Three arguments against paying taxes that will send you straight to jail

This is the point in the tax season where you're contemplating claiming the dog as a dependent and claiming your grocery bill as a medical expense. Hey, if you don't eat, you get sick, right?

Don't go there. And especially don't buy the arguments that some people put forward against paying taxes at all. The Internal Revenue Service has gotten so weary of them that they put out a list of the top frivolous arguments against paying taxes. Among the all-time favorites:

1. Federal Reserve notes aren't currency, so if you get paid in dollars, you don't owe taxes. After all, dollar bills aren't gold or silver, and aren't redeemable for gold or silver, so they're not really currency, right? Right?

You are so wrong, says the IRS and, more importantly, the Federal courts who will determine your penalty. "This argument misinterprets Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution," The IRS says. The courts have rejected this argument on numerous occasions."

2. I have rejected U.S. citizenship for state citizenship. I don't owe any federal taxes. What about that, Mr. Smarty Pants tax collector?

We have a nice orange jumpsuit for you, says the IRS. "The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution defines the basis for United States citizenship, stating that '[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."' The Fourteenth Amendment therefore establishes simultaneous state and federal citizenship. Claims that individuals are not citizens of the United States but are solely citizens of a sovereign state and not subject to federal taxation have been uniformly rejected by the courts.

3. Ok. Well, sure, but "The United States" consists only of federal lands, like the District of Columbia, federal territories, like Puerto Rico, and federal enclaves, like military bases. States are sovereign. So there.

That was an interesting argument back in 1916, when it was first raised and swatted down like a stinkbug on the screen door. "The Internal Revenue Code imposes a federal income tax upon all United States citizens and residents, not just those who reside in the District of Columbia, federal territories, and federal enclaves," says the IRS. "The Supreme Court has 'recognized that the sixteenth amendment authorizes a direct non-apportioned tax upon United States citizens throughout the nation, not just in federal enclaves.'"

What's the worst that could happen if I make one of these arguments?

The courts actually wax poetic about this. "Like moths to a flame, some people find themselves irresistibly drawn to the tax protester movement's illusory claim that there is no legal requirement to pay federal income tax," the seventh circuit court wrote back in 1991. "And, like moths, these people sometimes get burned." If the court feels you've filed a frivolous return — and all the above count as frivolous — you'll get a $5,000 fine. You'll owe the taxes, of course, plus penalties and interest. Then there's a felony charge for "willfully making and signing under penalties of perjury any return, statement, or other document that the person does not believe to be true and correct as to every material matter." That can get you three years.


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