Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Real Tax Protestor

By now you've all seen the terrible story of the man, apparently Andrew Joseph Stack, who flew a plane into a building housing some IRS offices because he was furious over various tax issues.

Faithful readers know that I have an eccentric interest in tax protestors. Curiously enough, as I explained to a Dow Jones reporter yesterday, Stack was not really a "tax protestor" as that term is commonly used. The term "tax protestor" is generally used to refer to people who, for various absurd and ridiculous reasons, claim that most Americans have no legal duty to pay income taxes. Stack, by contrast, understood that the law required him to pay taxes; he was just damned upset about it.

As tax protestors themselves plaintively point out, the term "tax protestor" is not really apt for use in describing them. They are not "protesting" taxes; they are just claiming (absurdly) that the law doesn't require them to pay tax. They might more accurately be called "tax deniers," a term coined by Dan Evans on the analogy of "Holocaust deniers." But even Dan himself calls them "tax protestors." That's just the term most people use.

Now Stack was a real tax protestor. He took action to protest his tax obligations. His terrible story shows what can happen when the country is filled with people spewing hateful anti-government rhetoric. I'm sure most people who do so don't ever plan to use violence and don't even particularly wish it to happen. But you can only call government agents so many horrible names, of which "jack-booted thugs" is one of the less caustic examples, before some crazy people will go over the edge. Hate groups are indirectly responsible for these terrible crimes.

Stack's suicide note, incidentally, shows that while he was not, as I say, a "tax protestor" in the usual sense, he wasn't exactly an upstanding taxpayer either. He doesn't give all the details of his past tax problems, so one can't be sure exactly what happened, but it seems like (1) he tried to take advantage of the special tax treatment of churches by organizing a fake church, (2) he claimed to have no income in a year in which he cashed out an IRA, which counts as receiving income, and (3) he claims to have been screwed over by the tax law changes made in 1986. The second point sounds like it could be an honest mistake that might happen to anyone, but the first point sounds like a deliberate scam, so I'm less inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt (and that's before we consider that he later flew an airplane into a building full of innocent people). As to the third point, I'm not up on all the details of the tax change Stack complained about, but I will say that the 1986 law had a big impact on my own family, as it basically made the previous line of work of some members of the family impossible. But no one in my family flew an airplane into a building. They just shifted their line of work.

So Stack was a terrible man and his story has a terrible ending. But just in case you thought you'd seen the stupidest thing a tax protestor could ever say, surf on over to Larken Rose's website (he's a convicted criminal, tax protestor, and self-described anarchist), and check out this statement in which he discusses Stack and says "generally I have to praise him for what he did."


Anonymous said...

You might want to revisit your conclusions after reading his suicide note.

He apparently got involved with a group of people back in the 1980s who decided that they didn't have to pay taxes.

Read the first three pages, particularly the part in red, and then decide.

The letter is rambling, of course, but it appears he brought his tax problems on himself by listening to some crazy ideas that you didn't have to pay taxes.

That's a "tax protester" or "Tax denier" isn't it?

Here is a link to the letter.


Anonymous said...

Reading this section of his suicide note, it sounds like a classic "Tax Denier" scam seminar to me:

"Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions...."

"....We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing....We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done."

"... That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0."

This does NOT sound like a guy with regular tax problems, but someone trying to evade taxes by using the same tax-free status claimed by the Catholic Church.

Sorry, but so sale. The guy tried to cheat, got caught, and brought it all on himself.

You make it sound like he was arguing about a deduction or something.