IRS fraudulent?
August 25, 2003 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Rumors abound about the legality of the IRS, and about people who've managed to avoid paying income taxes based on the lack of legality of the IRS itself. Is any of this real, or simply people trying to make a buck selling a book or two? And if the IRS is fraudulent, what can a citizen without massive fundage do to fight it?
posted by woil (30 comments total)
With apologies to those living outside the US. Or... jealousy. Or something.
posted by woil at 6:39 PM on August 25, 2003

Is any of this real, or simply people trying to make a buck selling a book or two?

It is the latter.
posted by spilon at 6:40 PM on August 25, 2003

Some people get away with it, some don't.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:47 PM on August 25, 2003

Sure, they get away with it for long enough to accrue some hefty penalties. Once the fines accrue to an attractive level, the IRS/Tax Courts have no problems boinking these morons. Tax court appeals were some of the best reading materials to come across my desk during my stint at a certain US appellate court clerk's office.
posted by Fezboy! at 6:50 PM on August 25, 2003

IRS will grind your sorry ass into dust. legal or not. this is a fact. i would advise against pioneering in this field. you've seen that old movie "the terminator"? the IRS is an infernal machine, it never stops, and it will grind your sorry ass to dust.
posted by quonsar at 6:59 PM on August 25, 2003

Why do people feel the need to pore over the legislative minutae of its existence? It's a necessary part of our social contract. I'm sure there are still unclaimed islands somewhere you can go and not take advantage of any social services from anyone.
posted by mkultra at 7:29 PM on August 25, 2003

Read this.

The whole "tax protester" snake oil is just that-- snake oil. When push comes to shove they've got no legal legs to stand on, and end up in prison or wage-garnished for life.
posted by Cerebus at 7:29 PM on August 25, 2003

Read this.

From that link:

[This use of the pronoun "him" is not unconciously sexist. Most tax protesters are men, which suggests that feminists might be right, and women really are smarter than men.]

There goes my faith in that article...
posted by Decypher at 8:10 PM on August 25, 2003

If it looks too good to be true...
posted by Nauip at 8:13 PM on August 25, 2003

This whole "taxes aren't real" thing just boggles my mind. Would you believe it if someone said "there really aren't any laws against doing cocaine, it's just a pretend law and the government can't really legally put you in jail for it, so you should just snort to your hearts content"? Why would you believe something like that? It's just stupidity fortified by greed.
posted by alms at 8:15 PM on August 25, 2003

I know a girl who tried to tell me that we didn't really have to pay our taxes if we didn't want to. I stopped listening shortly thereafter, noting in later encounters that she reads Prophecy Monthly.

She's one of these mixed-up artists who sees no contradiction in saying damn the system when it comes to her own income tax but wants government sponsored social change in poverty-stricken neighborhoods and other socially liberal reform.
posted by pinto at 8:42 PM on August 25, 2003

Why do people feel the need to pore over the legislative minutae of its existence?

Maybe because the taxes we are expected to pay are exorbitant and make it impossible to pay the bills? When I evaded my taxes, I lived a more or less decent paycheck-to-paycheck existence. Now that I'm paying them (the current taxes, not the old ones, which I don't have the money to begin to pay even if I sold everything I own and moved into a cardboard box), I am losing weight and constantly tired because I can't afford to feed myself decently, I am in debt to the power company and may not have power much longer, and I haven't been able to purchase a new item of clothing in years. Fuck the social contract; it hasn't done jack shit for me. Don't let anyone tell you the poor don't pay much in taxes.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:04 PM on August 25, 2003

None of which is to say that these people have an argument. If there's any argument to be made, it's a constitutional one — either the 'no direct head tax' clause, or else some interpretation of the anti-slavery amendment or the right to due process before being deprived of property, or unreasonable search and seizure. Of course none of these would be upheld in court — the judges know who signs their paychecks.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:07 PM on August 25, 2003

Exorbitant taxes? In the US? You have got to be kidding me!

Hey, howzabout living in most of the developed world, and THEN come back to whine about US taxes. Ever paid a federal-level VAT or GST? Or bought a TV license?

US taxes are massively unfair, I agree with that. But the general taxation levels are ridiculously low.

