Loading the player...

What is 'Tax Avoidance'

Tax avoidance is the use of legal methods to modify an individual's financial situation to lower the amount of income tax owed. This is generally accomplished by claiming the permissible deductions and credits. This practice differs from tax evasion, which uses illegal methods, such as underreporting income to avoid paying taxes.

BREAKING DOWN 'Tax Avoidance'

Most taxpayers use some form of tax avoidance. For example, individuals who contribute to employer-sponsored retirement plans with pre-tax funds are engaging in tax avoidance because the amount of taxes paid on the funds when they are withdrawn in retirement is usually less than the amount the individual would owe. Furthermore, retirement plans allow taxpayers to defer paying taxes until a much later date, which allows their savings to grow at a faster rate.

Tax Avoidance Is Encouraged

Tax avoidance is built into the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), which spans more than 75,000 pages. Lawmakers have used the IRC to manipulate taxpayer behavior by offering tax credits, deductions and exemptions in various aspects of people’s lives including health care, saving and investing, education, energy use and other activities. The tax benefits available in qualified retirement plans are to promote self-sufficiency in retirement. The death benefit of a life insurance policy is exempted from taxes to encourage family protection. Capital gains are taxed at a lower rate to encourage more investments. Interest deductions on home mortgages foster more home ownership.

Tax Avoidance Complicates the Tax Code

The expanding use of tax avoidance in the tax code has led to it becoming one of the most complex tax codes in the world. Taxpayers spend billions of hours each year filing tax returns with much of that time used looking for ways to avoid paying higher taxes. Because the tax code is always changing, families have a difficult time making decisions about retirement, savings and education. Businesses especially suffer the consequences of an ever-evolving tax code that affects their hiring decisions and growth strategies. Since 2006, nearly 4,500 federal tax rule changes have been made to the tax code, most having to do with tax avoidance provisions.

Tax avoidance is at the core of most proposals seeking to reform the tax code. The proposals that have been introduced over the last decade seek to simplify the tax code by flattening the tax rates and removing most tax avoidance provisions. Tax reform proposals assume a lower, flat tax rate would eliminate the need to pursue tax avoidance strategies.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Tax Liability

    The total amount of tax that an entity is legally obligated to ...
  2. Tax Base

    The assessed value of a set of assets, investments or income ...
  3. Tax Reform Act Of 1986

    A law passed by the United States Congress to simplify the income ...
  4. Flat Tax

    A system that applies the same tax rate to every taxpayer regardless ...
  5. Tax Deductible Interest

    A borrowing expense that a taxpayer can claim on a federal or ...
  6. Tax Credit

    An amount of money that a taxpayer is able to subtract from the ...
Related Articles
  1. Taxes

    Why The Complex U.S. Tax Code Won't Be Simplified

    The tax code is 5296 pages long, and it still hasn't been abridged by Congress. Find out why.
  2. Taxes

    Who Does The Current Tax Code Benefit?

    Are the non-workers benefiting from the current tax code in any way or is it the wealthy who are still getting the big breaks?
  3. Taxes

    Taxes: Who Pays And How Much?

    When it comes to taxes, the debate is endless on who pays what, especially in Congress. With no new initiatives in sight, let's take a look at who is paying now.
  4. Taxes

    The Most Controversial Tax Deductions

    When it comes to taxes, it's hard to make people happy but these deductions raised more than the average amount of controversy.
  5. Insights

    A Concise History Of Changes In U.S. Tax Law

    We look at how U.S. taxes have changed since their inception.
  6. Insights

    How Fortune 500 Companies Avoid Paying Income Tax

    President Donald Trump is not alone in not paying taxes.
  7. Financial Advisor

    3 Federal Income Tax Facts You Didn't Know

    Learn about three federal income tax facts that most Americans may not know from one of the most trusted financial resources on the Web.
  8. Taxes

    What's IRS Form 1040 For?

    Most U.S. taxpayers will be familiar with the 1040. By the end of filling it out, you'll know how much tax you owe, or what your refund is.
  9. Taxes

    The History Of Taxes In The U.S.

    The number of taxes that we now consider a given did not always exist. Find out how they arose.
  10. Taxes

    How Much Tax Do You Really Pay?

    When you add direct and indirect taxes together, your real tax rate is much more than you expected.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What is the justification for allowing deferred tax liabilities?

    Understand the justification for allowing deferred tax liabilities. Learn the reasoning behind why a company would want to ... Read Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between a state income tax and a federal income tax?

    Learn the difference between state income tax and federal income tax based on tax rates, deductions, tax credits and taxable ... Read Answer >>
  3. How can I lower my effective tax rate without lowering my income?

    Discover how to reduce your effective tax rate without losing income by maximizing adjustments and deductions, earning tax-free ... Read Answer >>
  4. What is the difference between a write-off and a deduction?

    Understand the differences between a tax write-off and a tax deduction. Learn how each one works to reduce income taxes and ... Read Answer >>
  5. What are the differences between regressive, proportional and progressive taxes?

    Understand the differences between the most common tax systems including regressive taxes, proportional taxes and progressive ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Restricted Stock Unit

    Compensation offered by an employer to an employee in the form of company stock. The employee does not receive the stock ...
  2. Operating Ratio

    A ratio that shows the efficiency of a company's management by comparing operating expense to net sales. Calculated as:
  3. Expense Ratio

    A measure of what it costs an investment company to operate a mutual fund. An expense ratio is determined through an annual ...
  4. Pro Forma

    A Latin term meaning "for the sake of form". In the investing world, it describes a method of calculating financial results ...
  5. Trumpcare

    The American Health Care Act, also known as Trumpcare and Ryancare, is the Republican proposal to replace Obamacare.
  6. Free Carrier - FCA

    A trade term requiring the seller to deliver goods to a named airport, terminal, or other place where the carrier operates. ...
Trading Center