Join 3,421 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Is Income Tax Illegal in the USA?
November 5, 2006 10:28 PM   Subscribe

Is there a law requiring you to pay Income Tax? I saw this video over at youtube, from The FreedomtoFacisim.com website. They say that Income tax is illegal and there are no laws. They even mention that the 16th admendment isn't valid via the supreme court. Ok, are these guys wackos? IRS has guns, so they make the rules, thats all I know.
posted by IronWolve to Law & Government (30 answers total)
 
The classic tax protester FAQ. Seems down at the moment, so here's an old copy. It has a long section on the 16th amendment.

Essentially, every idea that sounds good has already been tried in court and struck down. People have been trying this for a long time, cause they like money and hate to pay taxes.
posted by smackfu at 10:36 PM on November 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


The IRS has a section on income tax statutes on their website.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:36 PM on November 5, 2006


The answer is yes, you have to pay your income tax. This is, however, such a common misconception that the IRS issues a special publication just for the purpose of refuting it. (.pdf, requires Acrobat Reader or other PDF reader)

Learn more.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:38 PM on November 5, 2006


Wikipedia has a good article on the standard tax protester arguments.
posted by RichardP at 10:39 PM on November 5, 2006


I had a friend who bought into this and stopped paying her taxes.

She will, eventually, get out of the hole she dug for herself, as she got a tax attorney and he made a settlement with the IRS, etc.

As someone who's had their babysitting money seized because of a parent's lack of tax payment ten years prior, I'd say they don't just have guns. They have your social security number. Which means almost everything you try to do -- get a paycheck, have a bank account -- can get screwed by not paying taxes.
posted by Gucky at 10:43 PM on November 5, 2006


Larken Rose, who tried to use similar claims to avoid paying income tax, was recently found guilty in court [NYTimes, login required] for failure to file returns.
posted by knave at 10:53 PM on November 5, 2006


My question is it legal, not can they force you to pay taxes, I think we all agree they do. But I read that tax pdf on frivolous tax and the movie argues the points, makes sense too.

I also read the wikipedia articles listed here, seems they both seem to point to the same thing, direct taxes are only on corporate gains, and the supreme court agreed. The pdf on the IRS website doesn't disagree, it lists the same code, if you are required to pay, you must fill the forms. Nobody argues that fact.

So, even though you can be found guilty (innocent people are found guilty all the time), is it legal? People say court all cases are struck down when taken to court, but the video shows people on CNN and 60 minutes showing how they won in court.

I don't care for the argument, it was proven in court! That argument has nothing to do with the facts.
posted by IronWolve at 11:48 PM on November 5, 2006


Whatever you do, don't ask Kent Hovind. He claims that he is a minister of god, and all his property and income thus belong to god, not him. As you might expect, the IRS doesn't agree.

It's likely that 'Dr. Dino' will be in PMITA prison very soon.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:51 PM on November 5, 2006


I don't care for the argument, it was proven in court! That argument has nothing to do with the facts.

The fact is that legal precedents set by courts define what is legal and what is not. That's what courts are for. Parliamentary quibbles about whether a legal document had the proper number of quails crap on it don't really have anything to do with whether it's a law or not.

I suppose it's possible that in the future a court might find that income taxes are illegal, but until that time, they're legal as hell, and you can be convicted of the crime of income tax evasion.
posted by breath at 12:36 AM on November 6, 2006


Oh, and as for the notion of IRS has guns, so they make the rules, thats all I know.

I don't believe any agents of the IRS are authorized to use guns in the pursuit of their duties. Rather, they rely on the police forces of the United States to enforce their authority, as well as countless accountants, software makers, and schools to provide advice on how to pay income tax. So, if it's a conspiracy or a fraud, then it's perpetrated by our entire society. Which is certainly an interesting notion to consider, but at the same time it suggests your only possible way of avoiding income tax is by leaving the United States for a country that doesn't have any.
posted by breath at 12:46 AM on November 6, 2006


[snip]proper number of quails crap on it don't really have anything to do with whether it's a law or not.[/snip]

Leaving the stupid comment out, if you read what the non-income tax people are saying, they point to Supreme court cases that back them up. And they have used it to win cases.

