax and replace it with nothing. I am proposing my Great Libertarian Offer, “Would you be willing to give up your favorite federal government program if it meant never having to pay income tax again?”
Source: Email correspondence from the candidate with OnTheIssues.org , Jan 27, 2000

Eliminate most fees & taxes, including income tax

Source: 2000 National Political Awareness Test , Jan 13, 2000

No flat tax nor sales tax; super-majority to raise taxes

Source: 2000 National Political Awareness Test , Jan 13, 2000

Reduce size of govt so income taxes aren’t needed

I would pressure Congress to repeal the income tax, by reducing government sufficiently that we didn’t need an income tax anymore. I’d pressure Congress to private annuities for people dependent on social security, so the rest of us would be free from that horrendous 15% payroll tax. I’d sell federal assets. I’d pressure Congress to repeal every law affecting war on drugs, asset forfeiture and other assaults on the Bill of Rights over the last 60 years or more.
Source: The Alan Colmes Show, WEBD NY 1050 AM , Aug 26, 1999

Flat Tax would require 30% rate and still need IRS

A flat tax won’t eliminate the IRS. You might file your return on a postcard, but your friendly IRS agent will still summon you and all your records.. And it’s misleading to think a flat tax or a national sales tax will lower your tax burden. [After exemptions], a tax rate of 30% or more will be required to finance a $1.7 trillion budget. Who’s going to support a 30% tax? The flat tax, sales tax, and IRS reform are con games whose time will never come.
Source: http://www.harrybrowne2000.org/ “End IRS abuses” 5/16/99 , Apr 11, 1998

Abolish the IRS and the income tax

“Tax reform” merely redistributes the awful burden of big government. We can be free of the IRS only by reducing government to its Constitutional functions--eliminating the need for an income tax and the IRS, and letting the present level of tariffs and excise taxes pay for the remaining activities of government.
Source: http://www.harrybrowne2000.org/ “End IRS abuses” 5/16/99 , Apr 11, 1998

The Great Libertarian Offer: No income tax, but.

The only way to reduce government by even one dollar is to repeal the income tax -- because voters won’t support reductions in government programs without a major incentive. By combining a massive downsizing of government with the outright repeal of the income tax, we can propose the Great Libertarian Offer to the American people: Would you give up your favorite federal programs if it meant you never had to pay income tax again?
Source: http://www.harrybrowne2000.org/ “End IRS abuses” 5/16/99 , Apr 11, 1998

Repeal taxes and don’t replace with sales tax nor flat tax

Immediately repeal the personal and corporate income taxes, the estate tax, and the gift tax--and leave money in the pockets of the people who earn it, so they can spend it in their own communities. By reducing the federal government to just those functions authorized in the Constitution, no sales tax or flat tax is necessary as a replacement for the income tax.
Source: 1996 National Political Awareness Test , May 1, 1996

10% flat tax OK, if no income tax returns

The proposed flat tax is big and flat, because there’s no reduction in the size of the federal government. They say you’ll be able to file your tax return on a postcard. But there’s nothing to stop the IRS from demanding proof that the number you put on the postcard is correct.
A better arrangement-one that honors freedom & privacy-is a flat 10% tax on all income. No deductions, no exemptions. The 10% would be withheld from your paycheck and forwarded to the government by your employer-without your name attached.
You would not have to file a tax return because you’ve already paid your tax. The same would be true of all dividends and interest you earn; the company paying you would withhold 10% and forward it to the government.
The estate, gift, Social Security, and capital gains taxes would also be abolished. The government wouldn’t know how much you make, where you keep it, or what you do with it. Your financial life would be private, as it should be in a free country.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p.182 , Jul 2, 1995

5% sales tax OK, if income tax is eliminated

A possibility is to eliminate the income tax entirely, and put a 5% retail sales tax in its place. To prevent it from becoming a political football, there should be no exemptions-not for food, medicine, or anything else.
Most likely, the repeal of the personal and corporate income taxes would reduce prices enough that, even with a 5% sales tax, most things would cost less than they do today. But even if prices didn’t fall, the 5% tax would be much less oppressive than the current income tax.
The estate, gift, Social Security, and capital gains taxes would also be abolished. You would never again have to file a tax return, never have to fear the IRS, never have the government going through your records.
The federal government should reimburse every retailer for being a tax collector-by taking only 95% of whatever the retailer collects. The rest should be a fee to the retailer. The tax would produce about $250 billion-which can amortize the national debt and get rid of it.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p.183 , Jul 2, 1995

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Tax Reform.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Harry Browne.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Harry Browne.
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Page last updated: Mar 13, 2014