Anti-Tax Law Evasion Schemes - Law and Arguments (Section IV)
IV. Constitutional Amendment Claims
A. Contention: Federal income taxes constitute a "taking" of property without due process of law, violating the Fifth Amendment.
Some assert that the collection of federal income taxes constitutes a "taking" of property without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Thus, any attempt by the Internal Revenue Service to collect federal income taxes owed by a taxpayer is unconstitutional.
The Law: The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that a person shall not be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court stated in Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R., 240 U.S. 1, 24 (1916), that "it is . . . well settled that [the Fifth Amendment] is not a limitation upon the taxing power conferred upon Congress by the Constitution; in other words, that the Constitution does not conflict with itself by conferring upon the one hand a taxing power, and taking the same power away on the other by limitations of the due process clause." Further, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the summary administrative procedures contained in the Internal Revenue Code against due process challenges, on the basis that a post-collection remedy (e.g., a tax refund suit) exists and is sufficient to satisfy the requirements of constitutional due process. Phillips v. Commissioner, 283 U.S. 589, 595-97 (1931).
The Internal Revenue Code provides methods to ensure due process to taxpayers:
(1) The "refund method," set forth in section 7422(e) and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1346(a), where a taxpayer must pay the full amount of the tax and then sue in a federal district court or in the United States Court of Federal Claims for a refund; and
(2) The "deficiency method," set forth in section 6213(a), where a taxpayer may, without paying the contested tax, petition the United States Tax Court to redetermine a tax deficiency asserted by the IRS. Courts have found that both methods provide constitutional due process.
In recent years, Congress passed new laws providing further protection for taxpayers' due process rights in collection matters. In the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Pub. L. 105-206, § 3401, 112 Stat. 685, 746, Congress enacted new sections 6320 (pertaining to liens) and 6330 (pertaining to levies) establishing collection due process rights for taxpayers, effective for collection actions after January 19, 1999.
- Generally, the IRS must provide taxpayers notice and an opportunity for an administrative appeals hearing upon the filing of a notice of federal tax lien (section 6320) and prior to levy (section 6330).
- Taxpayers also have the right to seek judicial review of the IRS's determination in these due process proceedings. I.R.C. § 6330(d). These reviews can extend to the merits of the underlying tax liability, if the taxpayer has not previously received the opportunity for review of the merits, e.g., did not receive a notice of deficiency. I.R.C. § 6330(c)(2)(B). However, the Tax Court has indicated that it will impose sanctions pursuant to section 6673 against taxpayers who seek judicial relief based upon frivolous or groundless positions.
Relevant Case Law:
Flora v. United States, 362 U.S. 145, 175 (1960) - The court held that a taxpayer must pay the full tax assessment before being able to file a refund suit in district court, noting that a person has the right to appeal an assessment to the Tax Court "without paying a cent."
Schiff v. United States, 919 F.2d 830 (2 d Cir. 1990) - The court rejected a due process claim where the taxpayer chose not to avail himself of the opportunity to appeal a deficiency notice to the Tax Court.
Goza v. Commissioner, 114 T.C. 176 (2000) - The court rejected the taxpayer's attempt to use the judicial review process as a forum to contest the underlying tax liability, since the taxpayer had an opportunity to dispute that liability after receiving the statutory notice of deficiency.
Pierson v. Commissioner, 115 T.C. 576, 581 (2000) - The court considered imposing sanctions against the taxpayer, but decided against doing so, stating, "we regard this case as fair warning to those taxpayers who, in the future, institute or maintain a lien or levy action primarily for delay or whose position in such a proceeding is frivolous or groundless."
Davis v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2001-87, 81 T.C.M. (CCH) 1503 (2001) - The court imposed a $4,000 penalty for frivolous and groundless arguments, after warning that the taxpayer could be penalized for presenting them.
B. Contention: Taxpayers do not have to file returns or provide financial information because of the protection against self-incrimination found in the Fifth Amendment.
Some argue that taxpayers may refuse to file federal income tax returns, or may submit tax returns on which they refuse to provide any financial information, because they believe that their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination will be violated.