By your logic, they are illegal, because the highest supreme court overruled them, but local state courts ruled them legal.

This isnt about the flag has a fringe crazies, this is about point to case law that the highest court in the land used.

So, whos right then, Supreme court or State court?
posted by IronWolve at 12:49 AM on November 6, 2006


IronWolve: why not try it out? Let us know how it goes. I'm not going to watch a 2 hour movie (!!!) to find out what supreme court cases these guys are talking about, but I'd like to see some cites on those cases that have been "won". Just because some crackpot says it's so, doesn't mean it is.
posted by antifuse at 1:39 AM on November 6, 2006


@ breath "I don't believe any agents of the IRS are authorized to use guns in the pursuit of their duties."


From the IRS website itself:

"CI agents are appropriately armed to perform their law enforcement duties. The standard issue CI service weapon is the Sig Sauer Model 228 nine millimeter semi-automatic pistol."

"the only other weapons available to the field divisions are a limited number of shotguns in each District.125 "

"CI’s authority to carry firearms is based on a 1962 Treasury General Counsel decision that found that CI agents have an implied authority to carry firearms incidental and necessary to their authority to arrest.116 After enactment of 26 U.S.C. § 7608(b), which formally codified CI agents’ authority to arrest and to execute search and arrest warrants, IRS Chief Counsel concluded that enactment of 26 U.S.C. § 7608(b) did not diminish CI’s implied authority to carry firearms.117"


http://www.irs.gov/compliance/enforcement/article/0,,id=120420,00.html
posted by JFitzpatrick at 1:48 AM on November 6, 2006


They even mention that the 16th admendment isn't valid via the supreme court.

That'd be a red flag right there. It's impossible for the Supreme Court to strike down a constitutional amendment.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:42 AM on November 6, 2006


0xFCAF - I believe they cite that because the amendment wasn't handled properly, and thus isn't a valid amendment.

IronWolve - No, it probably isn't valid, but you have to pay anyway. We don't follow our own laws when they are inconvenient. See also the tenth amendment.
posted by bh at 3:22 AM on November 6, 2006


No, bh, the Sixteenth Amendment is valid. The IRS document linked by ikkyu2 specifically debunks any claims that is not with references to multiple court cases.
posted by grouse at 3:41 AM on November 6, 2006


that it is not
posted by grouse at 3:49 AM on November 6, 2006


at the same time it suggests your only possible way of avoiding income tax is by leaving the United States for a country that doesn't have any.

Not even. Americans living outside the US still pay US income tax. Suckers.
posted by atrazine at 4:17 AM on November 6, 2006


Ironwolve (wolf?)... short answer.... yes, they're whackos.

They have a layman's understanding of law and legal issues.

Income tax is legal, in the general sense. Specific conflicts /issues arise in the course of implementing it, and these are dealt with via various mechanisms in various legal forums. Law evolves as the specific cases are weighed against the general concepts.

Your question is very, very broad, and suggests an understandable (and youthful?) bewilderment with the way things work. It takes a while to understand the difference between 'just' and 'legal'. In my personal value structure, it's always a good idea to maximally resist authority, but not at the expense of imprisonment or punishment. The system usually prevails against the individual.

You may want to keep that just/legal distinction in the forefront of your mind....but pay your taxes while you learn the proper way to minimize them. Else, sign yourself up for a lot of complex trouble at the hands of a well funded, highly motivated and socially empowered opponent.. the IRS.

The internet is full of 'silver bullet' claims wherein someone invalidate the entire body of law with the omission of a period or comma. Don't buy it. Be skeptical of them, first, not their targets.
posted by FauxScot at 4:35 AM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thing that kills me, is why aren't living expenses considered expenses, and therefore, deductions from gross income to determine actual profit, which is taxable?

I expect the assumption is that each individual has essentially the same needs for basic living expenses. To claim that you need more money than the average person to sustain your lifestyle is different from claiming that your business requires heavier initial investment.

