Thoughts from Louis Brandeis on Legitimate Tax Avoidance

By Jackie Jacobs

Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) was a strong advocate of tax-wise giving, as noted in the following extract from his essay entitled “Thoughts on Legitimate Tax Avoidance.”

“I live in Alexandria, Virginia. Near the Supreme Court chambers is a toll bridge across the Potomac. When in a rush, I pay the dollar toll and get home early. However, I usually drive outside the downtown section of the city and cross the Potomac on a free bridge.

“This bridge was placed outside the downtown Washington, D.C. area to serve a useful social service: getting drivers to drive the extra mile to help alleviate congestion during rush hour.

“If I went over the toll bridge and through the barrier without paying the toll, I would be committing tax evasion.

“If, however, I drive the extra mile outside the city of Washington and take the free bridge, I am using a legitimate, logical and suitable method of tax avoidance, and I am performing a useful social service by doing so.

“For my tax evasion, I should be punished. For my tax avoidance, I should be commended.

“The tragedy of life is that so few people know that the free bridge even exists!”

There are free bridges located within the Internal Revenue Code which allow you to legitimately avoid unnecessary taxes – many of these bridges involve the use of charitable estate planning opportunities – the key is to know where to find them.

But there are also other sections in the Internal Revenue Code which are designed to automatically take you across toll bridges, and the price for crossing a toll bridge is the payment of taxes.

Becoming informed is not enough – once informed, you need to take action – informed people who don’t act lose just as much as uninformed people who can’t act.

Like Justice Brandeis, you need to make the effort to drive the extra mile and actually cross the free bridge – when you do, the benefits for you, your family, and our community can be substantial.

The Columbus Jewish Foundation is the Central Ohio Jewish community’s endowment and planned giving headquarters. Always feel free to call me at 614-338-2365 to explore tax-wise charitable giving options that benefit you and the community.

Jackie Jacobs is the Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus Jewish Foundation, the Central Ohio Jewish community’s planned giving and endowment headquarters.

 Article appears as originally published in the Ohio Jewish Chronicle March 26, 2015.

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