Tax Protester Arguments Work, Until They Don't

Certain individuals and groups insist that portions of the Internal Revenue Code do not apply to them. The reasoning in support of this position is generally based upon words and phrases in statutes and cases taken out of context. Many of these arguments have been deemed "frivolous" by the IRS, the making of which subjects the "tax protester" to additional penalties.

Because the U.S. tax system depends, in large part, on voluntary compliance, tax protesters can point to various circumstances as "proof" that the techniques "work," at least temporarily. The IRS may accept tax returns with obviously understated income or overstated expenses and may pay out refunds as well. This "works," as Peter J. Reilly, writing for Forbes, pointed out, "if you are just about maximizing your current lifestyle rather than accumulating net worth and entirely amoral when it comes to meeting tax obligations."

Collection due process affords taxpayers a chance to appeal to the Tax Court, a process I outlined in a previous post. All tax protester arguments fail at Tax Court, the result being a judgment against the taxpayer for taxes due and probably penalties. While most Tax Court judges don't bother writing an opinion in tax protester cases, Judge Ronald L. Buch, a new Tax Court judge, took the opportunity to write a very detailed opinion in a recent one. The discussion section of the opinion beings with this, which should cause would-be tax protesters to reconsider their course of action:

This case has occupied an inordinate amount of the Court’s time. The Court could have disposed of the entire matter summarily by reference to Crain v. Commissioner or any number of 6 other cases that stand for the proposition that we need not address frivolous arguments (citing Crain v. Commissioner, 737 F.2d 1417, 1417 (5th Cir. 1984) ("We perceive no need to refute these arguments with somber reasoning and copious citation of precedent; to do so might suggest that these arguments have some colorable merit.")
The case, Waltner v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2014-35, is a good read for anyone who thinks they may have found a book or website promoting a loophole in the Internal Revenue Code. Judge Buch had a clear intent to "inform the public of the court’s analysis" of frivolous positions of tax protesters. Hopefully, some will listen.

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