...of course, you also get what you pay for, which is one reason why social services in the US suck monkey ass.
posted by aramaic at 9:16 PM on August 25, 2003

Ben Franklin: "It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part of their time, to be employed in its service. But idleness taxes many of us much more...." Last time I checked the average tax rate in the US was much higher than 10%; I believe it was 39% a few years ago. I stand by 'exorbitant'; the fact that Europe is even more obscene in this regard doesn't excuse the US.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:27 PM on August 25, 2003

Keyser Soze was an IRS agent.
posted by UncleFes at 9:39 PM on August 25, 2003

get him!
posted by quonsar at 10:08 PM on August 25, 2003

I just saw The Usual Suspects about 2 hours ago. And now read this thread. /derail sorry
posted by ac at 10:23 PM on August 25, 2003

IshmaelGraves, I'm sorry, but I'm I'd gather it's only about 27% of your income that's going to pay taxes at worst and that should come out of your paycheck assuming you aren't self-employed, so I really can't see how anyone can be getting reamed by paying their taxes unless they're trying to live way above their means. If you're lower income you pay even less of a percentage. US taxes are hardly high by comparison to other countries.
posted by akmonday at 12:26 AM on August 26, 2003

I've read some of that "facts" collated in that original poster's second link before, and they really seem to have legs with the Urban Legend crowd. Any of the MeFi Legal Mafia care to comment on the validity of any of that stuff? (I particularly like the concept that the IRS is actually some "second Treasury" operating out of Puerto Rico under some guy named Manny...)

Not that I'm gonna risk not paying my taxes or anything...
posted by JollyWanker at 5:39 AM on August 26, 2003

IshmaelGraves: You've drunk too much koolaid.

In re: direct taxes, I refer you to the first entry of the Tax Protester FAQ I posted above:

The Pollock court was very clear that it was only a tax on the incomes from property that was a "direct tax," and other forms of income could be taxed without apportionment. This was confirmed by the court in Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 240 U.S. 1 (1916).

In re: income taxes and slavery (i.e., a 13th Amendment challenge), I refer you to this question from the same FAQ:

"If the requirements of the tax laws were to be classed as servitude, they would not be the kind of involuntary servitude referred to in the Thirteenth Amendment." Porth v. Brodrick, 214 F.2d 925, 926 (10th Cir. 1954).

See also, Abney v. Campbell, 206 F.2d 836, 841 (5th Cir. 1953), cert. den. 346 U.S. 924 (1954); Peeples v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1986-584, aff'd 829 F.2d 1120 (4th Cir. 1987); Beltran v. Cohen, 303 F.Supp. 889, 893 (N.D.Calif. 1969).

In re: income tax and due process (i.e., 5th Amendment challenge), I refer you to this question of the same FAQ:

"So far as the due process clause of the 5th Amendment is relied upon, it suffices to say that there is no basis for such reliance, since it is equally well settled that such clause is not a limitation upon the taxing power conferred upon Congress by the Constitution; in other words, that the Constitution does not conflict with itself by conferring, upon the one hand, a taxing power, and taking the same power away, on the other, by the limitations of the due process clause. Treat v. White, 181 U. S. 264, 45 L. Ed. 853, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 611; Patton v. Brady, 184 U. S. 608, 46 L. ed. 713, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 493; McCray v. United States, 195 U. S. 27, 61, 49 L. ed. 78, 97, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 769, 1 Ann. Cas. 561; Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U. S. 107, 158, 55 L. ed. 389, 416, 31 Sup. Ct. Rep. 342, Ann. Cas. 1912B, 1312; Billings v. United States, 232 U. S. 261, 282, 58 L. Ed. 596, 605, 34 Sup. Ct. Rep. 421." Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R., 240 U.S. 1, 24 (1916).

In re: income taxes and unreasonable search and seizure (i.e., a 4th Amendment challenge), see this question of that FAQ (getting tired of this yet?):

