Talk:Tax protester/Request for comment

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Note: As this Request for comment was opened for public comment at 16:32, 23 January 2008, I plan to hold it open for comment until 16:32, 6 February 2008. bd2412 T


Request for comment[edit]

This is a Request for Comment with respect to edits made to a variety of articles by persons generally espousing tax protester theories. The articles at issue include:

Each has a lengthy history of attempts to claim that certain assertions are legally correct, when in fact those assertions have universally been deemed legally incorrect by the U.S. judicial and executive branches for as long as they have been put forward.

Several of these have repeatedly been subject to enormous text dumps of materials cut and pasted from tax protester sites, making blatantly legally incorrect claims about the meaning of specific cases or of specific terms used in statutes. External links have repeatedly been removed that would take the user to sites that say little more than "you don't have to pay taxes; buy my book/buy my CD's/buy a ticket to my seminar to find out how". The articles have repeatedly been corrected from changes asserting that it has been "proven" that income earners are not obliged to file their taxes, although the reasons given in support of this "proof" have universally been rejected by the courts.

See also Talk:Tax protester/Request for comment - examples.

Relief requested[edit]

I would like a determination that:

  1. The above mentioned articles correctly characterize the state of the law, based on numerous verifiable sources;
  2. These articles are presented from a neutral point of view, in that all negative characterizations of tax protesters are merely concisely reporting the actual opinion of tax protesters expressed by United States federal courts, and other branches of the United States government;
  3. Any tax protester rhetoric added to these articles should be reverted on sight; and
  4. Addition of POV tags to any of these should be reverted on sight unless the editor provides on the talk page specific examples of article content which constitute a bias.

Why this is important[edit]

The basic premise of the tax protester movement is that, based on some legal formulation or another, the income tax is unenforceable and income earners can therefore get away with not paying taxes. In support of this claim, tax protesters quote (or misquote) language from various statutes, cases, and other legal documents, and provide an interpretation of those documents that justifies their position.

Some of these arguments might sound reasonable to the lay person, but all are based on the misinterpretation and mischaracterization of the authorities on which they rely - and in some instances outright false claims about the language of court opinions. These theories have therefore been uniformly rejected by the courts in which they have been raised, and many United States Courts of Appeals have issued blanket statements repudiating tax protester arguments, such as the Seventh Circuit's statement in of United States v. Buckner, 830 F.2d 102 (7th Cir. 1987):

For the record, we note that the following beliefs, which are stock arguments of the tax protester movement, have not been, nor ever will be, considered "objectively reasonable" in this circuit:
(1) the belief that the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was improperly ratified and therefore never came into being;
(2) the belief that the Sixteenth Amendment is unconstitutional generally;
(3) the belief that the income tax violates the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment;
(4) the belief that the tax laws are unconstitutional;
(5) the belief that wages are not income and therefore are not subject to federal income tax laws;
(6) the belief that filing a tax return violates the privilege against self-incrimination; and
(7) the belief that Federal Reserve Notes do not constitute cash or income.

A person who believed such theories and failed to pay their income tax on that basis would face stiff civil and perhaps criminal penalties. The standard retort of tax protesters is that this is just part of the massive conspiracy between Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Federal Courts to continue collecting taxes which those parties know to be illegal or unconstitutional. Some tax protesters go so far as to insist that courts have no power over them because court documents print their names in all capital letters, and are therefore referring to a different person. Nevertheless, even if all that were true, the persons relying on the theories would suffer the penalties described.

Comment[edit]

  1. Support. I agree with and support this proposal. This whole topic has been beaten to death over the past two years. The articles as they now stand are in very good shape, in my opinion. (In the interest of full disclosure, I contributed much to these articles, so I might of course be biased.)

    The true test is how well these articles have been able to withstand the chronic onslaughts of tax protesters and individuals who are sympathetic to tax protesters. Wikipedia editors have done a great job on these articles to enforce Verifiability, Neutral Point of View, and No Original Research -- while still allowing these extreme fringe, minority ideas to be vented here in Wikipedia. Wikipedia editors have done a great job of patiently explaining to tax protesters (virtually all of which are newcomers who attack the articles and then leave due to lack of success) how the Wikipedia policies and guidelines apply.

