The tax protest movement in this country began with the defeat of the French by the British in the French and Indian War in 1763. While they won the war, it also left them seriously in debt. The feeling in Britain at the time was that America should bear some of the cost of the presence of British troops in the American colonies.
The first of the inflammatory taxes was the Sugar Act in 1764, which taxed sugar, an important ingredient in the production of rum, and other items imported to America. Protests by the colonists forced Britain to reduce the tariffs. Shortly thereafter in 1765, the British passed the Stamp Act, which imposed taxes on all legal documents. It was out of the protest of the Stamp Act that the slogan” No taxation without representation ” emerged. Many colonies refused to import any goods from Britain until the act was repealed and in 1766 it was repealed by the British Parliament.
Shortly after our Constitution was adopted, the Whiskey Rebellion occurred. Many farmers in western Pennsylvania converted their excess grain into whiskey, which was easier to store and less susceptible to contamination. It was also easier to transport and more profitable. Seeing a chance to raise revenues, Congress enacted the whiskey tax in 1791. It was so unpopular that by 1794 that not only were they not paying the tax but were physically intimidating the tax collectors. When the local courts and militia refused his orders to restore order, Washington raised an army of 13,000 men and personally led them in putting down the rebellion.
The enactment of the Sixteenth Amendment received final ratification in February 1913. It states “The Congress shall have the power to lie and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”
It is unfathomable to me that given the seemingly explicit wording of the Sixteenth Amendment that people say that the income tax as we know it is unconstitutional. There are a variety of issues brought up by those who try to avoid the payment of their income taxes. One could spend years surfing the internet reading the balderdash published by the individuals running these websites. Many seemed to be tied in to the white supremacist movement, which tend to have an anti-government bias to start with. It’s interesting to note some of the arguments used in defense of their claims, such as violating the First, Fifth, Thirteenth, and Sixteenth amendments to the Constitution .Going over all these arguments would take too much time and space but we’ll look at a few. None have prevailed in any Federal Court and have landed many people in prison for income tax evasion along with payment of substantial fine and penalties.
Some people refuse to pay taxes on religious or moral grounds, and that paying taxes would violate their rights under the First Amendment. The courts have held many times that religious beliefs or disagreements with how money is spent doesn’t relieve a taxpayer from fulfilling his obligation to file and pay taxes.
Some people claim that the filing of taxes violates their right against self incrimination. The courts have held that there is no right to refuse filing a return on the grounds of self incrimination (United States v. Sullivan, 274 U.S. 259 (1927)). Sullivan’s conviction was upheld for failure to file a return, and stated that the Fifth Amendment does not give you the right to refuse to state your income.
Some contend the Federal Reserve System is unconstitutional because it taxes income not redeemable in gold or silver. The courts have held that Federal Reserve Notes are legal tender thus shooting down this argument.
There is also the position taken by some that bookkeeping, record keeping, and withholding by an employer are involuntary servitude and therefore in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. This argument also lost in court.
One of the more interesting arguments brought up by protesters is that the Sixteenth Amendment is unconstitutional, and was not legally ratified since Ohio was not properly a state at the time of ratification. The amendment was ratified by forty states, including Ohio, and shortly thereafter by two additional states. Since only three-fourths of the states need to ratify an amendment, there were still enough states without Ohio. Every case where this was raised has been decided in favor of the IRS.
Some people contend that payment of taxes are voluntary, and point to the instructions for Form 1040 where the IRS states that our system of taxation is voluntary. The wording as used in the instruction booklet and in case law refers to allowing taxpayers to voluntarily assess their tax and fill out the necessary forms, rather than the government doing it. Taxpayers are legally obligated to file all appropriate returns, as specified in the IRC.
Another intriguing argument is that the taxpayer has rejected citizenship in the United States in favor of state citizenship and therefore is not required to file or pay federal income taxes. The Fourteenth Amendment clearly states that “all 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.” Like all other frivolous claims, this one has also been repeatedly denied.
In deciding a due process case, the Supreme Court ruled in Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R., 240 U.S.1, 24(1916) “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 one hand a taxing power, and taking the same power away on the other by limitations of the due process clause.” Case law by the hundred over the years have upheld the constitutionality of the Sixteenth Amendment , the tax laws put in place as a result of it, and the Internal Revenue Service as the administrator of the tax system. But being a nation of lawyers and their litigious nature, there will always be someone trying to make a buck at the expense of the IRS and the American taxpayer.