Every year, the IRS releases a list of frivolous arguments made by groups and individuals claiming that taxes are unconstitutional. The arguments are first grouped into various categories, briefly explained, then offered reasons that reject the claims. There is also a segment that details the potential penalties imposed by the court for making tax cases on frivolous grounds.
A quick skim of the The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments document proves to be quite fascinating. As the IRS is the official revenue service of the United States federal government, they of course will be proponents of taxation. As such, this document takes the time to debunk all contentions against imposing taxes and, of course, does not miss the opportunity to explain and – perhaps – subtly warn those of the repercussions of frivolous tax cases in the future. Here’s a quick dive into five unsuccessful yet thought-provoking and even absurd arguments against income taxes.
#1. Filing a Tax Return is Voluntary
There are some that claim that filing a tax is voluntary due to their interpretation of the IRS’s statements. This argument is specifically based off of the 1040 Form instructions stating that the form is voluntary. They back their argument as they allude to the Supreme Court Case Florida vs. United States by stating that “system of taxation is based upon voluntary assessment and payment, not upon distraint”. This claim has been brought to court on many occasions and has been shot down each time.
IRS Explanation of Frivolity: The word “voluntary” was indeed said, however the contenders use this quote out of context. This was used in reference to the ability of the taxpayer to decide their own returns instead of having the federal government do so for them. There is no mention of income taxes as ever being voluntary within the tax code.
#2. Taxation is Taking Property
Another claim is that taxation ultimately claims property unlawfully from people, which would be a violation of the Fifth Amendment (no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”)
IRS Explanation of Frivolity: While it is true that the Fifth Amendment does protect against the unlawful seizure of property, the Constitution grants the federal government the ability to tax. With the Fifth Amendment prohibiting tax, there would be a contradiction and therefore is not considered a violation of the amendment.
#3. Federal Reserve Notes Are Not Types of Income
Those that support this argument claim that Federal Reserve notes, also known as dollar bills, are not true currency because they cannot be exchanged for silver or gold. Article 1 Section 10 of the Constitution allows the government to create and regulate money. In tandem with this section of the Constitution, they claim that only real types of currency are gold and silver, and thus Federal Reserve notes cannot be regulated.
IRS Explanation of Frivolity: This section of the Constitution does not limit the government’s ability to label another type of exchange to be legitimate currency. Bills are indeed considered income because they are a form of legal tender.
#4. Taxation is Slavery
Taxation is obligatory and not voluntary. Some people claim that the mandatory taxes are a form of slavery, and therefore illegal. The Thirteenth Amendment is cited to support this claim.
IRS Explanation of Frivolity: The courts have continually ruled that taxation is not a form of involuntary servitude banned by the Thirteenth Amendment.
#5. The US Consists of Only D.C. and US Territories
Some claim that the United States is only comprised of the District of Columbia, territories (Puerto Richo, Guam, etc.), and other islands (islands within the Pacific, Caribbean, etc.). According to these people, anyone outside of these areas is not a resident of the United States and, as such, are not subject to taxation by the Federal Government of the United States.
IRS Explanation of Frivolity: When the Constitution was ratified in 1787, the states were unified under the federal government, reserving some powers for the states and some for the government. This is no way implied that the states themselves are sovereign. This contention was debunked by the Sixteenth Amendment which states that the federal government has the power to tax anywhere within their federal territory, including the 50 states.