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Tax Dodges, Fact and Fiction

Tax protesters' many legalistic arguments against federal income taxes have little basis in legal reality.

Tax protesters have come up with a cornucopia of legalistic arguments for not paying their federal income taxes, all of them without merit. Here are some of the principal claims they have put forward — along with the facts that refute them.

THE CLAIM: Filing an income tax return can violate one's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

THE FACTS: The Supreme Court rejected this argument as early as 1927, in United States v. Sullivan, 274 U.S. 259 (1927). One may not avoid filing tax returns on the grounds that doing so may be incriminating with respect to earlier tax violations.

A later case, United States v. Daly, 481 F.2d 28 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1064 (1973), extended the holding to find that taxpayers must do more than file a blank return or one containing little or no information.

THE CLAIM: Because federal reserve notes are not redeemable in gold or silver, they are not legal tender but only accounts receivable and therefore cannot be taxed.

THE FACTS: This argument has been consistently rejected by the courts as frivolous or "without merit," as in United States v. Gardiner, 531 F. 2d 953 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 853 (1976).

THE CLAIM: Wages are not income. Labor worth a certain amount is exchanged for money worth the same amount, and therefore there is no "income" to be taxed.

THE FACTS: The argument that "income" is limited to "gain" or "profit" has been consistently rejected by the courts. Congress has determined, by enacting Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 61(a), that all income is taxable unless specifically excluded by some part of the IRC.

THE CLAIM: The 16th Amendment, which authorizes the federal income tax, was not properly ratified in 1913.

THE FACTS: In Porth v. Brodrick, 214 F.2d 925 (10th Cir. 1954), the court dismissed an attack on the 16th Amendment as "clearly unsubstantial and without merit" and "far fetched and frivolous." Other court decisions have similarly rejected these claims.

THE CLAIM: The income tax amounts to involuntary servitude, which is expressly forbidden by the 13th Amendment.

THE FACTS: In Porth v. Brodrick, the same case where the 16th Amendment argument was rejected, the court ruled that enforcement of the income tax does not constitute slavery.

THE CLAIM: Certain religious beliefs nullify the requirement to obey income tax laws.

THE FACTS: Freedom of religion does not extend to freedom from taxation. In Autenrieth v. Cullen, 418 F.2d 586 (9th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 1036 (1970), the court ruled that "the fact that some persons may object, on religious grounds, to some of the things that the government does is not a basis upon which they can claim a constitutional right not to pay a part of the tax."

THE CLAIM: Section 861 of the United States Tax Code limits the paying of income tax to those employed by foreign-based corporations.

THE FACTS: Section 861 actually broadens the class of taxpayers to include employees of foreign-based corporations. IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti has called this claim "just plain nonsense."