Each year, the IRS shows that it actually does have a sense of humor by releasing some of the most far-fetched excuses Americans come up with for not paying their taxes.
Here are five of the most outlandish arguments ever submitted, as compiled by efile.com. All of them have actually been argued in court and struck down:
1. The United States consists of only the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
Some contend that people are residents of the state where they live, which is sovereign. They say only those living in the District of Columbia, U.S. territories like Guam and Puerto Rico, federal enclaves like military bases and Native American reservations are residents of the United States.
Why it’s frivolous: The United States consists of 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, federal territories and federal enclaves. When the Constitution was ratified, it unified the states under a strong federal government, reserving some powers for the states and leaving some for the federal government. It in no way implies the sovereignty of any state. Several court cases, including United States v. Collins and Brushaber v. Union Pacific RR upheld this.
2. Federal Reserve notes are not income.
People who make this argument say that Federal Reserve notes (i.e., dollar bills) are not real currency because they cannot be exchanged for gold or silver. They claim Section 10 of the Constitution limits all legal currency exclusively to gold and silver.
Why it’s frivolous: Section 10 grants exclusive power to Congress and the federal government to create and regulate money, including gold and silver. But there is no limitation on declaring another form of legal tender. Therefore, Federal Reserve notes are considered income because they are a form of legal tender. Numerous court cases have upheld this notion, including United States v. Riffen.
3. Taxation is slavery and thus a violation of the 13th Amendment.
Because taxation is compulsory and not voluntary, some citizens claim that compulsory taxation is a form of slavery, and thus illegal. They cite the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States.
Why it’s frivolous: The courts have repeatedly ruled that taxation does not qualify as involuntary servitude or slavery as banned by the 13th Amendment.
4. Filing an income tax return is voluntary.
Some people claim that, because the 1040 Form instructions say that filling out the form is voluntary, they don’t have to do it. They also point to the 1960 Supreme Court case Florida v. United States, which said our “system of taxation is based upon voluntary assessment and payment, not upon distraint.” There have been multiple cases that involved this reason for not filing and paying taxes, including United States v. Tedder in 1986 and United States v. Gerrads in 1994.
Why it’s frivolous: It is true that both the Supreme Court case Florida v. United States and the IRS instruction manual use the word “voluntary.” However, this is used in reference to the ability of the taxpayer to calculate and file the appropriate returns instead of having the federal government determine the returns from the start. There is no mention of the income tax return being voluntary anywhere in the Internal Revenue Code.
5. Taxation is taking property, so it is a violation of the 5th Amendment.
Supporters of this claim assert that tax collection is taking of property without the due process of law, which is unconstitutional. They cite the 5th Amendment of the Constitution, which states that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Why it’s frivolous: The 5th Amendment does protect against unlawful seizure of property, but the Constitution itself grants the federal government the power to tax. Having the 5th Amendment prohibit taxation would create a contradiction. Therefore, taxation is not considered a violation of the 5th Amendment. Brushaber v. Union Pacific RR upheld this. In addition, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Internal Revenue Code in Phillips v. Commissioner in 1931.