"Boozer says that he was not required to file a tax return until the Government obtained a court order requiring him to file. This argument hinges on the assumption that 26 U.S.C. section 6012's directive to 'make' a tax return is not a requirement to 'file' a tax return. Boozer maintains that the Tax Court's rejection of this assumption and holding that he was required to file a tax return despite the absence of a court order directing him to file contravened the Fourth Amendment.
"Boozer's argument lacks merit. We have construed section 6012's requirement to 'make' a tax return as a requirement to 'file' a tax return. See Moore v. CIR, 722 F.2d 193, 196 (5th Cir. 1984) (observing that the taxpayer has an 'obligation to file established by 26 U.S.C. section 6012'); Steinbrecher v. CIR, 712 F.2d 195, 198 (5th Cir. 1983) (per curiam) ('Section 6012(a) . . . provides that individuals meeting certain requirements shall file income tax returns.' (emphasis deleted)); see also In re Ripley, 991 F.2d 440, 444 n. 15 (5th Cir. 1991) (indicating that section 6651(a) is a sanction for failing to comply with section 6012(a)). Additionally, we have rejected as 'without merit' the contention that requiring the filing of a tax return violates the Fourth Amendment. Hallowell v. CIR, 744 F.2d. 406,408 (5th Cir. 1984). '[T]he amendment was not intended to prevent the ordinary procedure . . . of requiring tax returns to be made, often under oath.' Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107, 175, 31 S. Ct. 342, 358, 55 L. Ed. 389, ____ (1911); see also White v. CIR, 72 T.C. 1126, 1130 (1979) ('It is further established that the requirement for filing ordinary and reasonable returns and respondent's inspection thereof, does not violate a taxpayer's protection against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.')." Boozer v. Commissioner, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 22301, 99-2 U.S. Tax Cas. Par. 50,836, 84 A.F.T.R.2d 6008, KTC 1999-546 (5th Cir. 1999), (imposition of additions to tax for failing to file tax returns affirmed).

It's not a matter of "who signs their paychecks," it's a matter of nitwit "tax protesters" promulgating extraordinarily bad legal advice that has been rejected not just once, but time and time again by courts up and down the chain.

I won't speak to your complaint that poor people shoulder too much of the tax burden in this country because, frankly, I agree with you-- and I'm in the top fifth income bracket.
posted by Cerebus at 5:51 AM on August 26, 2003

Idiot Legal Arguments.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 6:23 AM on August 26, 2003

When I was in private practice one of our clients was sued by an employee for withholding federal taxes from his paycheck after he had instructed us not to. Of course, the law requires employers to do so, so it was not hard to get the case thrown out.

What was interesting was the guy's Complaint and legal briefs. He had obviously gone to great trouble to put together this nice tabbed binder, full of quotes pulled out of nineteenth century Supreme Court opinions about how our tax system is "voluntary." Of course, in this context, voluntary only means that U.S. citizens pay the taxes they owe without the need for IRS involvement.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2003

pardonyou -- we see the same thing all the time with pro se legal briefs in criminal cases and discrimination cases. I have one brief in my office that a prisoner filed that is entirely in latin. No, the guy does not speak latin. I have no idea where he found the latin phrases (coins? the bible?) but he typed about 15 pages of them.

The problem with layperson legal arguments in general is this: as in any arena, there are certain rules of the game that are followed by all participants. If you don't sign on to these basic rules, you pretty much can't play the game. One of the basic rules of the game in U.S. law is that the branches of the United States government are legitimate, lawful bodies that must typically be obeyed. Any argument that fails to accept this basic premise is a non-starter.

The real problem here, I think, is that the tax code is so riddled with complexity and huge deductions for the wealthy that ordinary people feel that the whole thing is a game that they are not playing correctly. When people are mystified by the system, they are susceptible to all kinds of myths.
posted by Mid at 6:58 AM on August 26, 2003

Back in the law clerk days, we'd often receive letters from people purporting to sever the social contract with the federal government. Their idea, I guess, was to reject federal citizenship and, therefore, federal taxation.

What I found particularly interesting about these letters, however, were the boilerplate quasi-legal attachments. It appears there are people who hold seminars, charging hundreds of dollars per session, so people can learn a fantastic scheme to avoid paying income taxes.

I would guess the individual tax protesters are doing nothing wrong -- stupidity is a defense to criminal income tax evasion, after all -- but I'd really like to see IRS go after the con artists who perpetuate these schemes.
posted by subgenius at 8:10 AM on August 26, 2003

Thanks for the info, you guys (and gals) are great. Hope this was an acceptable FPP.
posted by woil at 9:29 AM on August 26, 2003

Cerebus, or anyone else, what is the top 20% tax bracket? Does anyone know what they are or where to find out? Thanks!
posted by cell divide at 9:53 AM on August 26, 2003

cell divide, check here.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:54 AM on August 26, 2003

So, legal scholars, how about the taxation-without-representation argument that us DC residents cling to? Does it hold water? I'm curious why no one has yet refused to pay taxes, then when the IRS comes calling, used this argument (or have they?).
posted by gottabefunky at 12:29 PM on August 26, 2003

I'm not in the top tax bracket, I'm in the top 20% of household *income*. That data comes from the US Census, here and more specifically here.
posted by Cerebus at 1:29 PM on August 26, 2003

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