A tax rebel: my saga for 15 years-1969 (25-26)

Inside the (my) world as a tax rebel

My saga as a tax rebel lasted 15 years, with a happy ending, believe it or not. I could say that I backed into being a “tax rebel,” since once I quit IBM and started working for myself there were no easy income records for the IRS to get as there were when IBM filed a “W-2 Wage and Tax Statement” letting them know what they had paid me and what portion had been deducted to help satisfy my tax obligations. Also, at that time, I had very bad habits of recording my income and expenses. Nothing was withheld and, except for an occasional 1099 form that a client might submit, the IRS had no record of my income.

Being a Libertarian "made me do it"

However, even those “excuses” would have not been enough if it hadn’t been for my Libertarian leanings that had me regard taxation as “legalized theft.” With my Libertarian connections I knew of a Libertarian subculture that practiced and promoted tax rebellion, not in the form of “cheating,” like many people did it, but by using the law, at least one interpretation of it, to refuse to pay income taxes. 

"I plead the Fifth"

It was probably for the year 1969 that I first filed the IRS 1040 form, along with similar income tax forms for the State of New York and New York City, using the “Fifth Amendment” argument against self-incrimination, which included, “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,...” The IRS and other taxing agencies can and do use information provided on tax forms to bring criminal charges against those who provide that information.

 

Why others don't know about this? 

So it seemed obvious to me that providing any such information on tax forms that could potentially be used in a criminal prosecution could only be compelled by those taxing agencies if they were willing to specify in writing in advance that no part of any such information provided could be used for possible future prosecution. Of course, no taxing agency would ever consider doing such a thing. They just want you to remain unaware that you had a right to plead "The Fifth" in protecting yourself against possible criminal prosecution by providing information on your tax forms.

Trying to quash a subpoena

I did provide my name and I think I even included my social security number when I file those tax forms each year. For all other requests for information, I entered “Fifth Amendment.” Understandably, the IRS does not like it when you do this. 

I knew a fellow don’t-tread-on-me Libertarian, maybe more anti-government than free-market, who was more knowledgeable in what do than I was. So I consulted with him a bit. At one point, I learned that the government (I forget which level it was, maybe the State of New York) had subpoenaed some payment records from the telephone company about the money I spent on my telephone service. I showed up in court to argue my case pro se against the subpoena. I lost.

Most Libertarians will frown upon what I was doing

By the way, if you’re not really familiar with the Libertarian movement, don’t assume that most Libertarians are like me in that they would seriously consider doing what I did in “standing up against the IRS.”

Special agents came to my door

Except for the subpoena, the three taxing agencies left me alone for several years. Then one day two special agents showed up at the doorstep of the house that I was renting in Glendale, New York (south Queens). They requested that I come to their office for a discussion. I agreed.

 

Chatting with the good-guy/bad-guy agents

I brought a tape recorder with me. I found it interesting that they played the good-guy/bad-guy routine. The meeting ended “good naturedly.” Later, when I shared the audio with my tax-rebel consultant, he was critical of me for showing my fear in my tone of voice.

Maybe I should check with the experts

After this encounter, I decided to check with some lawyers. I managed to make appointments with five different tax lawyers with offices in Manhattan, several of whom had switched sides from working for the IRS. I had to pay two of them $50 for the consultation, but the other three did it for free with the idea that it might get them a new client.

 

Experts are not necessarily experts

I laid out my situation with all five lawyers. Interestedly, they all gave significantly different advice yet, at the same time, all their recommendations amounted to capitulating. After getting five different sets of “expert” advice, I decided that I might as well keep doing what I was already doing. These “experts” just talked a good show, but each of the five different prescriptions showed that either four of them, but most probably all five, were speaking through their hat.