    However, at this point it is well settled (1) that tax protester arguments have no legal merit or basis whatsoever, (2) that tax protester arguments are legally frivolous (as repeatedly ruled by the courts), and (3) that using tax protester arguments on Federal income tax returns may result in criminal prosecutions and substantial civil monetary penalties (and in fact Congress recently amended the Internal Revenue Code to substantially increase the penalties). I have studied the sporadic attempts by protesters to convert these articles to soapboxes for these theories, and I have come to the conclusion that protesters are able to come up with nothing new -- nothing that has not already been comprehensively dealt with by the courts and in most cases on the talk pages for these articles as well.

    I support the proposal. Yours, Famspear (talk) 15:37, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
  2. Support. I also agree with and support this proposal. Of the tax articles I've monitored, tax protester articles seem to get the bulk of trolling activity. While it may not reduce the huge amount of time wasted by good editors dealing with nonsense discussions, pointing out policy, etc, it should at least keep the articles relatively clean while doing so. Morphh (talk) 18:29, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
  3. Support - as a member of the Trilateral Commission.... j/k This is a wise resolution. MilesAgain (talk) 18:49, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
  4. Support. I'm seeing some other articles with significant trolling; perhaps Morphh isn't monitoring 9/11 Conspiracy Theories or Alternative medicine articles, but these certainly have their share of trolling. Have all the relevant articles been tagged with a pointer to this page? — Arthur Rubin | (talk) 20:01, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
  5. Support - At most, the above cited articles (e.g., Sixteenth Amendment) should have a link to where more information on tax protesters can be found. Other than that, those articles should not refer to any of those kook theories. --SMP0328. (talk) 20:17, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
  6. Support with reservations - In an article about Tax Protester Theory, the arguments of the tax protesters themselves, in their own words, should be stated without bias. The opposing view can be stated and even cited to court cases on the specific issues. Tax Protester weblinks are relevant to the article since it is about themselves. We should carefully consider which sites might be of higher quality (stop laughing). We should avoid any wiki-created language that denigrates the theory which is not supported by verifiable and Reliable sources. It is possible to go too far in the other direction. Wjhonson (talk) 21:00, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
  7. Support. Debating the tax protestors on the mainstream tax articles is a tremendous waste of wiki editor resources and, for as long as the erroneous information posted by them remains unreverted, drags down the quality of the articles. When reverting on sight, however, some consideration should be given to new editors by pointing them in the direction of this discussion. -- DS1953 talk 23:13, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
  8. Strong Support. The theories advanced by these people are utterly meritless as a matter of law, and the relief requested is a sound manner in which to deal with them. --Eastlaw (talk) 02:31, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
  9. Support As a federal judge once said to a tax protester who claimed that the courtroom flag's yellow fringe meant the judge was an admiralty judge who could only decide naval cases, "That's OK. I'll pretend you're a boat." Agree tax protester arguments are appropriately mentioned on articles about those arguments, but not on articles on tax law etc. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 02:44, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
  10. Support. I have every confidence that Famspear and others have and will continue to write about the tax protestor arguments in an NPOV way. i.e. present them as existing, but having no legal support and that they are an extreme fringe view. Those that continue the spurious arguments and disrupt Wikipedia by continuing to paste said aruments into articles should be warned nicely that they are violating Wikipedia policies, asked to stop, and informed that they can be blocked for disruption if they fail to substantiate their opinions properly. Luckily Famspear and others have the ability to verify correct legal citations. I would note that the rest of us are however not qualified to state as in relief #1 that the articles represent legally correct arguments. The relief doesn't mean much anyway since the article, if changed by a protestor, would no longer be correct. Besides, it's not needed if the rest are there. - Taxman Talk 15:17, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

A neutral, independent party[edit]

Since this issue is going to be prone to suspicions of bias, let me say upfront where I stand on this issue, even though my personal opinion is entirely irrelevant. If you don't particularly care about my opinion (which you shouldn't, if you're a good editor who is capable of listening to reason and assuming good faith), please just skip this part.

