Saturday, February 20, 2010

tax protest movement

ADL | The tax protest movement is a relatively long-lived anti-government movement rising out of opposition to federal income taxes. Tax protesters generally believe that either the income tax laws are in some way invalid or that they do not apply to most citizens; therefore, they believe they have a legal and moral right not to pay taxes. Many tax protesters suspect that the government covers up the "truth" about the income tax in order to continue oppressing the people and taking their money. Tax protesters engage in a wide variety of tax evasion strategies that range from simple refusal to pay taxes to complicated schemes using onshore and offshore trusts in order to hide income from the government. Tax protesters are also violent on occasion, attacking IRS agents or property or others charged with enforcing the law.
The other tax protest movement to emerge in the second half of the 20th century had a very different history. It was an extreme right-wing movement that had its origins in longstanding conservative opposition to the income tax, which was ratified as the 16th Amendment in 1913. Conservatives objected to the progressive nature of the tax, the loss of personal income, and, later, the intrusive nature of the withholding process. Some pointed out that a "heavy progressive or graduated income tax" was one plank in Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.

Early opposition in the postwar era was relatively mild and consisted in large part of various campaigns to repeal the 16th Amendment. Of these, the most important were attempts to pass the so-called "Liberty Amendment." First introduced in Congress in 1952, it essentially tried to strengthen states' rights. However, in 1957 Congressman Elmer Hoffman of Illinois introduced a revised version of the Liberty Amendment that included a section mandating the abolition of income, estate and gift taxes. In this form, the amendment garnered considerable support among extreme right-wing conservatives as well as the budding libertarian movement.

In the late 1950s, Willis Stone became national chairman of the Liberty Amendment Committee and tried to raise support for the proposed amendment through a book, Action for Americans. Stone and the Committee were able to persuade several state legislatures (eventually nine) to request that Congress send the amendment to the states for ratification, but this fell far short of the requirements for a constitutional amendment. Since then, far-right conservatives have repeatedly tried to reintroduce the Liberty Amendment in Congress -- most recently by Congressman Ron Paul of Texas in 1998 -- but without any success. Given the costs of the Cold War and the simultaneous expansion of government services in the 1950s and 1960s, it is not surprising that Stone and the Liberty Amendment Committee had little chance of success.
Origins: 1950s
Background: An anti-government movement that believes that income taxes are illegitimate
Ideology: Anti-government, some white supremacist elements
Outreach: Books, manuals, seminars, radio shows, Web sites
Favorite arguments: Filing tax returns violates Fifth Amendment rights; the Sixteenth Amendment was never properly ratified; wages are not income; income taxes are voluntary; income taxes apply only to residents of Washington, D.C., and certain other limited areas
Criminal activity: Overall level of criminal activity is high, consisting mostly of attempts at tax evasion. Some tax protesters have engaged in large-scale scams and frauds. Violent incidents are also well-documented.