The IRS recently expressed concern that many taxpayers are being misled by “tax protesters” who claim that no one is required to file tax returns or pay taxes. The internet has given such claims an expanded audience. While tax protester arguments often seem convincing, they have been summarily rejected by the courts and have exposed adherents to substantial penalties in addition to the payment of back taxes and interest. And remember, there is no “statute of limitations” in cases of a failure to pay taxes or file returns. Here are some of the erroneous tax protester arguments the IRS listed: (1) the 16th Amendment (which authorized the income tax) was not properly ratified; (2) the income tax violates the Fourth Amendment right to privacy or the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination; (3) section 861 of the tax code limits taxable income to certain sources that do not apply to most U.S. citizens; (4) the government can assess taxes only against people who file returns; (5) forming a trust to receive your income and hold your assets will allow you to reduce or eliminate your tax liability; and (6) the income tax does not apply to certain types of income, or only applies to certain individuals (such as federal employees). The IRS notes that “regardless of the arguments used, they have two things in common: the arguments are consistently rejected by the courts, and the participants may face IRS enforcement action. The IRS has one of the highest conviction rates in federal law enforcement. In addition to serving substantial prison sentences imposed by the courts, those convicted must also pay fines, taxes, civil penalties, and, frequently, court costs.” Read the answer to “Why Do I Have to Pay Taxes” on the Department of the U.S. Treasury’s website.
This content originally appeared in Church Treasurer Alert, May 2001.