(IRRELEVANT OPINION STARTS HERE)

  • The arguments for and against tax protesting both have some merit
  • Taxation isn't "slavery" because there isn't 100% loss of the fruit of one's labor, it isn't taken away arbitrarily (it's done democratically), you have some tiny degree of control over it, and slavery is defined by more than just "the loss of the fruit of one's labor." It's specifically defined as "the ownership of a person." It's impossible to own a person. The claim that taxation is "indirect ownership" of a person seems spurious. Basically, calling taxation theft or slavery comes down to say, "Well, it's KIND OF like theft.. And it's like HALF-slavery that's indirect." That seems pretty odd.
  • Even if taxation is not theft or slavery, it totally sucks and it pisses me off that the government wastes it on so much garbage like the Iraq war, the drug war, the FDA, faith-based initiatives, and so much bullshit that I've recently come to support voluntary taxation, even though I'm not a Libertarian. In fact, I think Libertarians are silly.
  • Simply abolishing taxation would lead to total chaos because of the free rider problem
  • An idea of mine: Making the government a public corporation where taxation is a "voluntary investment," and it just might work, making taxes voluntary while also eliminating the conflict-of-interest created by campaign financing.
  • Tax-protesters' actual legal arguments are generally spurious.

(IRRELEVANT OPINION ENDS HERE)

Now, with that said, here's the relevant points:

Wikipedia's policy is verifiability, not truth. Wikipedia articles should NOT give legal advice even if it's something benign like, "You should pay your taxes." In accordance with WP:NPOV and WP:FRINGE, tax protesters' arguments should be noted, but they should not be given "undue weight," and it should be made very, very clear how they're thrown out of court virtually every time they're used (with a few notable exceptions). If that's how the articles are, then that's good. If not, then it's bad.   Zenwhat (talk) 07:05, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

I think you will be pleased, then, that the focus of this RfC is preventing the spurious legal arguments of tax protesters from being presented as fact. I would like to clarify, though, that tax protester arguments are thrown out of court not just "virtually every time", but every single time. There are no exceptions. No tax protester has ever succeeded in "proving" that there is no obligation to pay income tax. What you might be thinking of as exceptions are the few occasions where courts have found tax protesters to be ignorant of the law, and thus not willfully committing a crime. However, even where people are acquitted of criminal behavior, this is not because the court has found the lack of a law requiring payment of taxes, and those persons have still been required to pay the taxes owed, with substantial fees and penalties added on. Cheers! bd2412 T 09:21, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
Well, there was one magistrate who ruled that (state, I believe) income tax was invalid, based on tax protester arguments. But his ruling was legally void (out of the jurisdiction of his court), and so noted on review. So it's not quite correct to say "every single time" without some clarification. — Arthur Rubin | (talk) 15:45, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
I think the articles fairly universally refer to federal income taxes. Of course, one could be a "tax protester" with respect to a state tax (raising a frivolous or conspiratorial argument against such a tax), but the reasons why a state tax (income or otherwise) may be invalid are substantially broader than the reasons why a federal income tax might be, as the state tax must conform to both state and federal restrictions, while the federal tax is plenary over state law. bd2412 T 17:27, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

As BD2412 has noted, the term "tax protester" as used in the articles is expressly specific to U.S. Federal taxes. In fact, the term is pretty much specific to Federal income tax (not really other Federal taxes, and certainly not any state tax). When we say "no tax protester argument has ever been upheld," we are indeed referring to the term "tax protester" as the term is used in the Wikipedia articles and in the cited Federal court cases. A ruling on a state tax somewhere would not be an "exception," any more than an acquittal of a tax protester in a Federal criminal tax case would be an exception. Famspear (talk) 18:28, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Arthur Rubin, I remember a tax protester in the news a while back actually winning his case against a state's tax laws on a technicality. It was something along the lines of, he had been asking to be paid in gold or something like that and the state's law only consider U.S. dollars to be "taxable income", and therefore, on a technicality, it couldn't be considered "income." Something like that. Maybe I forgot the details and screwed it all up. The point: Sometimes tax protesters can dig through the books and find loopholes like that where in some very, very, very rare cases, they have won. It's just that the typical arguments like, "THERE IS NO LAW requiring me to pay taxes!" and "The sixteen amendment wasn't appropriately ratified!" etc., those claims are regularly thrown out of court as frivolous.   Zenwhat (talk) 14:39, 25 January 2008 (UTC)

