Pay Your Taxes

PAY YOUR TAXES!….Tax protesters are an industrious lot and they can regale you with a million and one theories about why they (and you) aren’t required to pay taxes: the 16th amendment was never properly ratified, paper money isn’t real money and therefore can’t be taxed, wages aren’t income, and on and on.

One of their favorite tropes, however, is that there’s no actual U.S. law that says you have to pay federal income tax. There are endless reams of laws describing the taxes to be paid, mind you, but nothing that flatly says you have to pay. As you might expect, this theory has about the same success in court as all the others: namely, none.

Until now:

Last week a jury in Memphis acquitted a woman of criminal charges arising from her refusal to pay federal income taxes on $920,000 she earned from 1996 to 2001. The basis for her refusal, which the jury apparently found sufficient, was that the Internal Revenue Service hadn’t showed her where in the law it says she had to pay.

She wrote the IRS a letter in 1995, she said, demanding an answer to her question, and when none was forthcoming, she filed W-4 forms indicating she didn’t owe tax. The IRS eventually brought criminal charges of tax evasion and filing false W-4s. If she had been convicted by the federal court jury, she would have faced up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

So here’s my question if there are any tax attorneys or IRS employees out there reading this: why doesn’t the IRS ask Congress to add a section to the tax code that says plainly that tax obligations aren’t voluntary? I realize that it’s all there already and courts have upheld the requirement to pay taxes hundreds of times (see here if you’re interested in details), but why not just bite the bullet and add some simple paragraph that can be sent to tax protesters and displayed to juries? Would this cause some subtle problem that’s not obvious to me? Or what?

Does anybody happen to know?

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