Spend a little time reading tax cases or commentary upon tax law and you are likely to run across a phrase such as this:
"Deductions are a matter of grace and Congress can, of course, disallow them as it chooses." Commissioner v. Sullivan, 356 U.S. 27, 28 (1958).
Such a statement jars the ear of a Christian remade by God. Who is it that administers grace? Our old 1928 Webster's had it right:
1. (theology) a. The divine unmerited favor toward man; the mercy of God, as distinguished from His justice; also, any benefits His mercy imparts; divine love or pardon. "And if by grace, then is it no more of works." Rom. Vi.6.
Webster's New Int'l Dictionary of the English Language, G&C Merriam Co. 1928.
I first happened across the doctrines of tax grace in law school in 1990. My tax professor had been raised Catholic. He often intoned another truism: "The IRS has awesome powers."
Back then I was a full-bore pagan. Even so, I was familiar with the Bible. The idea of Congressional grace seemed a quaint way of saying what was unquestioned truth to modern citizens: "The government giveth and the government taketh away, blessed be the name of the government." It was sort of a sick joke that we tossed about in our class discussions. We'd imagine the IRS as the avenging angel of the State. None of us dared to really explore the implications. We had finals to prepare for.
In case you think that "grace" might have a special legal meaning, consider this definition of grace in a common legal dictionary: "a favor or indulgence as distinguished from a right."
Black's Law Dictionary, 5th Edition (West Publishing Co. 1979).
Grace, then, is administered by God, or at least by a sovereign. It is unmerited. Nobody has a right to it. Without the administration of grace, justice demands a harsher outcome.
Our federal income tax system (and, by extension, our whole system of federal laws) presupposes that whatever you have belongs to the government. Justice demands relinquishment. It is by grace (alone?) that you are allowed to keep some of it. The courts defer to Congress's awesome power. Lawmakers have taken upon themselves the former role of the Catholic Church. Indulgences are dispensed at whim.
People these days fear theocracy. What they miss is that we already live under a theocracy. The theos of our day is named demos. It claims everything. We are told to at least be grateful for the grace it has so far shown. Perhaps we should be careful, lest it be angry.
November elections approach. We are starting to hear advertisements from the government and others to exercise our "sacred" right to vote. As Rushdoony pointed out: "the source of a society's law is its god." In exercising this secular sacrament, we should seriously reflect that demos (the will of the people), deserves no worship and has no claim to being gracious. Rather, it is better to acknowledge it for what it is: a usurper.
Even so, it is a wise idea to pay your taxes. Just because a usurper is wrong doesn't mean he can't hurt you.