As for taxes being "legal", law is the imposition of the government. Income taxes are essential to the structure of democracy - we all pay into the pool in order to cover the expenses of our country, and since we pay for it, we get to determine how it works, and change it when we don't like it. We're like stockholders in the nation. If you don't want to pay taxes, you are saying you don't want to be part of the government - you don't want to be part of the country.

Now, with no government at all, society devolves into "might makes right", and we've basically rejected that model. Your choices are instead which government you want, what you want them to use tax money for, etc. If you truly want to reject being part of the democracy, you would have to come up with an alternate model that could work on a large scale, not just consider yourself a special exception. If you just want lower taxes that only cover basic military needs, then you need to vote for or campaign for or run as a candidate who wants that.

But remember not to think of it in terms of your circumstances, but in terms of your country - would you prefer to live in a society with free public education, or one where poor people can't afford to and aren't required to go to school at all - etc. It is not just about cash in hand - it's about your vision for america.
posted by mdn at 5:29 AM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


The entire "income taxes are illegal" argument is nothing more than mental masturbation. Look for ways to legally reduce your tax liability, then pay what you owe - and you'll be fine. Don't pay your taxes - and you'll likely spend years fighting in courts, looking over your shoulder, surrounded by fellow revolutionaries, and eventually paying the money and/or landing in jail.

The entire debate, at this point in American society, is simply not worth fighting or arguing about.
posted by davidmsc at 6:00 AM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]



Not even. Americans living outside the US still pay US income tax. Suckers.


Not exactly true. American expats pay only after a certain amount (around $80,000 + $10,000 housing exclusion). That is, if I understand the law correctly.

It's still bogus though.
posted by kdar at 6:17 AM on November 6, 2006


kdar: There are also further exemptions from double taxation beyond the foreign earned income exclusion if the other country and the U.S. have a tax treaty specifying this.
posted by grouse at 6:25 AM on November 6, 2006


I know some fool who tried this. The IRS took his house.
posted by caddis at 7:36 AM on November 6, 2006


The idea of non-white people voting would not be news to all of the FF. That income taxes are essential to the structure of democracy would be news to all of them, just as it is news to me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:42 AM on November 6, 2006


It's impossible for the Supreme Court to strike down a constitutional amendment.

A constitutional amendment can be unconstitutional (i.e., it conflicts with the rest of the Constitution), and can be struck down.

In any case, you have to pay income tax. Deal with it.
posted by oaf at 8:44 AM on November 6, 2006


Ummm, the point of a Constitutional Amendment is that it supercedes the Consitution, oaf. Thus, the Consitutional Amendments making slavery illegal and changing the rules for how the Vice President is elected and so forth stand despite the fact that they specifically and purposefully disagree with the Consitution.

What you may be thinking of is the fact that an amendment to a state constitution may be found to be in conflict with the federal document.

But as for the original question, see the 16th Amendment. It has the net effect of making it legal for Congress to pass laws which require you to pay income tax.
posted by ilsa at 9:12 AM on November 6, 2006


That would be news to all of the Founding Fathers.

Only a democracy of the leisure class can run without money. Either we all pay into the pool, or the government is run by people who own land & slaves and therefore have the time to handle the business of governing & military protection without any compensation.

Taxation is not an imposition - it is a form of participation. We are hiring the government. A model with no taxation would leave all participation a) only to those who had the luxury of enough free time to devote to serious involvement and b) would leave the balance of power almost entirely dependent on those volunteers of government being nice enough to want to listen to the people - there would be no chain of obligation, which seems a naive model to me. Again, if you think there is an alternate solution, propose it, defend it, etc, but to just imagine that somehow government will take care of itself is to ignore history.
posted by mdn at 9:48 AM on November 6, 2006


[a few comments removed, take broader government/constitution debates to email or metatalk]
posted by jessamyn at 10:44 AM on November 6, 2006


If you do listen to their advice, say hi to Mr. Snipes for me.
posted by MikeKD at 6:01 PM on November 6, 2006


« Older How long should I go without m...   |  I am having a problem installi... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.