June 12, 2015

As for Why We’re Not Tax Evaders…

By Jim Babka, President, Downsize DC

Every time we publish an article about ending the Income Tax (or escaping Social Security, etc.) we receive emails. Some are polite. Surprisingly often, they’re angry.

Either way, I generally assume they’re from well-meaning individuals. They tell us there is no Income Tax, and we should tell people they don’t have to pay it. With the creation of Downsize DC, the number of these kinds of messages increased. More than a decade later, with the creation of the Zero Aggression Project, we noticed the same phenomenon. Initially, we tried to respond to them individually. This is now our all-purpose, quite comprehensive response.

We’ve stopped directly responding to these messages because, often, those who’ve chosen to not pay the Income Tax are not content to do so by themselves. Most expect us to stop what we’re doing and do (more) research. Some like to write letters questioning our intelligence or patriotic commitment. A portion of those even accuse us of lacking courage, or worse, actively assisting the State in propping up the system.

In one case, our late, co-founder Harry Browne responded to one of these emails. A well-known tax protestor, with a large email list, reprinted his email and questioned his character and commitment to the cause of liberty.

We admire someone standing up for their convictions; someone well aware of the consequences, and acting on principle. However…

It’s hard to feel simpatico with any group of people when those people are angry with you and writing you nasty-grams. And most of the people we’ve heard from are convinced they’ll get away with not paying taxes.

Perhaps you’ve been told that you don’t have to pay the Income Tax. We hate to break the bad news to you, but _all_ of the theories floating around are based on misguided interpretations of the income tax rules.

And, as I’ll demonstrate later in this article, they’re not the best way to end the Income Tax and win a much smaller, constitutionally limited government.

The Theories Don’t Work

We’ve been presented with several of these plans over the years by scores of well-meaning, patriotic people. In fact, my late friend, Harry Browne, looked at these plans from 1962 until the early 2000s. Back in ’62, he worked professionally promoting the Liberty Amendment — a proposed Constitutional amendment that repeals the 16th Amendment (income tax). This subject came up often. He wondered whether his strategy was the right one. After reviewing these plans, he wasn’t persuaded to join the tax avoidance movement for reasons that will become clear as you read on.

My experience is similar, in that I’ve reviewed some of these plans too. They are very complex in some cases.

The theories advanced by the _proprietors_ of these schemes usually include one or more of following contentions:

  • Congress has never passed a law requiring you to pay taxes;
  • The 16th Amendment (authorizing an income tax) was never actually ratified;
  • The Internal Revenue Code applies only to corporations, or that it doesn’t apply to wages and salaries, or that it applies only in U.S. possessions like Guam or the Virgin Islands;
  • The IRS itself says that paying income tax is voluntary;
  • A legal obligation to file a return that could incriminate you violates the 5th Amendment to the Constitution.

(It is beyond the scope of this article to examine these claims. However, if you believe there’s no law requiring you to pay income tax, click here
http://www.harrybrowne.org/articles/InternalRevenueCode.htm
For a more detailed review of various tax-protest plans, click here
http://www.taxhelponline.com/tax-protestor-claims.html to read an excellent article by Daniel J. Pilla.
Even the IRS itself has addressed the issue directly, contrary to one opinion circulating on the net, click here
https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/dirty-dozen)

It takes a lot of guts to fight the State head-on. If you’re thinking about doing it anyway, there are two things of which you should be aware.

People Go to Prison

First, it doesn’t matter whether you believe the income tax is “legal.” Whether or not it is, many people who don’t pay income tax are put in prison.

One of the best-known promoters of these schemes went to prison three times — each time for tax evasion. During his time in prison, he would figure out what was wrong with his plan and come out with a new, safer way of getting around the system. He is now in federal prison, once again. This time he has a quite extended stay that could mean the rest of his life.

Listen, this initiation of force, by the IRS, is a clear-cut violation of the Zero Aggression Principle. Of course it’s deplorable! It’s also personally sad; injustices like this are what get me up in the morning and lead me to do my job. In no way does the aforementioned promoter deserve this, morally speaking.

But the point here is the legal reality of what happens to people who follow this bad advice — even the scheme’s designer isn’t immune. In fact, this particular tax avoidance architect is not an isolated case…

Many others who have tried these schemes have paid dearly for it. Now…

If they made a conscious, patriotic decision to protest the income tax system, we’d even go so far as to say we admire their bravery and spirit. Unfortunately, most of them went to prison because they thought there was a way to evade taxes without danger.

We believe it is irresponsible for someone to encourage other people to take that risk. It’s based on incorrect or incomplete information. None of these programs comes with a guarantee to redeem your home when the IRS sells it at auction. Listen…

I got a phone call from the daughter of a man who bought into one of these programs. Her father went to prison. Her inheritance was gone, despite the fact that her father had a successful professional, career. She told me his health was significantly damaged, under the stress of the trial and sentence. She lamented that none of his grandkids would have him in their lives while he was in prison on the other side of the country.

No matter how strong the argument someone makes to claim you don’t have to pay income tax, remember that…

  • The question is NOT: Is the logic correct?
  • The question is: Do people go to prison for following it?

Don’t Be Fooled by IRS Inattention

Second, the claims usually are accompanied by stories of people who have followed the recommended procedure for years and have never been bothered by the IRS.

If the Internal Revenue Service is aware that you haven’t paid your taxes for a year or two, it may send you a notice asking whether you’ve filed a return that they missed. If you don’t answer or you tell the IRS you have no legal obligation to pay, and the IRS stops sending you notices, it isn’t because the IRS has given up on you.

