Skip to main content

Justice Roberts says the penalty that would be imposed by the federal government for not getting health insurance is a form of tax thus within the boundaries of Congressional authority. And at the same time, he says if people do not pay the fee, the government cannot do anything about it.  This seems erroneous on the part of the judge.

More beyond the hypnotizing orange swirly thingy....

It is pretty much common knowledge now that the IRS has great power to do things to ensure you pay your taxes or punish you for failure to pay them.  Avoiding to pay taxes is as American as apple pie, but so are the consequences for such avoidance.  One classic example is Al Capone.  The government could not catch him doing anything considered dangerous to the public, but they were able to nail him on tax evasion.  

Anyway, as I thought about the reasoning presented by Justice Roberts, I began to get very confused.  Either I misunderstood his Majority Opinion, because let's face it he does not have the mastery of the English language as a William J. Brennan, or he does not understand tax law.

The IRS has many venues they can take to force you to pay in one way or another. They can garnish your wages, confiscate property, charge interest on unpaid taxes, keep any future tax returns, or even throw you in jail/prison.  Given these remedies available to the IRS, why does Justice Roberts think the government has no way to see to it that you pay your penalty for not obtaining insurance?

It would seem, if the courts determine the penalty is a tax, that the government with their IRS arm can use the same venues to go after those who will not pay the fees.  Therefore, one way or another, the government can get the money owed to them.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CT yanqui, SouthernLiberalinMD

    Russ Feingold is a force to be reckoned with

    by HoosierLiberal on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 12:57:10 PM PDT

  •  Hoosier... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    you are imputing thought precesses to Roberts that may not exist.  My post from 12 March, in commenting on how SCOTUS would vote was this:  My take is that Roberts  is so pro-corporate, that he would jump at the chance to require that US citizens be forced into the individual mandate.  I know it's a minority opinion...  Over the short term, ACA will enrich the Insurance Monopoly.

    The last sound on earth will be the squawk of an optimist.

    by CT yanqui on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 01:04:58 PM PDT

    •  I felt exactly the same about the pro-corporate (0+ / 0-)

      Roberts. I actually felt that way about the AZ ruling too. Especially when he agreed with the majority and it said, undocumented workers can not be prohibited from working or looking for work in AZ. I think that was another pro-business move.

  •  Why is there so much overthinking about this? (6+ / 0-)

    The decision makes pretty good sense by the prevailing standard; if the only coercion that attaches to failure to pay the tax (if indeed you fall into that category by virtue of not buying insurance) is the coercion that attaches to any failure to pay your taxes, there's no sense in which it's anything other than a tax.

    Romney '12: Bully for America!

    by Rich in PA on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 01:07:14 PM PDT

  •  one quibble (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobdevo, Nowhere Man, Praxical, skohayes

    As Justice Learned Hand said,"There is a difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion.  It is our duty and right to avoid taxes.  Tax evasion is a crime."

    As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

    by BPARTR on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 01:20:59 PM PDT

    •  BPARTR - Judge Learned Hand one of my favorites (3+ / 0-)

      and one of the most quoted US Federal Appellate Judges of all time. He may be the most notable US judge never to serve on the SCOTUS. His most famous quote:

      "Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes."

          Helvering v. Gregory, 69 F.2d 809, 810-11 (2d Cir. 1934).

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 01:45:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think Roberts understands this pretty well - (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox, skohayes

    the penalty or tax - as I understand it - will not have an active enforcement mechanism - i.e, the IRS will not be suing non-compliers. However, they will have a list of non-compliers, and if the non-compliers have a tax refund coming when they file their taxes, the IRS would deduct the penalty (or tax) from the refund check.

    Hey - let him call it whatever he wants - tax, penalty, pay-to-not-play-fee . . . . it provided him with a way to ignore the insistence of the Administration that it was NOT a tax and to make ACA constitutional . . .

    I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. ~Thomas Jefferson

    by bobdevo on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 01:32:14 PM PDT

    •  That's right (0+ / 0-)

      The law explicitly says that the IRS can apply neither civil nor criminal penalties to those who refuse to pay the penalty/fee/tax/whatever. So as long as you make sure to underwithhold your taxes to avoid any refunds, you can get away with not paying the tax even if you don't have health insurance when the ACA says you should.

      "A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul." - George Bernard Shaw

      by Drobin on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 03:27:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's a chain of events you're missing (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annecros, Roger Fox, Nowhere Man, skohayes

    He says the fee cannot be treated like a standard penalty to be imposed at the time of a violation, but instead like a tax due in the normal course of taxation.

    Now, if you refuse to pay the IRS what you owe them, and you're caught, then you've done something different: you've committed tax evasion. And THAT is something else entirely.

    While the individual mandate clearly aims to induce the purchase of health insurance, it need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS.
    He's saying that not having insurance isn't in and of itself an unlawful and therefore punishable act. He's saying that not having insurance can trigger a tax consequence. Once you owe a tax, then not paying it becomes unlawful: that's the point at which punishments are on the table.

    I don't think anything in his opinion should be read as saying "you don't have to pay your taxes." (If there's something in there that I missed, I'd appreciate it if it was pointed out to me.)

    "Speaking for myself only" - Armando

    by JR on Fri Jun 29, 2012 at 01:39:31 PM PDT

  •  Roberts upheld that part of the law ...nt (0+ / 0-)
  •  Taxation at the Federal Level (0+ / 0-)

    for medical care has been the law of the land since LBJ.

  •  Don't forget. Roberts also said (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that this IRS thingy is a tax for Constitutional purposes but is NOT-A-TAX when it comes to the application of the Anti Injunction Act, which forbids lawsuits about challenged taxes until somebody is actually paying or required to pay it. So it's a tax in one discussion and not-a-tax in the other, before you even get to whether it can be a tax without a penalty for not paying it. Nobody said Roberts' rationale makes any sense, only that he used it to let the bill survive.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site