Anti-tax law evasion schemes - Law and arguments (Section III)


The meaning of certain terms used in the Internal Revenue Code

Contention: Taxpayer is not a "citizen" of the United States, thus not subject to the federal income tax laws.

Some individuals argue that they have rejected citizenship in the United States in favor of state citizenship; therefore, they are relieved of their federal income tax obligations. A variation of this argument is that a person is a freeborn citizen of a particular state and thus was never a citizen of the United States. The underlying theme of these arguments is the same: the person is not a United States citizen and is not subject to federal tax laws because only United States citizens are subject to these laws.

The law: 

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution defines the basis for United States citizenship, stating, "[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.

Relevant case law:

O'Driscoll v. I.R.S., 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9829, at *5-6 (E.D. Pa. 1991) - The court stated, "despite [taxpayer's] linguistic gymnastics, he is a citizen of both the United States and Pennsylvania, and liable for federal taxes."

United States v. Sloan, 939 F.2d 499, 500 (7 th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1060, reh'g denied, 503 U.S. 953 (1992) - The court affirmed a tax evasion conviction and rejected Sloan's argument that the federal tax laws did not apply to him because he was a "freeborn, natural individual, a citizen of the State of Indiana, and a 'master' - not 'servant' - of his government."

United States v. Ward, 833 F.2d 1538, 1539 (11 th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 1022 (1988) - The court found Ward's contention that he was not an "individual" located within the jurisdiction of the United States to be "utterly without merit" and affirmed his conviction for tax evasion.

United States v. Sileven, 985 F.2d 962 (8 th Cir. 1993) - The court rejected the argument that the district court lacked jurisdiction because the taxpayer was not a federal citizen as "plainly frivolous."

United States v. Gerads, 999 F.2d 1255, 1256 (8 th Cir. 1993) - The court rejected the Gerads' contention that they were "not citizens of the United States, but rather 'Free Citizens of the Republic of Minnesota' and, consequently, not subject to taxation" and imposed sanctions "for bringing this frivolous appeal based on discredited, tax-protestor arguments."

Solomon v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1993-509, 66 T.C.M. (CCH) 1201, 1202-03 (1993) - The court rejected Solomon's argument that as an Illinois resident his income was from outside the United States, stating "[he] attempts to argue an absurd proposition, essentially that the State of Illinois is not part of the United States. His hope is that he will find some semantic technicality which will render him exempt from Federal income tax, which applies generally to all U.S. citizens and residents. [His] arguments are no more than stale tax protester contentions long dismissed summarily by this Court and all other courts which have heard such contentions."

Contention: The "United States" consists only of the District of Columbia, federal territories, and federal enclaves.

Some argue that the United States consists only of the District of Columbia, federal territories (e.g., Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.), and federal enclaves (e.g., American Indian reservations, military bases, etc.) and does not include the "sovereign" states. According to this argument, if a taxpayer does not live within the "United States," as so defined, he is not subject to the federal tax laws.

The law:

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. 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 the United States Supreme Court has recognized that the "Sixteenth Amendment authorizes a direct nonapportioned tax upon United States citizens throughout the nation, not just in federal enclaves. " The courts have uniformly rejected this frivolous contention.

Relevant case law:

In re Becraft, 885 F.2d 547, 549-50 (9 th Cir. 1989) - The court, observing that Becraft's claim that federal laws apply only to United States territories and the District of Columbia "has no semblance of merit," and noting that this attorney had previously litigated cases in the federal appeals courts that had "no reasonable possibility of success," imposed monetary damages and expressed the hope "that this assessment will deter Becraft from asking this and other federal courts to expend more time and resources on patently frivolous legal positions."

United States v. Ward, 833 F.2d 1538, 1539 (11 th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 1022 (1988) - The court rejected as a "twisted conclusion" the contention "that the United States has jurisdiction over only Washington, D.C., the federal enclaves within the states, and the territories and possessions of the United States," and affirmed a tax evasion conviction.

Barcroft v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1997-5, 73 T.C.M. (CCH) 1666, 1667, appeal dismissed, 134 F.3d 369 (5 th Cir. 1997) - Noting that Barcroft's statements "contain protester-type contentions that have been rejected by the courts as groundless," the court sustained penalties for failure to file returns and failure to pay estimated income taxes.

Contention: Taxpayer is not a "person" as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, and thus is not subject to the federal income tax laws.

Some maintain that they are not a "person" as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, and thus not subject to the federal income tax laws. This argument is based on a tortured misreading of the Code.

