The Meaning of Income: Taxable Income and Gross Income
Contention: Wages, tips, and other compensation received for personal services are not income.
This argument asserts that wages, tips, and other compensation received for personal services are not income, because there is allegedly no taxable gain when a person "exchanges" labor for money. Under this theory, wages are not taxable income because people have basis in their labor equal to the fair market value of the wages they receive; thus, there is no gain to be taxed. Some take a different approach and argue that the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution did not authorize a tax on wages and salaries, but only on gain or profit.
For federal income tax purposes, "gross income" means all income from whatever source derived and includes compensation for services. I.R.C. § 61. Any income, from whatever source, is presumed to be income under section 61, unless the taxpayer can establish that it is specifically exempted or excluded. In Reese v. United States, 24 F.3d 228, 231 (Fed. Cir. 1994), the court stated, "an abiding principle of federal tax law is that, absent an enumerated exception, gross income means all income from whatever source derived."
All compensation for personal services, no matter what the form of payment, must be included in gross income. This includes salary or wages paid in cash, as well as the value of property and other economic benefits received because of services performed, or to be performed in the future. Furthermore, criminal and civil penalties have been imposed against individuals relying upon this frivolous argument.
Relevant Case Law:
Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co., 348 U.S. 426, 429-30 (1955) - Referring to the statute's words "income derived from any source whatever," the Supreme Court stated, "this language was used by Congress to exert in this field 'the full measure of its taxing power.' . . . And the Court has given a liberal construction to this broad phraseology in recognition of the intention of Congress to tax all gains except those specifically exempted."
Commissioner v. Kowalski, 434 U.S. 77 (1977) - The Supreme Court found that payments are considered income where the payments are undeniably accessions to wealth, clearly realized, and over which a taxpayer has complete dominion.
United States v. Connor, 898 F.2d 942, 943-44 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 497 U.S. 1029 (1990) - The court stated, "[e]very court which has ever considered the issue has unequivocally rejected the argument that wages are not income."
Lonsdale v. Commissioner, 661 F.2d 71, 72 (5 th Cir. 1981) - The court rejected as "meritless" the taxpayer's contention that the "exchange of services for money is a zero-sum transaction . . . ." Reading v. Commissioner, 70 T.C. 730 (1978), aff'd, 614 F.2d 159 (8 th Cir. 980) - The court said the entire amount received from the sale of one's services constitutes income within the meaning of the Sixteenth Amendment. United States v. Richards, 723 F.2d 646, 648 (8 th Cir. 1983) - The court upheld conviction and fines imposed for willfully failing to file tax returns, stating that the taxpayer's contention that wages and salaries are not income within the meaning of the Sixteenth Amendment is "totally lacking in merit."
United States v. Romero, 640 F.2d 1014, 1016 (9 th Cir. 1981) - The court affirmed Romero's conviction for willfully failing to file tax returns, finding, in part, that "[t]he trial judge properly instructed the jury on the meaning of ['income' and 'person']. Romero's proclaimed belief that he was not a 'person' and that the wages he earned as a carpenter were not 'income' is fatuous as well as obviously incorrect." Abrams v. Commissioner, 82 T.C. 403, 413 (1984) - The court rejected the argument that wages are not income, sustained the failure to file penalty, and awarded damages of $5,000 for pursuing a position that was "frivolous and groundless . . . and maintained primarily for delay."
Cullinane v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1999-2, 77 T.C.M. (CCH) 1192, 1193 (1999) - Noting that "[c]ourts have consistently held that compensation for services rendered constitutes taxable income and that taxpayers have no tax basis in their labor," the court found Cullinane liable for the failure to file penalty, stating, "[his] argument that he is not required to pay tax on compensation for services does not constitute reasonable cause."
Contention: Only foreign-source income is taxable.
Some maintain that there is no federal statute imposing a tax on income derived from sources within the United States by citizens or residents of the United States. They argue instead that federal income taxes are excise taxes imposed only on nonresident aliens and foreign corporations for the privilege of receiving income from sources within the United States. The premise for this argument is a misreading of sections 861, et seq., and 911, et seq., as well as the regulations under those sections.