The Law: There is no constitutional right to refuse to file an income tax return on the ground that it violates the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. In United States v. Sullivan, 274 U.S. 259, 264 (1927), the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the taxpayer "could not draw a conjurer's circle around the whole matter by his own declaration that to write any word upon the government blank would bring him into danger of the law." The failure to comply with the filing and reporting requirements of the federal tax laws will not be excused based upon blanket assertions of the constitutional privilege against compelled self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.
Relevant Case Law:
United States v. Schiff, 612 F.2d 73, 83 (2 d Cir. 1979) - The court said that "the Fifth Amendment privilege does not immunize all witnesses from testifying. Only those who assert as to each particular question that the answer to that question would tend to incriminate them are protected . . . [T]he questions in the income tax return are neutral on their face . . . [h]ence privilege may not be claimed against all disclosure on an income tax return."
United States v. Brown, 600 F.2d 248, 252 (10 th Cir. 1979) - Noting that the Supreme Court had established "that the self-incrimination privilege can be employed to protect the taxpayer from revealing the information as to an illegal source of income, but does not protect him from disclosing the amount of his income," the court said Brown made "an illegal effort to stretch the Fifth Amendment to include a taxpayer who wishes to avoid filing a return."
United States v. Neff, 615 F.2d 1235, 1241 (9 th Cir.), cert. denied, 447 U.S. 925 (1980) - The court affirmed a failure to file conviction, noting that the taxpayer "did not show that his response to the tax form questions would have been self-incriminating. He cannot, therefore, prevail on his Fifth Amendment claim."
United States v. Daly, 481 F.2d 28, 30 (8 th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1064 (1973) - The court affirmed a failure to file conviction, rejecting the taxpayer's Fifth Amendment claim because of his "error in . . . his blanket refusal to answer any questions on the returns relating to his income or expenses."
Sochia v. Commissioner, 23 F.3d 941 (5 th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1153 (1995) - The court affirmed tax assessments and penalties for failure to file returns, failure to pay taxes, and filing a frivolous return. The court also imposed sanctions for pursuing a frivolous case. The taxpayers had failed to provide any information on their tax return about income and expenses, instead claiming a Fifth Amendment privilege on each line calling for financial information.
C. Contention: Compelled compliance with the federal income tax laws is a form of servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.
This argument asserts that the compelled compliance with federal tax laws is a form of servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.
The Law: The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits slavery within the United States, as well as the imposition of involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime of which a person shall have been duly convicted. In Porth v. Brodrick, 214 F.2d 925, 926 (10 th Cir. 1954), the Court of Appeals stated that "if the requirements of the tax laws were to be classed as servitude, they would not be the kind of involuntary servitude referred to in the Thirteenth Amendment." Courts have consistently found arguments that taxation constitutes a form of involuntary servitude to be frivolous.
Relevant Case Law:
Porth v. Brodrick, 214 F.2d 925, 926 (10 th Cir. 1954) - The court described the taxpayer's Thirteenth and Sixteenth Amendment claims as "clearly unsubstantial and without merit," as well as "far-fetched and frivolous."
United States v. Drefke, 707 F.2d 978, 983 (8 th Cir. 1983) - The court affirmed Drefke's failure to file conviction, rejecting his claim that the Thirteenth Amendment prohibited his imprisonment because that amendment "is inapplicable where involuntary servitude is imposed as punishment for a crime."
Ginter v. Southern, 611 F.2d 1226 (8 th Cir. 1979) - The court rejected the taxpayer's claim that the Internal Revenue Code results in involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Kasey v. Commissioner, 457 F.2d 369 (9 th Cir. 1972) - The court rejected as without merit the argument that the requirements to keep records and to prepare and file tax returns violated the Kaseys' Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and amount to involuntary servitude prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment.
D. Contention: The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was not properly ratified, thus the federal income tax laws are unconstitutional.
This argument is based on the premise that all federal income tax laws are unconstitutional because the Sixteenth Amendment was not officially ratified, or because the State of Ohio was not properly a state at the time of ratification. This argument has survived over time because proponents mistakenly believe that the courts have refused to address this issue.
