Back in January New Hampshire residents Ed and Elaine Brown were convicted of tax evasion for failing to pay any income taxes from 1996 to 2003- despite having an average of about $240,000 income per year during that period. Their argument? That no law exists requiring individuals to pay income tax. The Sixteenth Amendment was not ratified correctly; the law enacting the income tax was illegal; but mostly, there was no additional law requiring any person to actually pay the enacted income tax. Since the IRS refused to provide reference to the law requiring payment of income tax, the Browns claimed, they were not liable to pay it.
Well, last point first: the IRS has a 64-page document debunking all tax-protest claims in very clear terms here.
As for specific statutes:
Except as otherwise provided in this subtitle, gross income means all income from whatever source derived, including (but not limited to) the following items:
- Compensation for services, including fees, commissions, fringe benefits, and similar items;
- Gross income derived from business;
- Gains derived from dealings in property;
- Alimony and separate maintenance payments;
- Income from life insurance and endowment contracts;
- Income from discharge of indebtedness;
- Distributive share of partnership gross income;
- Income in respect of a decedent; and
- Income from an interest in an estate or trust.
--- U. S. Code of Law, Title 26, § 61
When required by regulations prescribed by the Secretary [of the Treasury] any person made liable for any tax imposed by this title, or with respect to the collection thereof, shall make a return or statement according to the forms and regulations prescribed by the Secretary. Every person required to make a return or statement shall include therein the information required by such forms or regulations. [In other words, IRS regulations not enacted by Congress still have the force of law, and are binding on all persons.]
--- U. S. Code of Law, Title 26, § 6011(a)
If that's not good enough, Section 6012 (which you can read for yourself here) goes into detail on who must file and who is exempt. (Hint: the second category is much smaller than the first.)
As for the most basic argument, that Amendment XVI was never properly ratified... the Wikipedia article on the subject makes it pretty clear that errors of punctuation or capitalization are not sufficient cause to reject ratification by a state. And as for Ohio not really being a state (having been admitted to the Union improperly) and thus being ineligible to ratify... that ignores the fact that other states ratified Amendment XVI after Frank Knox declared the amendment in force a hundred years ago.
And the final, killer argument: if the courts did something they've NEVER done, despite literally HUNDREDS of prosecutions and lawsuits involving tax protesters, and overturned the federal income tax... exactly how long do you think it would take Congress and the states to MAKE the income tax legal?
Answer: not long at all, not when two-thirds of the national government's income comes from the income tax or associated payroll taxes.
So- that disposes of Ed and Elaine Brown's legal standing. When it became apparent that the case was going against them, Ed quit coming to the court hearings, and Elaine destroyed the ankle-cuff tracker that was a condition of her bail. When the verdict came out, they holed up in their home- a structure with surrounding property for which the term "compound" is quite accurate- and threatened to kill any and all law enforcement officers who would try to take them in. A loose siege began in early June, with two incidents where SWAT teams closed in on the compound, only to back off when their presence was reported to the public (and, thus, to the Browns).
If that wasn't daffy enough, they tried to file an order in the courts to dismiss the case- representing themselves as court and judge, and calling themselves "Edward, a Living Soul in the Body of the Lord, of the House of Israel," and "Elaine, a Living Soul in the Body of the Lord, of the House of Israel."
He went on to reject the county property tax bill sent to his home, claiming:
"Nay! Nay! The land . . . at 401 Center of Town Road, Plainfield, New Hampshire, and all that is in and upon it, including the Lords bodies, are in the kingdom of heaven, belonging to the Lord, have been claimed by him, and thus can be claimed by no man, nor can any man have beneficial interest in it . . . Stand down and away from the Lords land and the bodies of the Lord. So it is written. So it is done."