As stated above, for federal income tax purposes, "gross income" means all income from whatever source derived and includes compensation for services. I.R.C. § 61. Further, Treasury Regulation § 1.1-1(b) provides, "[i]n general, all citizens of the United States, wherever resident, and all resident alien individuals are liable to the income taxes imposed by the Code whether the income is received from sources within or without the United States." I.R.C. sections 861 and 911 define the sources of income (U.S. versus non-U.S. source income) for such purposes as the prevention of double taxation of income that is subject to tax by more than one country. These sections neither specify whether income is taxable, nor do they determine or define gross income. Further, these frivolous assertions are clearly contrary to well-established legal precedent. "Recently the IRS explained its position on the I.R.C. 861 argument in Rev. Rul. 2004-30 and on the I.R.C. 911 argument in Rev. Rul. 2004-28."
Relevant Case Law:
Williams v. Commissioner, 114 T.C. 136, 138 (2000) - The court rejected the taxpayer's argument that his income was not from any of the sources listed in Treas. Reg. § 1.861-8(a), characterizing it as "reminiscent of tax-protester rhetoric that has been universally rejected by this and other courts."
Aiello v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1995-40, 69 T.C.M. (CCH) 1765 (1995) - The court rejected the taxpayer's argument that the only sources of income for purposes of section 61 are listed in section 861.
Madge v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2000-370, 80 T.C.M. (CCH) 804 (2000) - The court labeled as "frivolous" the position that only foreign income is taxable.
Solomon v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1993-509, 66 T.C.M. (CCH) 1201, 1202 (1993) - The court rejected the taxpayer's argument that his income was exempt from tax by operation of sections 861 and 911, noting that he had no foreign income and that section 861 provides that "compensation for labor or personal services performed in the United States . . . are items of gross income."
Contention: Federal Reserve Notes are not income.
Some assert that Federal Reserve Notes currently used in the United States are not valid currency and cannot be taxed, because Federal Reserve Notes are not gold or silver and may not be exchanged for gold or silver. This argument misinterprets Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution.
Congress is empowered "[t]o coin Money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the Standard of weights and measures." U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, cl. 5. Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution prohibits the states from declaring as legal tender anything other than gold or silver, but does not limit Congress' power to declare the form of legal tender. See 31 U.S.C. § 5103; 12 U.S.C. § 411. In United States v. Rifen, 577 F.2d 1111 (8 th Cir. 1978), the court affirmed a conviction for willfully failing to file a return, rejecting the argument that Federal Reserve Notes are not subject to taxation. "Congress has declared Federal Reserve notes legal tender . . . and federal reserve notes are taxable dollars." Id. at 1112. The courts have rejected this argument on numerous occasions.
Relevant Case Law:
United States v. Rickman, 638 F.2d 182, 184 (10 th Cir. 1980) - The court affirmed the conviction for willfully failing to file a return and rejected the taxpayer's argument that "the Federal Reserve Notes in which he was paid were not lawful money within the meaning of Art. 1, § 8, United States Constitution."
United States v. Condo, 741 F.2d 238, 239 (9 th Cir. 1984) - The court upheld the taxpayer's criminal conviction, rejecting as "frivolous" the argument that Federal Reserve Notes are not valid currency, cannot be taxed, and are merely "debts."
United States v. Daly, 481 F.2d 28, 30 (8 th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1064 (1973) - The court rejected as "clearly frivolous" the assertion "that the only 'Legal Tender Dollars' are those which contain a mixture of gold and silver and that only those dollars may be constitutionally taxed" and affirmed Daly's conviction for willfully failing to file a return.
Jones v. Commissioner, 688 F.2d 17 (6 th Cir. 1982) - The court found the taxpayer's claim that his wages were paid in "depreciated bank notes" as clearly without merit and affirmed the Tax Court's imposition of an addition to tax for negligence or intentional disregard of rules and regulations.