The Law: The Sixteenth Amendment provides that Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on income, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration. U.S. Const. Amend. XVI. The Sixteenth Amendment was ratified by forty states, including Ohio, and issued by proclamation in 1913. Shortly thereafter, two other states also ratified the Amendment. Under Article V of the Constitution, only three-fourths of the states are needed to ratify an Amendment. There were enough states ratifying the Sixteenth Amendment even without Ohio to complete the number needed for ratification. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the income tax laws enacted subsequent to ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R., 240 U.S. 1 (1916). Since that time, the courts have consistently upheld the constitutionality of the federal income tax.
Relevant Case Law:
Miller v. United States, 868 F.2d 236, 241 (7 th Cir. 1989) (per curiam) - The court stated, "We find it hard to understand why the long and unbroken line of cases upholding the constitutionality of the Sixteenth Amendment generally, Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Company . . . and those specifically rejecting the argument advanced in The Law That Never Was, have not persuaded Miller and his compatriots to seek a more effective forum for airing their attack on the federal income tax structure." The court imposed sanctions on them for having advanced a "patently frivolous" position.
United States v. Stahl, 792 F.2d 1438, 1441 (9 th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1036 (1987) - Stating that "the Secretary of State's certification under authority of Congress that the Sixteenth Amendment has been ratified by the requisite number of states and has become part of the Constitution is conclusive upon the courts," the court upheld Stahl's conviction for failure to file returns and for making a false statement.
Knoblauch v. Commissioner, 749 F.2d 200, 201 (5 th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 830 (1986) - The court rejected the contention that the Sixteenth Amendment was not constitutionally adopted as "totally without merit" and imposed monetary sanctions against Knoblauch based on the frivolousness of his appeal. "Every court that has considered this argument has rejected it," the court observed.
United States v. Foster, 789 F.2d 457 (7 th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 883 (1986) - The court affirmed Foster's conviction for tax evasion, failing to file a return, and filing a false W-4 statement, rejecting his claim that the Sixteenth Amendment was never properly ratified.
E. Contention: The Sixteenth Amendment does not authorize a direct non-apportioned federal income tax on United States citizens.
Some assert that the Sixteenth Amendment does not authorize a direct non-apportioned income tax and thus, U.S. citizens and residents are not subject to federal income tax laws.
The Law: The courts have both implicitly and explicitly recognized that the Sixteenth Amendment authorizes a non-apportioned direct income tax on United States citizens and that the federal tax laws as applied are valid. In United States v. Collins, 920 F.2d 619, 629 (10 th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U.S. 920 (1991), the court cited Brushaber v. Union Pac. R.R., 240 U.S. 1, 12-19 (1916), and noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the "Sixteenth Amendment authorizes a direct nonapportioned tax upon United States citizens throughout the nation."
Relevant Case Law:
In re Becraft, 885 F.2d 547 (9 th Cir. 1989) - The court affirmed a failure to file conviction, rejecting the taxpayer's frivolous position that the Sixteenth Amendment does not authorize a direct non-apportioned income tax.
Lovell v. United States, 755 F.2d 517, 518 (7 th Cir. 1984) - The court rejected the argument that the Constitution prohibits imposition of a direct tax without apportionment, and upheld the district court's frivolous return penalty assessment and the award of attorneys' fees to the government "because [the taxpayers'] legal position was patently frivolous." The appeals court imposed additional sanctions for pursuing "frivolous arguments in bad faith."
Broughton v. United States, 632 F.2d 706 (8 th Cir. 1980) - The court rejected a refund suit, stating that the Sixteenth Amendment authorizes imposition of an income tax without apportionment among the states.
Note: This page contains one or more references to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), Treasury Regulations, court cases, or other official tax guidance. References to these legal authorities are included for the convenience of those who would like to read the technical reference material. To access the applicable IRC sections, Treasury Regulations, or other official tax guidance, visit the Tax Code, Regulations, and Official Guidance page. To access any Tax Court case opinions issued after September 24, 1995, visit the Opinions Search page of the United States Tax Court.