Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Taxman Cometh

Lots of important news (including Al Franken's courtroom victory), but here at Law Prof on the Loose we have to take today to think about taxes and, of course, tax protestors.

A wave of protestors are planning "tea bag" parties for today, mailing tea bags to government officials, that sort of thing. Having some small personal experience (working on Capitol Hill) with the way our government makes spending decisions, I have to agree that there's a lot of waste in the system. Unfortunately, our legislative system is well set up to take care of special interests and it can be difficult to make the system serve the general public. It would be great to cut out wasteful spending and reduce taxes as a result.

But at the same time, let's not get too carried away. Taxes may be too high, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, with them we buy civilization. If the choice is between a good governmental system that has some waste as an inevitable side effect and a bad governmental system, I think the choice is clear.

Meanwhile, for those keeping score, here are a few tax protestor updates:

* Peter Hendrickson, author of "Cracking the Code" (which I believe promotes the idea that you can get out of paying taxes by "correcting" your W-2 to show that you earned zero wages) lost his own civil case and was permanently enjoined from falsely reporting zero income. He has filed a cert petition in the Supreme Court, which will be denied. He's also under criminal indictment. Not a promising record for someone who claims to have figured out the truth about income tax.

* Ed and Elaine Brown, arrested and jailed after a months-long standoff while they were holed up in their New Hampshire home (following their conviction on tax charges), are now under indcitment for crimes stemming from the standoff. They may never leave prison.

* Tommy Cryer, who was, remarkably, acquitted on criminal tax charges, is battling the IRS in a civil case. The IRS claims he owes over $1 million in taxes and penalties. A useful reminder that acquittal in a criminal tax case does not get you out of owing the money.

In short, tax protestors seem to be batting at about their usual average -- zero on civil cases, almost zero on criminal cases. Wake up protestors! You don't have to like the income tax, but it does exist.

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