Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Filed Yet?

Tax returns are due tomorrow. NPR featured a story this morning about Tea Party tax protestors -- as well as some wealthy people who are actually asking for higher taxes. Have you filed yet?

I filed my returns yesterday, and in addition to pondering questions such as Why do we have to submit copies of our W-2s with our returns? Doesn't the IRS already get a copy from our employers?, I spent some time, as I so frequently do, thinking about tax protestors.

As Faithful Readers know, when I refer to tax protestors, I don't mean the slightly offbeat Tea Partiers, who, as far as I can tell, are simply demanding that government lower or eliminate income taxes. No, I mean a much crazier group of people -- the "tax protestors" who claim that under current law there is no legal obligation to pay income tax.

Yes, such people really exist -- so many, in fact, that I maintain a website debunking their kooky theories. Their theories start with the basic "there simply is no law that requires average Americans to pay income tax," and go on to more and more esoteric arguments, such as that "wages are not income" (because, you see, they merely represent an "equal exchange" of labor for its value in money), or that "the income tax is unconstitutional because it is not apportioned" or even that "income tax is slavery that violates the 13th Amendment." Needless to say, these theories are all complete nonsense, but it's stunning how many people fall for them.

Particularly incredible is how many people will support tax protestor gurus to the bitter end. The tax protestor du jour is a fellow named Peter Hendrickson, author of "Cracking the Code," who has his own website touting his absurd income tax theories, including a forum where his readers exchange thoughts. Now Hendrickson -- get this -- was recently found guilty of income tax crimes by a jury and is due to be sentenced on Monday. But if you browse the forum, you'll see that that hasn't stopped his readers from buying into his theories! Even now, some of them are proudly announcing that they've filed their first "CtC-educated" tax returns. The fact that CtC-educated returns don't seem to be working out too well for the guru himself is apparently not a deterrent.

Also good for a laugh is Hendrickson's post-trial brief, in which he explains why he can't be guilty of the crimes charged. Among other things, Hendrickson claims that he is not a "person" subject to the tax laws. The reason is that section 7343 of the tax code provides that:

"The term 'person' as used in this chapter includes an officer or employee of a corporation, or a member or employee of a partnership, who as such officer, employee, or member is under a duty to perform the act in respect of which the violation occurs."

Hendrickson deftly observes that the government failed to prove that he is an officer or employee of a corporation under any such duty!

Needless to say, Hendrickson doesn't understand the normal meaning of the English word "includes" -- and that's before we even get to section 7701(c) of the code, which (for the benefit of anyone who might be as language-impaired as Hendrickson) specifically provides that "The terms 'includes' and 'including' when used in a definition contained in this title shall not be deemed to exclude other things otherwise within the meaning of the term defined."

Sheesh. There's just no end to tax protestor nonsense. It looks like Hendrickson will be joining the growing ranks of tax protestor gurus who end up as guests of the state.

Pay your income taxes. It's not fun, but it's a lot easier than paying the interest and penalties, or doing the prison time, that can result if you don't.

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