Editor Zenwhat wrote:
[ . . . ] tax protesters can dig through the books and find loopholes like that where in some very, very, very rare cases, they have won"
Dear Zenwhat: With all due respect, I believe that is incorrect. I suspect you might be thinking of various criminal cases where tax protesters have been acquitted. What we are saying is that no tax protester has ever won on a tax protester argument. An acquittal in a criminal tax case is not a ruling by the court that the tax protester's argument was legally correct, any more than an acquittal in a murder trial would mean that the defendant's argument -- that the murder law did not exist -- was valid. No tax protester has ever found a "loophole" in any Federal tax law that resulted in any "win" by a tax protester on a tax protester argument. Not once. Not ever.
I would also be very suspicious of any news report you saw that a "state" tax protester won an argument that under a state law, income could be only U.S. dollars and not gold. I strongly suspect you are getting bad information. I would like to see the details of the report on the state law case that you are talking about.
I repeat: In terms of Federal taxes, no one has ever found a single loophole where in some very, very, very rare case, anyone has won. Not once. Not ever. I know of not one single exception. If anyone has a specific citation to a specific case or news report that appears to contradict me, I would like to see it. Famspear (talk) 15:03, 25 January 2008 (UTC)


I believe the “State Case” being referred to here by Zenwhat is the criminal proceedings against Las Vegas contractor Robert Kahre. Or at least it sounds like the same case. In essence he paid the employees of his construction company in antique gold and silver coins. He only reported and paid taxes on the face value of those coins – which was far, far below their actual value – effectively cheating the IRS out of alot of money.

Apparently he got away with it. A quick Google of Robert Kahre will get you more in-depth facts.

As Famspear pointed out to me on the Tax avoidance and tax evasion talk page when I was similarly – and very temporarily – persuaded that tax avoidance schemes might have some merrit, this was a criminal proceeding. Consequently it has no bearing on the legality of tax laws in general, merely on the legality of that individual's actions.

At the time I thought it was an interesting enough case to possibly warrant it's own subsection in that article but I found myself daunted by the prospect of finding appropriate source materials with my limmited capabilities.

SunsHand (talk) 20:39, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Just a quick point on that - Kahre got a hung jury on all counts, which means he can be re-tried. Some co-defendants were acquitted, and others also got a hung jury. The criminal case has no bearing on whether Kahre must pay the taxes owed, only whether he goes to jail for not paying them. Cheers! bd2412 T 22:16, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Comments by User:Taemyr[edit]

I mainly agree with the relieves requested however feel that the call for deletion on sight of quotations from any party is incompatible with our NPOV policies. So rather than point 3 above I would prefer.

  • Tax protester rhetoric should only be included where such inclusion is helpful for a readers understanding of the article. Where such rhetoric is included the article should, in keeping with WP:NPOV, also include relevant criticism of the position taken.

Taemyr (talk) 09:37, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Closing the RFC[edit]

I received a request to inspect this RFC and close it if I deemed that the discussion had run its course. There is unanimous consensus regarding this discussion, with one or two minor points that may need review, but those can be discussed on the talk pages of articles relevant to those points. Also, it appears that, despite several notices to talk pages of articles related to this RFC, the "tax protester" opinions have not been provided by the parties who have attempted to insert content that became subject of this RFC. This may be because there were no valid points to make, or due to lack of familiarity with the RFC process, or possibly both. Whatever the case, other discussions about those issues (before this RFC) indicate that this consensus is acceptable. This RFC will be closed, and further discussion of the remaining minor issues should continue on the appropriate article talk pages. Mindmatrix 21:29, 9 February 2008 (UTC)