Excuses, Excuses


So-called "tax protestors" have dreamed up dozens of excuses for not paying the taxes the rest of us grumble about. They argue that the Sixteenth Amendment, which authorizes the government to levy an income tax without apportionment among the states, was never "properly ratified." They accuse the "alleged" Internal Revenue Service of being a massive premeditated conspiracy to defraud U.S. citizens. Some groups assert that the gold tassels around the American flags that stand in many federal courts are a "mutilation," rendering them "courts of admiralty" with no proper jurisdiction. Still others contend that taxpayers aren't required to file a federal tax return because the instructions associated with Form 1040 don't display an OMB control number as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act.  

Well, the IRS has heard it all. They've published a web page identifying 40 Frivolous Positions for Taxpayers to Avoid. They've warned taxpayers about a $5,000 penalty for using any of these arguments in a return. They've even pointed out that courts sometimes don't even bother refuting the frivolous claims anymore. But now Charles Adams, whom the First Circuit Court of Appeals described as "an unabashed opponent of the tax laws," has come up with a new argument to avoid facing the music. Think he'll fare any better?  

Adams and his various co-conspirators are affiliated with a protest group called Save-a-Patriot. They ran a payroll service that helped client companies pay their employees "under the table" so they could hide their income from the IRS. On March 19, 2004, a federal magistrate issued a warrant to search Adams's home in Wrentham, Massachusetts. Four days later, armed agents executed that warrant and seized evidence. Prosecutors eventually used that evidence to convict Adams of tax evasion. District Court Judge Dennis Saylor IV sentenced Adams to four years in in prison, and Adams appealed to the First Circuit.  

Sounds straightforward enough, right? Well, here's the problem. Internal Revenue Code Section 7608(a)(1), which gives revenue enforcement officers their power, explicitly authorizes agents enforcing laws pertaining to alcohol, tobacco, and firearms to carry guns. Section 7608(b), which deals with all other tax laws, does not. The agents who searched Adams's home were packing heat. Therefore — at least according to Adams — the search was unlawful and the evidence they found should be suppressed. Not buying it? Neither did the First Circuit. The three-judge panel said "whatever intrusion may have occurred was not of constitutional dimension." They dismissed Adams's arguments as "futile" and "unavailing," and concluded, "without serious question, that the district court did not blunder in refusing to grant the defendant's motion to suppress." Even Adams's own lawyer acknowledged that his "convoluted ideas and beliefs seem far-fetched."  

It's easy to laugh at protesters like Charles Adams. Their theories are clever and entertaining. But their refusal to pay their share of the tax bill leaves the rest of us holding the bag.