Patriotism can be costly. The founders pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” when they voted for independence 239 years ago today. But not everyone is down for the “Fortunes” part.
A construction contractor in Florida leaned on patriotism to minimize taxes. The Tax Court takes up the story (citations omitted):
Petitioner became involved with certain organizations and individuals, such as the Patriot Network, We the People, and Richard Cornforth, that advocate tax avoidance and encourage actions to frustrate and delay the IRS’ collection efforts. He paid an annual fee to the Patriot Network for access to its Web site and for assistance with tax problems. Petitioner testified that he became convinced that Federal income taxes were “illegitimate” and that caselaw showed that individuals who had refused to pay taxes were prevailing in court.
That caselaw must be interesting. This sort of tax protest argument never actually works in avoiding taxes, though occasionally tax deniers can convince a jury that they actually believed this stuff enough to not be intentional tax criminals.
The taxpayer tried some legal incantations to help his patriotic cause:
On January 23, 2008, petitioner filed a notarized document entitled “Official Declaration of Domicile” with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Volusia County, Florida. The document stated that petitioner did not believe himself to be a U.S. citizen but was rather “One of the People”, a “Florida [S]tate Citizen”, a “Sovereign”, and a “Man upon the land”. Petitioner filed this document at the suggestion of one of the tax-avoidance organizations.
The “man upon the land” thing is a new one, to me. Unfortunately for our taxpayer, it didn’t work any better than the “One of the People” thing in Tax Court yesterday. He appears to have been a successful contractor, if the amount of taxes he was assessed is an indication, and the IRS probably noticed that there was no income being reported on the 1099s issued to him.
An examination got underway, and it went as well as you might expect, given the patriotic advice he was taking (my emphasis):
Revenue Agent Pritchard sent petitioner a letter dated April 24, 2009, stating that he had submitted Form 12153 prematurely, as no tax had been assessed yet. On May 6, 2009, Revenue Agent Pritchard sent petitioner a letter informing him that his arguments were frivolous and providing Code citations and IRS guidance pertaining to his filing requirements and respondent’s authority to impose and collect income tax. The letter specifically addressed promoters of tax-avoidance activities, stating: “These people base their arguments on legal statements taken out of context and on frivolous arguments that have been repeatedly rejected by [F]ederal courts.”
Nevertheless, at the suggestion of the aforementioned tax-avoidance organizations, petitioner continued to send letters to Revenue Agent Pritchard espousing similar arguments and often accompanied by Forms 12153. For example, with assistance from the Patriot Network, petitioner sent Revenue Agent Pritchard a letter dated May 13, 2009, threatening legal action against her and the United States. Petitioner also sent Revenue Agent Pritchard a letter dated July 14, 2009, “demanding that * * * [she] send * * * [him] a certified assessment of how * * * [she has] now came [sic] up with this alleged amount & the name of the person or persons preparing it”, and a letter dated October 23, 2009, and addressed to “Tax Collector” that requests a section 6320/6330 hearing and is accompanied by an attachment of materials that petitioner received from the Patriot Network
Lacking cooperation from the taxpayer, the IRS did things the hard way, backing into taxable income based on bank deposits and 1099s. The result was over $238,000 in taxes assessed over four years, plus interest and fraud penalties.
At some point after the taxpayer commenced Tax Court proceedings, lucidity overcame him:
Petitioner relied on the Patriot Network Web site during the early stages of this case. For example, petitioner followed the Patriot Network’s advice to file a request for admissions and a motion in limine to exclude from evidence the bank records that respondent had obtained. However, petitioner testified that he subsequently realized he had made foolish mistakes “in trying to follow other people” and that he was trying to fix those mistakes. He hired an accountant to file late returns for 2008-11, and he testified that he would no longer be paying the annual fee to the Patriot Network.
That probably helped him establish business deductions that the IRS might not have otherwise allowed, but it didn’t undo his prior patriotism:
We commend petitioner for adjusting his behavior during the pendency of this case and for his considerable work in reconstructing largely accurate and very helpful summaries of his business income and expenses for the years at issue. However, we cannot discount months of uncooperative behavior that gives insight into petitioner’s intent in not filing Federal tax returns. Petitioner’s failure to cooperate with respondent is persuasive circumstantial evidence of fraud.
So he kept his life and, perhaps, his honor, but he lost a fortune: $237,976 in fraud penalties on top of $328,000 in taxes and $57,000 in late payment penalties.
The Moral? If you follow the advice of “Patriot” outfits to not pay your taxes, you may be unwittingly pledging your fortune. Unlike the founders, though, you won’t win.
Gretchen Tegeler, Why priorities don’t get funded (IowaBiz.com):
One of the most significant “built-in” spending components affecting all state and local governments in Iowa is public pension debt. Our public pension systems guarantee retirees a monthly benefit for life, the size of which depends on how long they worked and at what salary. The system is built upon a financial model that involves a whole series of assumptions. If the assumptions don’t pan out, taxpayers are still on the hook to pay the benefits.
And the assumptions have not panned out.
Public defined benefit pensions are a lie. It is either a lie to the taxpayers about the cost of current services, a lie to the public employees about the size of their pensions, or some of both. A move to a defined contribution model, where benefits are limited to the amount funded, is long overdue.
Kay Bell, Tax record keeping rules and tips. Jeb Bush keeps his tax returns for at least 33 years. Should you?
Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Issue a 1099-C to a Deadbeat Client or Customer? Um, no.
Scott Greenberg, Gavin Ekins, Tax Policy Helped Create Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis (Tax Policy Blog). “While the United States federal tax code helped create the conditions for Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, the Puerto Rican tax code played a much more direct role in bringing the crisis to a head.”
Tracy Gordon, Puerto Rico: Not Your Father’s Debt Crisis – or Your Greek Uncle’s (TaxVox). “In a remarkable statement, Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced this week that Puerto Rico’s debts are ‘not payable.’ Nobody was really surprised.”
Cara Griffith, Texas Comptroller Improves Transparency of Administrative Decisions (Tax Analysts Blog)
Patrick J. Smith, The Implications for Tax Litigation of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Michigan v. EPA (Procedurally Taxing) “While it is probably the case that in many challenges to tax regulations, the cost of compliance with the regulation may not be a realistic basis for challenge, there is no principled reason why in appropriate cases, the cost of compliance with a tax regulation might not form part or all of the basis for challenge.”
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 784
No Tax Update tomorrow. Our office is closed for Independence Day. Enjoy the fireworks, but spare a thought for those who have fought for independence, including 10 men who never made it back to base from a mission 71 years ago Sunday.