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Wednesday, August 6, 2014
War Tax Resister Claims IRS Regulation Violates Human Rights Treaty
Originally Published on forbes.com on September 4th,2011
People refuse or resist paying taxes for a variety of reasons. I think the primary one is that they would prefer to keep the money themselves. There are some people that don’t want to pay for anything and will figure out schemes to get freecable TV, free phone service, etc. So its not surprising that they want to get free infrastructure, national defense, etc. This can be combined with an ideology that nothing or very little the government does is worthwhile and whatever it is the government does would be better done by the “free market”. There is another strain that is much more distinctive. They don’t complain about the amount of tax that they have to pay. They are perfectly willing to pay. They just don’t want their taxes to go to support military endeavors.
Much earlier in my career with forbes.com (My career with forbes.com dates all the way back to late June of 2011), I mentioned the case of William Ruhaak. I did not discuss the case in detail but rather used it as a springboard to discuss another contemporary war resister, my good friend,Tom Cahill and America’s most famous war tax resister Henry David Thoreau. The Concord jailers did not think to tell the other inmates that Henry was a child molester and announce “fresh meat” on his arrival so Thoreau’s jail experience was much more benign than Tom’s. (There is evidence that men raped men in prison in that period too, but that is another story). I followed up with a guest post from Ed Agro. Ed e-mailed me to do a post-mortem on the series. Ed just doesn’t understand all the responsibilities that I keep accumulating as a tax blogger - marriage equality, carried interests, Nigeria. So now I am getting back to war tax resistance even though all the promised guest posts from the left have not started flowing in.
I was inclined to give this opinion short shrift possibly making fun of Mr. Ruhaak, who seems to think he is dealing with the United Way rather than the United States. ……………………….
So I guess I won’t make fun of William Ruhaak. I’ll even admire him. I wouldn’t mind chipping in a few dollars extra for the Navy Seals who showed people it is a very, very bad idea to organize passenger jets crashing into our office buildings so Mr. Ruhaak’s funds could be earmarked for the Center for Disease Control. I also won’t blame the IRS, the Tax Court and the Seventh Circuit, which, of course, ruled against him, for being a little aggravated with him.
Mr. Ruhaak’s argument has no technical merit. The seventh circuit has told him he needed to show cause as to why he should not be sanctioned for putting forth a frivolous argument. I have to say that as a tax professional, I’m 100% with the court on that one.
That is where I may be wrong, although I must say that when a tax professional, particularly one who is not a lawyer, agrees with a federal appeals court, he can’t be that wrong. Nonetheless, I got hold of Mr. Ruhaak’s briefs explaining why he should not be sanctioned and he has an argument. He distinguishes himself from most of the tax protester morons who get sanctioned by noting that he is not seeking financial gain, but rather to pay his entire tax liability in a manner that conforms with his conscience. I’m with him there in terms of why I don’t think he is a moron and admire him a bit without agreeing with him on his attitudes toward our military (I just look across the Hudson River when I am around my hometown of Fairview NJ and note the incomplete skyline). I do see the techncial merit, though.
The technical merit is that he is invoking a treaty. When it comes to taxes, treaties are something of a trump card. Mr. Ruhaak is objecting to a portion of the regulations concerning the IRS appeals functions (601.106):
….. appeal procedures do not extend to cases involving solely the failure or refusal to comply with the tax laws because of moral, religious, political, constitutional, conscientious, or similar grounds.
Now I understand why they have this rule and, frankly, would not want to see it overruled. As a CPA, I can represent taxpayers at appeals and, given their backlog, they don’t need more work to do, but that is neither here nor there.
Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes:
(a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity;
(b) To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy;
So the regulation, which says he can’t even bring up his conscience based claims, is a treaty violation. That’s the gist of the argument anyway. From there it gets a little too lawyerly for me getting into whether the treaty is a covenant or a convention and if it is self-executing or not. Much as I admire Mr. Ruhaak, I really don’t want him to win this one, because of the effect it would have on the IRS workload. Sometimes, I’m just too pragmatic.
It is interesting to note that just this morning Brandy Mae, a guest blogger onKelly Phillip Erb’s blog, suggested a comprehensive system for taxpayer direction of their taxes, similar to the United Way system. By the way,if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I’m a real flatterer of Taxgirl. I followed her to forbes.com and I’m trying to emulate her in another way. She is still way ahead of me in getting other people to write her blog for her though. Blogging is even better than Amway. If you work it right not only do you get other bloggers to sell your blog, you also get them to write it for you. It would be like Amway diamonds getting their downline to make the soap for them instead of having to pay Amway for it. Not only that, although there probably is a way to lose money blogging, I haven’t found it yet and I’m sure I’m too cheap to fall into it anyway.
War tax resistance has established itself as one of my permanent themes. The good name of Nigeria will only be getting one more post from me on forbes.com. It is a worthy topic, but the connection to taxes has been stretched to its limit so I will move the discussion to mybizarro blog Active Passivities and Other Moronic Oxen, where I discuss everything I’m interested in except taxes. I have a lengthy post there that tangentially relates to war tax resistance.