Most Americans understand the importance of being a good citizen. Obey the laws, don't pollute, keep your grass mowed, be respectful of others, and pay your taxes. There are, of course, a few more requirements, but those are some of the most basic. Of all the responsibilities of good citizenship, the most difficult and unpleasant is undoubtedly paying income tax each year. We wince, we moan, but we pay. No getting around it, right? Well, for a few hearty souls, it's always worth a try to see if they can beat the system and get away with not paying their income tax. Here are a few of the more interesting and entertaining attempts to get out of paying taxes - and just for the record, it almost never works and generally includes jail time.
Argument Number One: The Voluntary Nature of the Federal Income Tax System
Many have attempted to relieve their tax burden by claiming that either the filing of a tax return is voluntary, the payment of tax is voluntary, that they can reduce federal income tax liability by filing a 'zero return', that the IRS must prepare federal tax returns for a person who fails to file, or that compliance with an administrative summons issued by the IRS is voluntary.
Argument Number Two: The Meaning of Income
The main disputes here are that wages, tips, and other compensation received for personal services are not income, that only foreign-source income is taxable, and that Federal Reserve Notes are not income.
Argument Number Three: The Meaning of Certain Terms Used in the Internal Revenue Code
Here, folks have contested that a taxpayer is not a 'citizen' of the United States (thus not subject to the federal income tax laws), that the 'United States' consists only of the District of Columbia, federal territories, and federal enclaves, that a taxpayer is not a 'person' as defined by the Internal Revenue Code (thus is not subject to the federal income tax laws), or that the only 'employees' subject to federal income tax are employees of the federal government.
Argument Number Four: Constitutional Amendment Claims
The angle here is that taxpayers can refuse to pay income taxes on religious or moral grounds by invoking the First Amendment, that federal income taxes constitute a 'taking' of property without due process of law, violating the Fifth Amendment, that taxpayers do not have to file returns or provide financial information because of the protection against self-incrimination found in the Fifth Amendment, that compelled compliance with the federal income tax laws is a form of servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment, that the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was not properly ratified, thus the federal income tax laws are unconstitutional, or that the Sixteenth Amendment does not authorize a direct non-apportioned federal income tax on United States citizens.
Argument Number Five: Fictional Legal Basis
Now things get really interesting. These mavericks will claim that the Internal Revenue Service is not an agency of the United States, that taxpayers are not required to file a federal income tax return, (because instructions and regulations associated with the Form 1040 do not display an OMB control number as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act), that African Americans can claim a special tax credit as reparations for oppressive treatment, that taxpayers are entitled to a refund of Social Security taxes paid over their lifetime, that an 'untaxing' package or trust provides a way of legally and permanently avoiding the obligation to file federal income tax returns and pay federal income taxes, that a 'corporation sole' can be established and used for the purpose of avoiding federal income taxes, that taxpayers who did not purchase and use fuel for an off-highway business can claim the fuels tax credit, or that a Form 1099-OID can be used as a debt payment option or the form or a purported financial instrument may be used to obtain money from the Treasury.
The arguments against filing a tax return are numerous, and there are just as many arguments against the government collecting on these returns. Most arguments are based on the validity of various parts of the tax code. To their credit, these folks have really studied the Internal Revenue Code and know it well. Trying to manipulate it to the degree that they do...well, that's just foolish. So, in case you're thinking you've just come across the key to not paying your own taxes, be forewarned! Very rarely have the courts ever settled in favor of the individual. In general there are stiff penalties (raising 'frivolous tax-protester arguments' can add up to thousands of dollars in fines in addition to the actual taxes you will still owe) and jail time associated with most of these cases.