Should the IRS make Americans pay taxes on Mars?

Mars Earth

You remember how America happened, right? A bunch of English rebels settled on a far away colony, and when they felt under-represented by tax laws in their homeland, they broke off and formed a new home (the United States). In other totally unrelated news, those same rebels (Americans) are now trying to settle on an even farther away colony (Mars). What could possibly go wrong?

Orion Rocket Spacecraft

This is the Orion rocket which will take the first Americans to Mars in the 2030’s.

You’ve probably thought at some point about whether you’d want to travel to Mars since the opportunity is nearing for humans. Perhaps you’ve mulled over questions like: Would you go to Mars if you couldn’t come back? Would you go to Mars if you were the only person there for years?

How about this: Would you go to Mars if you could never pay US taxes again?

When the US sends citizens to Mars to colonize and presumably find oil in the 2030’s, the Outer Space Treaty (yes, that’s a real thing) won’t let Uncle Sam legally claim the planet as it’s own. However, if the US builds a space base on Mars, it would probably work just like any other military base in US territories (such as Guam), meaning everyone in the base would be subject to US tax laws for any income they make in space or on Mars.

But questions obviously remain. Slate phrases it like this:

“The Martian year is 686 days, and it is not at all clear whether Martian taxpayers would be permitted to use their annual accounting period or would be required to use the Earth year. And if you think the wait time for talking to an IRS agent is long now, try it with a 21-minute, one-way delay. I won’t get into the burdens imposed by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Wars have been fought over less.”

What would a galactic-scale Whiskey Rebellion or Boston Tea Party look like? What do crates of tea look like floating in the abyss of open space?

“Astute students of spaceflight might argue that colonists will likely spend most of their time just trying to stay alive and that tax revolts will be fairly low on the ‘to do’ list, giving us plenty of time to figure things out.”

Of course, don’t forget…

“That’s probably just what King George III thought, and look how that turned out for him.”

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