Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Big Day for the Income Tax Pages

I've mentioned that visits to my income tax pages serve as a barometer of goings-on in the bizarre world of tax protestors. Yesterday I had my biggest numbers ever -- over 2400 hits from over 1000 different visitors.

What's up? Well, on Monday, convicted tax criminals Ed & Elaine Brown held a news conference from the New Hampshire home where they remain holed up evading arrest and hinting at a violent ending. The case is all over the Internet -- heavens, it was being discussed on the "World of Warcraft" discussion forums (although someone deleted it -- off topic, I guess) -- and a New Hampshire TV station posted a story about them that linked to my pages (although I think the WoW forums provided more hits!). Randy Weaver, of all people, showed up at the press conference (he had his own showdown with the Feds at Ruby Ridge years ago).

I suppose I should cease to be amazed at how many people believe there is no law that requires them to pay income taxes, or at least have doubts on the matter, or think Ed Brown is a hero. (Of course, not every visitor to my pages falls into these categories.)

But it still fills me with wonder. What do these people think is going on in the government? Do they really believe that there is some vast conspiracy to trick people into paying taxes they don't owe? How could such a conspiracy function and not be exposed by judges, law professors, and private lawyers?

What causes people to believe this conspiracy stuff so fervently and to accept any nonsense posted by untrained lay persons on the Internet rather than explanations by trained professionals who might actually know the answer?

And why do they idolize a wealthy couple that refuses to pay taxes? I could understand some support if the Browns were poor, or struggling middle-class, if they refused to pay taxes to show opposition to the Iraq war, and if they welcomed arrest so that America could be forced to confront the spectacle of people being sent off to jail for opposing the war. But the Browns are just wealthy people thumbing their noses at the whole system, based on their nutty claim that there's no law requiring payment of income tax.

And by the way, why didn't the Marshals just arrest them during the press conference?


Anonymous said...

I think it must all boil down to money- people just do not want to give their hard earned money to the government. Yet I'm sure the tax protesters still use the roads, hospitals, and other government services that taxes support. If the government decided to give every American $1000 I doubt the tax protesters would argue that there is no law allowing the government to do so.

Allan Juranek said...

I'm going to say that I am neutral regarding this topic. While I am sympathetic to your argument that there couldn't possibly be such a vast conspiracy to "make-up," so to speak, an income tax, movies like Aaron Russo's "America: Freedom to Fascism" make some extremely good points regarding the income tax issues, and leave me with some unanswered questions, like "who are all those former IRS agents [in the movie] that claim there is no Income Tax law, and why aren't their cases either immediately debunked or thoroughly investigated by those that claim there is indeed an Income Tax?" In my mind, the legality of the Income Tax is an unanswered question to say the least. But in any case, as someone extremely opposed to an income tax, I do not think the best strategy is to claim the government can't enforce the income tax, since that tax, even if we disprove its legality, is going to be enforced by fiat regardless of its legality or constitutionality like most laws in modern America (Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act, etc.). It is important instead to make the moral argument that the state is committing an act of grave and unacceptable immorality in confiscating wealth based on income. This is the best strategy for the Brown's to pursue.

Allan Juranek said...

Seeing that you are a law professor, I would like to ask you an important question:

How is it that legally we needed a constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol in the United States, but no such amendment was necessary for the federal government to criminalize the use of marijuana (or any other drug, for that matter)?


Jon Siegel said...

Allan, good question! The answer is a little complicated, but here are the basic points:

1. The 18th Amendment (which imposed Prohibition) didn't just empower legislatures to prohibit alcohol; it prohibited alcohol by itself, and put the matter beyond the power of legislatures to alter. That's why, to get rid of Prohibition, we had to amend the Constitution again. The situation with illegal drugs today is very different. There are laws about it, but they're just ordinary laws that the legislatures could repeal tomorrow, without amending the Constitution.

2. Also, the understanding of Congress's regulatory powers has expanded since the time of the 18th Amdendment.

Jon Siegel said...

Oh, and as to your comment about the legality of the income tax being an unaswered question, please take a look at my income tax pages and see what you think.

Anonymous said...

The question was "where is the LAW stating that we must pay income taxes". You provided statutory provisions and didn't address the context. All laws, and the specific words within the laws, must be seen in the context of the subject being addressed and considered within the context of jurisdictional limitations of the government.

Jon Siegel said...

Well, (1) the statutory provisions are the law, and (2) the context is that the government is imposing an income tax! Everything in the context reinforces the view that the income tax laws -- not surprisingly -- impose an income tax.

Anonymous said...

Very good, but let us not "reinforce the view", but be 100% sure according to the code.

There is hereby imposed on the taxable income of every individual...

26 USC §7701(a)(14) - The term ''taxpayer'' means any person subject to any internal revenue tax.

What is the general definition of "income" and "individual" provided in the Internal Revenue Code?

Anonymous said...

Hi Professor. I was wondering what the answer to the following question was: What is the definition of income and individual in the Internal Revenue Code?

Ryan said...

I, too, would like to see those actual definitions as defined by statute, and not just assume our colloquial meanings since legal doesn't necessarily have anything to do with our common understandings.
Also, you stated that income tax was law because the government (I assume you mean Congress, as they have Constitutional authority to pass laws) passed the statutes imposing the tax laws. However, the contention that Congress never had the particular authority to pass such a tax on individuals, upheld by Supreme Court rulings, still has not been addressed, and thus, the tax code would have no force of law. This issue still gets skirted by claims that the IRS statues are the law, and the premise that Congress could not pass this tax because they had no Constitutional authority to do so has not been demonstrated, to my knowledge, to be false. Thanks for addressing these points.

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