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Legal Theories for Refusing to Pay Income Tax

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Legal Theories for Refusing to Pay Income Tax

The power of the government to tax was set forth in Article I of the Constitution: "Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes." Then, the 16th Amendment in 1913 gave the government the specific power to collect income taxe

Many people feel that their tax bill is an unfair burden placed on them by the government. However, not paying your taxes is a crime called tax evasion and you must pay your taxes. However, as an income tax lawyer will tell you, there are some ways that you can make sure you are taking the proper deductions and planning ahead so that you do not unintentionally increase your tax bill.

Here are some theories on which people refuse to pay income tax:

1. The 861 Position: Some people argue that Section 861 of the Internal Revenue Code does not list "wages" as taxable. The IRS responds that "compensation for services," which is listed, is the definition of "wages."

2. Payment is Voluntary: Another theory is that the payment of taxes is "voluntary," as the word was used in the Supreme Court case Flora v. U.S. The IRS explains, however, that the word "voluntary" means that the taxpayer has the right to pay her own taxes (and thus take an aggressive interpretation of tax law), instead of the government imposing their own tax calculations on citizens.

3. Not Taxable Income: There is an argument that wages, tips, and other compensation received for personal services is not "income," because there is no taxable gain when a person exchanges labor for money. The IRS responds that the Internal Revenue Code Section 61 and famous cases such as Glenshaw Glass emphasize the broad range of "gross income."

4. Violation of the 5th Amendment: Then there’s the argument that filling out a tax return violates the 5th Amendment self-incrimination clause. However, while the self-incrimination privilege protects the taxpayer from revealing an illegal source of income, it does not protect her from disclosing the amount of that income.

5. Involuntary Servitude: Taxation is a form of involuntary servitude which is prohibited by the 13th Amendment. However, the Congress defines "involuntary servitude" as being forced to work against one’s will. No one in the United States is forced to work.

Again, none of these theories has allowed someone to avoid paying their taxes and when tax season comes around, you should not try to use one of these excuses either.

Do I Need to Contact an Attorney?

If you have not properly paid your taxes (including paying too much), a tax attorney will be able to help you figure out the best way to resolve your tax issues so that you are properly paying your taxes in the future.

Photo of page author Rachel Wenzel

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 12-06-2013 10:36 AM PST

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