One of my commenters, Honestly Frum, has noted on his blog that he once attended a lecture by a noted Rav in which the following content was raised:
it is well known that a number of years ago R. XX YY from Brooklyn was brought to Bergenfield for shabbos and during a question and answer session he said publicly that if there is no material chance of getting caught then there is no issur in cheating on ones taxes. Further when questioned on this privately, he said that theft from gentiles is also permissible and that one can ignore the halachos in shulchan aruch regarding tax evasion and gezel akum because these halachos were probably only codified because of fear of the goyim.
Now, if this attitude strikes you instinctively as incorrect, you'd be on the right track. While there is certainly definitive evidence that many of our important legal texts have been censored in the past (the Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch, Chayei Adam and even parts of the Gemara) by non-Jewish authorities who were looking to remove what they felt were offensive references to their religion, it is also clear that most relevant material in this regard escaped the censors' notice.
What is also poorly understood is that in halacha there are goyim and then there are goyim. There are genuine idol worshippers whose religion encourages them to lead immoral lifestyles and there are non-Jewish societies in which the rule of law is encouraged. Thus when the Gemara refers to all non-Jews being suspected of being murderers or having stolen the land they claim to own, it can be understood that these references were to the more anarchic, immoral non-Jews that lived around our ancestors some 2000 years ago.
No less an authority than the Meiri has written that one can safely conclude that non-Jews today are not to be considered the same as the idol worshippers the halacha warns us about.
Having said that, there are those for whom old traditions die hard. It is an unfortunate fact of history that our ancestors were oppressed in both Europe and Muslim lands for many centuries. The only way to survive was by outfoxing the non-Jewish authorities in their attempts to impoverish and/or wipe out their local Jewish communities. For too many, this survival mechanism has become mesorah. Hence the cries of mesirah when genuine Jewish criminals are outed by their communities even though a cursory knowledge of halacha shows that this charge simply does not apply. And one can assume the above-referenced dismissmal of the need for honesty while paying taxes comes from the same source.
Fortunately, this past Shabbos I came across as clear a refutation of this attitude as one could hope for and I would like to share it here. This is from the Tanna D'Vei Raba Eliyahu 28 (translation mine):
2: From where do we learn the mitzvah for man to love God? The love of man for God is an important mitzvah from the Torah, for the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven is written from the aspect of love, as it says: "Hear o' Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." (Dev 6:4)
5: From here they said, a person should distance himself from theft, whether from a Jew or a non-Jew. And not only that, but one who steals from a non-Jew will ultimately come to steal from a Jew. And if he swears (falsely) to a non-Jew, he will ultimately swear (falsely) to a Jew. And if he deceives a non-Jew, he will ultimately deceive a Jew. And if he murders a non-Jew, he will ultimately murder a Jew. The Torah was only given to sanctify His great name and it says "I shall place within them a sign and send some of them as survivors" (Yishiyah 66:19). What does it say at the end of the verse? "And they shall tell of my glory to the nations."
Somehow I doubt Eliyahu HaNavi was afraid of non-Jewish censors. This statement of his is a clear rebuttal to those who would tell us that Torah observance permits theft and lying, as long as the victims are just "goyim".