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Tax Day Excuses

Today at midnight all taxes must be in or an extension filed.

According to the IRS, Americans have tried just about everything to get out of paying their share of taxes. Here are some of the most common arguments people make to avoid paying Uncle Sam.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

The IRS recently released its annual The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments report, which outlines not only the most popular contentions but also the inevitable tax court decisions the government has used to debunk them. Of course its an 84 page document, so here are a few highlights:

Contention: Taxpayers can refuse to pay income taxes on religious or moral grounds.

The IRS says taxpayers have frequently used the First Amendment to argue that they don’t have to pay taxes because it is against their moral or religious beliefs, since it says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Supreme Court has frequently asserted that saying your religious beliefs are in conflict with the payment of taxes provides no basis for refusing to pay, though.
 

Contention: Paying taxes violates the Fifth Amendment.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution says a person shall not be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This might sound like a sound argument if the law hadn’t already decided it is well within the government’s rights to charge residents to live here. According to the IRS, the Supreme Court stated in Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R., 240 U.S. 1, 24 (1916), that “it is . . . well settled that [the Fifth Amendment] is not a limitation upon the taxing power conferred upon Congress by the Constitution.”

Contention: Taxes are a form of servitude in violation of the 13th Amendment.

Residents have argued that paying taxes is a form of servitude, which is problematic, since the 13th Amendment prohibits slavery (as well as the imposition of involuntary servitude). Courts have consistently found that paying taxes is not considered forced servitude, though, calling the claim “clearly unsubstantial and without merit,” as well as “far-fetched and frivolous.”


 

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