Chris Hibbert wrote:
> firstname.lastname@example.org said:
> > Here in the US, the income tax, which was first instituted for the
> > civil war, then for WWI funding, was always, and is today, a voluntary
> > system for most people [...]
> Since I'm the author of the SSN FAQ, I have people telling me
> this all the
> time. Do you know of anyone who has won this point in court?
I've *heard* of people who have, but I've never seen any believable
documentation. Certainly there are no published opinions. The explanation
given by the people who advertise in magazines and the Internet ("get out of
paying taxes--legally..send us $350 for complete instructions" is that the
government is afraid to try such cases in court and therefore dismisses
There ARE plenty of published cases where the tax evader had his or her
property taken and, in some cases, spent time in prison. Here's the typical
sequence of events I've seen:
1. Citizen does not file tax return for calendar year 20XX.
2. A few years down the road, IRS sends citizen a "Dear Taxpayer" letter
requesting that they file the return for 20XX.
3. Taxpayer ignores the letter, or sends a response saying that he or she is
not obligated under the laws of the US to pay taxes or file a return.
4. Citizen gets a letter from IRS stating that IRS is auditing the citizen's
tax return for the year 20XX. What? But I didn't file a return! says the
citizen. No problem, says IRS, we prepared one *for* you.
5. Citizen ignores IRS request to come in with financial records for the
year 20XX. At this point, IRS can either estimate the tax, based on prior
tax returns or W-2's and 1099's they've received from employers or clients;
or IRS can issue a summons and subpoena duces tecum to *compel* citizen to
show up and produce all documents relating to income and expenses, etc. etc.
for the year 20XX. Citizen will be held in contempt and fined for each day
he or she fails to comply; and/or citizen may be incarcerated.
6. If they smell blood, IRS will do some detective work, track down credit
card expenditures, bank accounts, vehicles, real estate--not only does this
give them information on assets to be seized. It also allows them to
reconstruct income, which can be difficult to do for someone engaged in a
business where many of the transactions are in cash(in the literal sense of
7. In most cases, IRS prefers to file civil cases against citizens rather
than criminal cases, because in civil cases the burden of proof is on the
citizen to show that the figures IRS has come up with are not accurate. This
means IRS can come up with a tax liability based on really flimsy "evidence"
and the citizen must then try to dig up whatever he or she can find to try
to prove IRS is wrong. (the The *Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and
Reform Act of 1998* places the burden of proof on IRS in a few, very limited
Bankers are scared shitless of IRS and would not even *think* of refusing to
honor an IRS levy on a customer's account. And just *try* to sell your land
with a tax lien on it. Practically speaking, the only way to get out of the
system is to get *all* the way out by not earning any income. If enough
people would do this for just one year, they could bring about a substantive
change in the tax laws. But most US citizens are up to their eyeballs in
debt and can't afford to live without an income for even a month.
> claim that
> the government enforces the tax laws using courts, police, and jailing
> people who fail to comply.
I agree with you.
> In what sense is it voluntary? Perhaps you
> mean (as some of the people who write to me say) that the IRS and the
> courts are misinterpreting the law. That's still the way they enforce it
> as far as I can tell.
Yep. The law is as the courts interpret it.
Tax laws are worse than merely compulsory, though. They are so complicated
that no one understands them, least of all the legislators. (I've heard
members of the House Ways and Means Committee debating a provision having to
do with depreciation, and it was clear that some of them *didn't understand
what depreciation is*!) The complexity and ambiguity seem to be particularly
horrendous in laws affecting businesses. Until a certain provision is tested
in court, the business owner is operating blind, hoping for the best. Even
after there's a decision in the Court of Appeals for the appropriate
circuit, there's the chance the US Supreme Court will later overturn it (and
the Tax Court sometimes comes up with conflicting opinions).
Whether or not one believes that taxation is appropriate or desirable, one
would do well to seriously consider the benefits of scrapping the income tax
(and also social security and medicare, which are also, practically
speaking, extremely regressive income taxes that have the net effect of
taking from the poor young and giving to their relatively rich elders).
RE: TALKING TO THOSE WHO REPRESENT US IN CONGRESS
I regularly phone up my Congressman's office (Ron Paul, who, incidentally,
voted AGAINST the ban on cloning research.) and talk about this, and he has,
in fact, made efforts to introduce bills to abolish the income tax.) My
experience is that if you make phone calls IN ADDITION to writing
letters--so that the people in your Congressman's and Senator's offices
recognize your name--you have a greater impact than if you do only one or
the other. I don't think they pay much attention to email. I urge everyone
to take the time to make phone calls and write letters.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:01 MDT