MLR

She just wants peace – is that frivolous?

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Can people let their conscience be their guide when it comes to paying their income taxes?

When is a penalty for a frivolous return (Internal Revenue Code Section 6702) applicable?

Here is what the IRS Office of Chief Counsel wrote to one of its examiners:

IRS Office of Chief Counsel Memorandum 20133303F (Aug. 16, 2013):

Application of Section 6702 Penalty to Taxpayer Who Files a Return with War Complaint

This memorandum responds to your request for advice regarding the application of the section 6702 penalty for frivolous tax submissions.

Background:

A taxpayer timely filed an income tax return listing all items of income and applicable deductions and credits. The taxpayer correctly calculated the tax due, but did not make a payment with the return. Instead, the taxpayer enclosed a letter describing a conscientious objection to the full payment of Federal income tax.

As a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the taxpayer opposes war and the support of war. The taxpayer enclosed a letter with her return explaining this position. In the letter, the taxpayer recited statistics to claim that a certain percentage of Federal income tax dollars supports the military. The taxpayer then used this percentage to calculate the amount of tax she is willing to pay; she “withheld” payment of the rest of the tax due.

Issues:

1. Does assessment of the section 6702 penalty against a taxpayer who presents a frivolous “conscientious objection” violate any constitutional provision or amendment?
2. Should the IRS assess a section 6702 penalty against a taxpayer who presents a frivolous “conscientious objection” in a letter enclosed with a complete and correct income tax return?

Conclusions:

1. No. a taxpayer does not have the right to reduce Federal income taxes reported on a return based on religious or moral beliefs.
2. No. The section 6702 penalty should not be assessed in this very limited situation. When the taxpayer timely files a correct and complete return, the section 6702 penalty should not be assessed based solely on the fact that the taxpayer enclosed a letter with the return explaining why the taxpayer is not paying the self-assessed tax due. If a penalty has been assessed, it should be abated.

Apparently, an explanatory letter – alone – doesn’t justify an IRS penalty.

“I wouldn’t mind paying taxes . . . if I knew they were going to a friendly country.” – Dick Gregory, comedian and writer