The Browns's defiance of federal and state tax laws drew a lot of supporters from Libertarian circles- most notably a blogger I've referred to here before, Michael Hampton. Some of these supporters backed off once they met Ed Brown or heard some of his *ahem* inspiring rhetoric:
"This is the beginning of one very huge movement. I'm not quite sure you understand the ramifications of what's going on right now. This is massive. This is international. We are fed up with the Zionist Illuminati. That's what this is all about. Loud and clear. Zionist Illuminati. Lawyers, whatever they are, okay, it's going to stop. And if the judge is a member of that, I know that McAuliffe [the Federal judge in Brown's tax case] is, I know that U.S. Attorney Colantuono is, they'd better stop. This is a warning. You can do whatever you want to me. My job is to get the message out, and I'm getting the message out, and I'm warning you guys - not you guys [referring to the radio show hosts], them - to cease and desist their unlawful activity in this country and every other country because once this thing starts, we're going to seek them out and hunt them down. And we're going to bring them to justice. So anybody wishes to join them, you go right ahead and join them. But I promise you, long after I'm gone, they're going to seek out every one of you and your bloodline."
. . .
If federal agents storm Brown's property, he and his supporters will come out shooting. Brown said yesterday [August 9th] that if those agents kill him or his wife, Elaine, his supporters will systematically find and kill Plainfield Police Chief Gordon Gillens, Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Prozzo and others Brown says are sworn to protect him.
Oh, yes. Show the high ground by threatening the lives of the families of law enforcement officers. Show your superior morality by promising vengeance against law enforcement officers who aren't even involved in the case.
To put the icing on the cake, Brown revealed he was an anti-Semite and a conspiracy theorist:
"We're not conspiracy theorists. We deal with conspiracy facts. Freemasonry and Judaism -- that is the truth. That is the fact. That is where all the world's problems come from . . . I know for a fact that they're working together."
This obvious insanity drove off some of Brown's supporters, but he personally ejected others who disagreed with him, including a leader of the Free State Project who opposes the income tax but also opposes violent revolution- a cause Brown advocates. This didn't concern Brown, who felt that (a) God was on his side, and (b) there were always new supporters to replace the old ones.
This revolving-door mentality was what allowed the United States Marshals to capture the Browns, a week ago yesterday, while I was on the road to South Padre Island, TX. on business. Over the course of weeks a marshal went undercover, posing as a supporter of the Browns, and gained access privileges to the Brown home. Finally conditions became right on October 4, and the marshal handcuffed the Browns in their own home and led them out into the waiting arms of the law they defied for over half a year.
Subsequent searches of the Brown compound proved Ed Brown's rhetoric of violence and bloodshed was no bluff. In addition to a large cache of firearms, investigators found a large number of homemade bombs and booby-traps laid around the perimeter. Manufacturing explosives without a license is a federal crime; laying lethal traps for humans is a state crime in New Hampshire. The Browns are highly unlikely to ever see the outside of a prison again for the rest of their lives, except when they are tried for these crimes.
So, what is the net result of the Brown siege? All the laws the Browns claimed don't exist still exist and remain in force. The anti-tax movement has had months with a certifiable lunatic as their most visible spokesperson, and in the process its leaders have said a great many things they can't retract in support of a violent revolutionary... a violent and well-off revolutionary. Despite the fact that Ed Brown was not a member of the Free State Project, he is perceived as such by the media and the residents of New Hampshire, discrediting that organization likely for good.
And prominent among the supporters of Ed Brown, of course, were vocal members of the Libertarian Party, which must also find some way to wash Brown's slime off a reputation already rather stained from involvement with other self-serving or insane tax protesters and conspiracy theorists.
Friends, there's a good case to be made for abolishing the income tax and replacing it with something less unjust. There might even be a case for not replacing it at all, although by and large I don't think that will sell with most of the country, who like having an army and navy, a public highway system, a federal court system to protect individuals from government overreach, etc.
Ed and Elaine Brown, for undermining those arguments and for encouraging the anti-tax movement to associate with nuts, and thereby LOOK like nuts themselves... this week's, possibly this YEAR'S, Corn Flakes!