The law:

The Internal Revenue Code clearly defines "person" and sets forth which persons are subject to federal taxes. Section 7701(a)(14) defines "taxpayer" as any person subject to any internal revenue tax and section 7701(a)(1) defines "person" to include an individual, trust, estate, partnership, or corporation. Arguments that an individual is not a "person" within the meaning of the Internal Revenue Code have been uniformly rejected. A similar argument with respect to the term "individual" has also been rejected.

Relevant case law:

United States v. Karlin, 785 F.2d 90, 91 (3d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 907 (1987) - The court affirmed Karlin's conviction for failure to file income tax returns and rejected his contention that he was "not a 'person' within meaning of 26 U.S.C. § 7203" as "frivolous and requir[ing] no discussion."

United States v. Rhodes, 921 F. Supp. 261, 264 (M.D. Pa. 1996) - The court stated that "[a]n individual is a person under the Internal Revenue Code."

Biermann v. Commissioner, 769 F.2d 707, 708 (11 th Cir.), reh'g denied, 775 F.2d 304 (11 th Cir. 1985) - The court said the claim that Biermann was not "a person liable for taxes" was "patently frivolous" and, given the Tax Court's warning to Biermann that his positions would never be sustained in any court, awarded the government double costs, plus attorney's fees.

Smith v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2000-290, 80 T.C.M. (CCH) 377, 378-89 (2000) - The court described the argument that Smith "is not a 'person liable' for tax" as frivolous, sustained failure to file penalties, and imposed a penalty for maintaining "frivolous and groundless positions."

United States v. Studley, 783 F.2d 934, 937 n.3 (9 th Cir. 1986) - The court affirmed a failure to file conviction, rejecting the taxpayer's contention that she was not subject to federal tax laws because she was "an absolute, freeborn, and natural individual" and went on to note that "this argument has been consistently and thoroughly rejected by every branch of the government for decades."

Contention: The only "employees" subject to federal income tax are employees of the federal government.

Some argue that the federal government can tax only employees of the federal government; therefore, employees in the private sector are immune from federal income tax liability. This argument is based on an apparent misinterpretation of section 3401, which imposes responsibilities to withhold tax from "wages." That section establishes the general rule that "wages" include all remuneration for services performed by an employee for his employer. Section 3401(c) goes on to state that the term "employee" includes "an officer, employee, or elected official of the United States, a State, or any political subdivision thereof".

The law:

Section 3401(c) defines "employee" and states that the term "includes an officer, employee or elected official of the United States." This language does not address how other employees' wages are subject to withholding or taxation.  Section 7701(c) states that the use of the word "includes" "shall not be deemed to exclude other things otherwise within the meaning of the term defined." Thus, the word "includes" as used in the definition of "employee" is a term of enlargement, not of limitation. It clearly makes federal employees and officials a part of the definition of "employee", which generally includes private citizens.

Relevant case law:

United States v. Latham, 754 F.2d 747, 750 (7 th Cir. 1985) - Calling the instructions Latham wanted given to the jury "inane," the court said, "[the] instruction which indicated that under 26 U.S.C. § 3401(c) the category of 'employee' does not include privately employed wage earners is a preposterous reading of the statute. It is obvious within the context of [the law] the word 'includes' is a term of enlargement not of limitation, and the reference to certain entities or categories is not intended to exclude all others."

Sullivan v. United States, 788 F.2d 813, 815 (1 st Cir. 1986) - The court rejected Sullivan's attempt to recover a civil penalty for filing a frivolous return, stating "to the extent [he] argues that he received no 'wages' . . . because he was not an 'employee' within the meaning of 26 U.S.C. § 3401(c), that contention is meritless. . . . The statute does not purport to limit withholding to the persons listed therein." The court imposed sanctions on Sullivan for bringing a frivolous appeal.

Peth v. Breitzmann, 611 F. Supp. 50, 53 (E.D. Wis. 1985) - The court rejected the taxpayer's argument "that he is not an 'employee' under I.R.C. § 3401(c) because he is not a federal officer, employee, elected official, or corporate officer," stating, "[he] mistakenly assumes that this definition of 'employee' excludes all other wage earners."

Pabon v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1994-476, 68 T.C.M. (CCH) 813, 816 (1994) - The court characterized Pabon's position - including that she was not subject to tax because she was not an employee of the federal or state governments - as "nothing but tax protester rhetoric and legalistic gibberish." The court imposed a penalty of $2,500 on Pabon for bringing a frivolous case, stating that she "regards this case as a vehicle to protest the tax laws of this country and espouse her own misguided views."

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