Tax Without Cash

64 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2021 Last revised: 24 Jan 2022

See all articles by Jeremy Bearer-Friend

Jeremy Bearer-Friend

George Washington University Law School

Date Written: March 12, 2021

Abstract

This Article documents and evaluates tax obligations paid without cash, referred to as “in-kind tax paying.” Such forms of tax paying include paying federal income taxes by remitting a used, flatbed truck to the IRS, paying local property taxes by working a few hours a month answering phones at city hall, and paying state excise taxes by conveying a proportion of all seashells farmed within a state to that state. These are not just hypotheticals, but forms of in-kind tax paying that occur in the United States throughout periods when many taxes are also paid in cash. Nevertheless, despite its long history and prevalence, in-kind tax paying has been underexplored as a viable, and potentially appealing, form of tax remittance.

By providing an original taxonomy of in-kind tax paying within a cash economy, this Article makes three contributions. First, it improves our definition of tax paying by identifying the wide variety of in-kind remittances that occur in our current tax system. Second, it refutes the tacit presumption that in-kind remittance of tax obligations is not viable, thus expanding the tax tools available to local, state, and federal governments and demonstrating how narrow presumptions about tax remittance have predetermined core tax policy choices. Third, it confronts the substantial dangers of in-kind tax paying, using these risks to propose new principles for limiting the design and administration of in-kind tax paying.

This Article concludes that in-kind tax paying is a viable form of tax remittance even within cash economies, in-kind tax paying remains widely in use, and, under some circumstances, elective in-kind tax paying can be preferable to cash tax exclusivity.

Keywords: tax policy, property tax, federal income tax, wealth tax, state and local tax, tax administration, tax filing, remittance, poll tax

JEL Classification: K34, K00, E00, E40, E50, E60, H20

Suggested Citation

Bearer-Friend, Jeremy, Tax Without Cash (March 12, 2021). 106 Minnesota Law Review 953 (2021)., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3803308

Jeremy Bearer-Friend (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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