I’m writing this blog because I recently visited with a gentleman who wanted my favorable recommendation about an idea he had to avoid paying income taxes. His idea was based on the notion that income taxes are unconstitutional. I let the man rant for about thirty seconds before I shooed him away. I just don’t have time or patience for tax protester arguments.
In 30+ years of practicing tax law, I’ve heard dozens of tax protester arguments attempting to reason why the taxpayer isn’t liable for income taxes. The reasoning behind tax protester arguments ranges from sophisticated and logical to downright silly. But the conclusion of the argument is always the same: “I’m not legally required to file a tax return, I’m not liable for federal income tax and I don’t have to pay the evil gub’mint a dime.”
Taxpayers who buy into tax protester arguments are usually convinced by books they’ve read or (more commonly) internet sites they’ve visited, or the Taxpayer may have gotten the argument from a friend, coworker or relative. No matter where or from whom the Taxpayer has gotten his or her tax information, the bottom line is this: TAX PROTESTER ARGUMENTS DON’T WORK! No matter what the tax protester argument is, it won’t save the Taxpayer any money, it won’t get the Taxpayer out of paying income tax, it won’t get the Taxpayer’s Social Security deposits refunded, but it may get the Taxpayer in serious criminal trouble. I’m confident to say this because every tax protester argument that’s ever been heard in federal civil court since the 16thAmendment was adopted in 1913 (100% of them) has been defeated. In civil cases tried in United States District Courts tax protesters are 0 forever.
Tax protesters often try to tell me I’m wrong when I make this point, but I’m not. The tax protesters’ counter-argument is usually based on the ruling in Cheek v. United States, 498 US 192 (1991), a criminal case heard by the United States Supreme Court. Tax protesters claim that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Cheek stands for the proposition that bizarre and even downright stupid beliefs about federal income tax – as long as those beliefs are genuine and firmly held – can get the taxpayer out of having to file returns and pay taxes. But that is not what the Cheek case held.
[Mr. Cheek’s] defense [in his criminal trial] was that, based on the indoctrination he received from [the tax protester groups he frequented] and from his own study, he sincerely believed that the tax laws were being unconstitutionally enforced and that his actions during the 1980-1986 period were lawful.
Cheek won in the United States Supreme Court, but his win proved only that it’s better for the Supremes to call you stupid than call you guilty.
Even though the dissenting opinion questioned Mr. Cheek’s intelligence for buying into the “income tax is unconstitutional” protester argument, that argument is among the more intelligent tax protester arguments around. The really, really bizarre arguments (in no particular order) include:
- The 1213 Concession Argument – Because of King John of England’s May 15, 1213 Concession to Pope Innocent III, the Roman Catholic Church to this day owns England and the United States. And we all know we don’t have to pay income tax to the Pope.
- The Nom De Guerre or Strawman Argument – If the Taxpayer’s name is spelled in all capital letters on a document from IRS or a court, the document doesn’t refer to the Taxpayer human being, it refers to a separate fictitious legal entity known as the “STRAWMAN”. Let the “strawman” pay the tax. I’ll just go home and watch TV.
- The 1040 is a Codicil Argument – This argument claims that IRS Form 1040 is really a codicil to a will, as in last will and testament. I’ve read this over twice, and it still makes no sense to me. But it’s out there on the net, and there are hundreds of tin-foil-hat wearing “patriots” who actually believe this nonsense.
- The Birth Certificate as Legal Tender Argument – This argument claims that the Taxpayer’s Birth Certificate is worth real money and can be used as legal tender to pay income taxes. This is an offshoot of an insane theory involving international law, common law, the Queen of England and the Pope. It will make a sane person’s head hurt, but it will not pay your taxes.
- The Sovereign Citizen Argument – This argument has dozens of variants and offshoots, but it is based in part on the definition of the words “state” and “United States” in Section 7701 of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”). The term “state” is defined in the IRC asincluding the states and the District of Columbia, and the term “United States” is defined in the IRS as including the District of Columbia. VOILA! United States includes only D.C. The rest of the folks who live in the 50 states aren’t subject to the United States income tax. You can find an amusing federal district court order discussing one elaborate form of this wacky argument here.
All I need to say about every tax protester argument that’s ever been made is this: THEY NEVER WORK SO DON’T BUY INTO THIS GARBAGE.
I don’t make silly tax protester arguments, but if you have a serious tax problem, call (918-743-2000) or email (email@example.com) me. I can help solve the problem.