Instead, the IRS will give you enough rope to hang yourself. The IRS wants you to go several years without paying tax for two reasons:

(1) To establish that it was part of a pattern of deliberate evasion, rather than an isolated mistake
(2) To allow the unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest to accumulate to a size that makes it worth prosecuting you

Every one of the you-don’t-have-to-pay-income-tax movements started out with “air tight” arguments that supposedly avoided the pitfalls of all the other you-don’t-have-to-pay-income-tax movements — the “mistaken” ones that had sent people to prison. But, eventually, people do go to prison, and we don’t want you to be one of them.

And it all may be for naught, because promoting such schemes does nothing to show people that we don’t need a coercive, statist regime!

We’ve Heard It All Before

No matter how good you think the latest tax evasion plan is, we’ll tell you now that we’re not going to drop what we’re doing to investigate it.

And just because we don’t join one of the tax protesters doesn’t mean we’re going after “heated slave quarters,” while you’re (so much more justly) pursuing abolition.

We’re quite busy doing the things we believe (based on extensive experience) will best advance the cause of true government — consumer-controlled and free of initiated, coercive force. That includes ending the extortion known as the income tax.

We think it’s fair, in this case, to say that we’ve already done our due diligence on this subject. We’re quite busy learning other new things.

How to Get Rid of the Income Tax

We will get rid of the income tax only when we persuade enough Americans that…

  • The Income Tax is extortion, a crime, where the conscience and liberty of others is violated, through coercive threats and brutal, initiated violence
  • They will be far better off by embracing the Zero Aggression Principle (including forgoing their own subsidies) so that they and their neighbors can be entirely free of the Income Tax
  • The voluntary means of addressing social problems is both more moral and more effective

In most cases, these new paradigms should be far easier to achieve than to convince the American people that the Income Tax is illegal. Whether it’s unfair or not, it’s been all-too-easy for the American people to write-off tax protest movements as kooky or fringe.

On the other hand, the American people have shown they’ll support a radical change if it’s actually offered to them. With relatively little pro-repeal publicity and every prominent politician and newspaper taking a stand against repeal, the Small Government Initiative in liberal Massachusetts got 45% of the vote for repealing the state income tax. And government employee unions had to spend millions to defeat it.

The reason there is no current public support for repealing the federal income tax is because no organization is focused on making it happen.

We are in the business of telling others the three points I just listed.

And we further believe there’s also a market need for others to point out, to all those repeal opponents, the huge personal benefits, even to them(!), of repealing the income tax. We trumpeted the Small Government Initiative, and I’d love the chance to do it again.

Why Tax Evasion Fails as a Freedom Strategy

By trying to focus on legalisms, tax evasion prophets do nothing to show that government SHOULDN’T be taxing your income.

People have been duped, by schools, the media, etc., into believing that they’re doing their patriotic duty by paying taxes — that the programs of the State are necessary, perhaps even good. They’re not. The State uses your tax dollars to hurt you, your family, and your community.

Even worse, this tax protest movement sacrifices freedom activists on the altar of The State. In addition to the daughter I mentioned above…

We’ve heard of marriages destroyed, prison sentences served, and massive confiscation of possessions – all in fights with the IRS. It’s not a news flash to say that the IRS operates in brutal, anti-constitutional fashion. But it seems like almost no one realizes that as long The State is as big and coercive as it is, there will always be such a Gestapo-like agency.

Can’t We Just Get Along?

We want to be clear that it’s your right to fight back by not filing or paying your income tax. You’re not our enemy, and we don’t believe you are ours. The State is the enemy.

After reading this article, you may still believe not paying Income Tax is a worthwhile strategy to win back our freedom. If so, then we’d ask you to acknowledge that there’s more than one way to approach this subject.

We honestly believe we have little or nothing to offer that would add to the efforts of people questioning the existence of the tax law. But perhaps we can complement them — the same way a knife complements a fork. You wouldn’t want to have two of the same implements at the dinner table, when you could have complementary devices.

Similarly, you shouldn’t hope for duplication here – that we just do what some other outfit or proprietor is doing.

Telling people about the violence and damage The State does with tax dollars may open hearts and minds that would never consider a tax protester’s message.

We firmly believe politicians are panderers, not leaders. If sufficient demand was created to end these programs, then some opportunistic politicians would surely respond. As Thomas Jefferson said, all power rests with the consent of the governed. It is up to us to create that demand.

The campaign for the Zero Aggression Principle includes under its umbrella the repeal of the income tax. It also covers an end to all initiated violence by the criminal gang calling itself government. It’s a foundational principle that goes to the root of the problem.

It also enables us to demonstrate that initiated violence, to achieve social goals, is not only unnecessary, it’s harmful. If we can demonstrate that, to our family and friends, the result should be thousands of new libertarians.

On the other hand, the result of tax evasion campaigns will be scores, maybe thousands of new federal prisoners with, perhaps, only a few new libertarians. To us, the choice is obvious.

Don’t you want more people to agree with you – to know what you know and to understand what you understand? Don’t you want to swell the ranks of those who will join us in the fight to end initiated violence, across the board, including the extortive income tax? If so, you’ll want to support our mass-marketing, educational campaigns at Downsize DC and the Zero Aggression Project – even if (especially if) you believe you don’t have to pay the income tax.

Author’s Note: Much of the material in this editorial was originally written by the late, great Harry Browne (1933-2006), and was utilized and modified with his permission.

If your comment is off-topic for this post, please email us at feedback@downsizedc.org

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