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IRS to taxpayers: Don't give us those lame excuses

The agency issues an 84-page report debunking common arguments people use to try to avoid taxes. The penalty for 'frivolous' filing is $5,000.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 22, 2011 9:03PM

This article is by Jeanine Skowronski of MainStreet.


Americans have tried just about everything to get out of paying their taxes, the Internal Revenue Service says, but very few excuses are likely to work.


The IRS recently released its annual The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments report, which outlines not only the most popular arguments people have presented over the years to avoid paying their taxes but also the policy statements and inevitable tax court decisions the government has used to debunk them.


"Anyone who contemplates arguing on legal grounds against paying their fair share of taxes should first read the 84-page document," the IRS said.


Taxpayers’ contentions have run the gamut over the years. Whether you’re arguing that you don’t have to pay your taxes based on moral grounds or because only "employees" of the government are subject to federal income tax, it’s likely to cost you a significant amount of time and a decent sum of money.


In 2006, Congress increased the penalty for frivolous tax returns to $5,000 from $500. The penalty is applied when a person submits a tax return and any portion of the submission is based on a position the IRS identifies as frivolous.


Those who were planning a dispute can find the full report on the agency’s website, but MainStreet has highlighted some of the main contentions disputed in federal courts and now considered frivolous by definition.


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. 

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."


Keep in mind that the IRS does have payment plans available for taxpayers who find themselves significantly impaired financially. In fact, the IRS recently made changes to its lien system, the main way the agency penalizes people who can’t pay their taxes on time.


More from Main Street and MSN Money:


Mar 24, 2011 6:37AM
Working half a year to give to the IRS is not slavery?  I added up the taxes we pay in every aspect of our lives and if it's not slavery, I don't know what you'd call it. Then placing liens & interest on those taxes on top of it and CAUSING financial hardships on American citizens? That's not slavery?  I suppose if you're on the receiving end with no end in sight, it's all fine and dandy. We keep working to get more hours and the more we try to make to make ends meet, the more the IRS takes. We don't even live where all these so called services are provided. We don't go to the government for handouts when it's hard to make it & we pay,pay,pay FOR WHAT?  So we can read in the media how it's NEVER enough and how we are supporting perfectly capable people & have those people look at us in the face and tell us how they don't have to work because the government takes care of them?!  I just wish the government would stop trying to save everyone at our expense!  More taxes helps no one in a real sense. It just causes hardships! Hardships to those who work hard for what they have and hardships to those who refuse to work because all anyone is doing is ENABLING THEM! That's not saving anyone, it is mentally handicapping them. I wish the IRS would get abolished with the federal reserve....... They are getting to be a huge nightmare and we make very little, barely enough to get by yet we are slammed by the IRS!
Mar 24, 2011 9:36AM

Screw you, IRS!!!

I want an itemized list of how you wasted my tax dollars! And don't give me any of YOUR lame excuses!

Mar 24, 2011 7:13AM
AFter making a lousy $800.00 every two weeks in a back-breaking job, I still owe the IRS.......and they have the nerve to tell taxpayers to "stop making excuses"? The IRS should not even be in existence. As far as I'm concerned, they are a bunch of thieves who are no better than a thief who would steal money directly out of my wallet behind my back.
Mar 23, 2011 11:46PM
why can't they just join the democratic party, get a job in Washington and then they don't have to pay their taxes. In fact if you fail to pay them long enough you can be appointed to the job of making sure those lowlife wage slaves pay theirs.
Mar 24, 2011 3:17PM
I think we should get rid of the IRS and go to the Fairtax plan.  We are already Quadruple taxed as it is...The rich get richer and the poorer get poorer....The government just keeps getting bigger and bigger.....There is no middle income bracket anymore. The IRS/government keeps putting out all these new rules and formulas and even their own agents can't figure it all out........ When is enough?  Enough?
Mar 24, 2011 8:09AM
Simplify.  Fair Tax is the answer.  Drastically shrink the size of the IRS to investigate businesses not charging or reporting the Fair Tax. 
Mar 24, 2011 7:39PM
I really have no problem with paying my taxes.  I am self employed, and when the economy tanked my business lost money last year, BUT, I still paid my quarterly taxes.  In fact, I paid more in taxes than I actually paid myself last year.  I have a problem with the fact that I work 50-60 hours a week, don't get paid if business bills take all the money, my husband and I qualify for food stamps but won't apply for them, I paid twice as much into taxes as I paid myself in salary, and I won't be getting a refund, because I have to pay my quarterly estimates for this year.  But, some single girl with a kid or 2 can work a part time job, pay in almost no taxes, and because of earned income tax credits and the such can get 2 to 3 times the amount she actually paid, back as a refund.  What's wrong with this picture?
Mar 24, 2011 10:23AM
Has anyone bothered to tell Claire McCaskill that she needs to pay her taxes? She skips out on it pretty regularly. How about Tim Geitner... Hilda Solis... John Carey... Tom Daschle... Eric Holder... Charlie Rangle...? If they aren't going to pay their taxes and none of them are getting in any trouble, why should we pay ours?
Mar 24, 2011 2:47PM
OK IRS, I won't give you any lame excuses about not wanting to pay my taxes as long as you don't give me any lame excuses about why it takes so long to give me my money back and why you do not  owe me interest on it when, if it were ME who was late getting your money to you, I would have to pay interest.....Deal?
Mar 26, 2011 5:07AM

This article is such a crock!  What about the people who GET BACK A REFUND of almost $9,000 because of LACK of income & child credits!  My brother who has 4 children makes about $30,000 a year got that much!  My sister worked part-time has one child and got back $3,500!  I saw their paperwork!

My husband & I make approx $75,000 together, have no children to claim anymore & had to pay taxes after deducting the most we could from our paychecks.  We never got back refunds like this because of our income even claiming our child.

PEOPLE SHOULD NOT GET BACK MORE THAN THEY PAID IN!  Something is wrong w/this system!

Mar 24, 2011 4:39PM
Apparently, only politicians - especially those who write the tax laws - are able to get away with "lame excuses", while the rest of us serve prison time for an honest mistake!
Out of all the lame excuses, what I want to know is, if the IRS is going to start to punish politicians for not paying their taxes just like they punish the common man?
Mar 24, 2011 9:41AM
Paying my fair share is fine.  But when I notice the multitude of lame deductions, written for a special interest, I don't think I'm paying a fair share. I'm paying someone else's share too. 
Mar 24, 2011 2:46PM

"Americans have tried just about everything to get out of paying their taxes"


the one thing Americans have not tried is rejecting the warfare/welfare state and electing representatives that believe in limited constitutional government.

Mar 23, 2011 8:16PM
It is a sound judgement when you are paying your money to a non-government entity. If I were paying to the US Treasury I wouldn't have a problem. I don't recognize the Federal Reserve nor the IRS as government agencies, and it is a scam that has the Court systems in their pockets.
Mar 24, 2011 9:21AM

I'm tired of lame government!!  I'll cut you a deal.  I quit with the lame excuses if you quit with your lame government that's good for no one. 


I'm sure our fore fathers are rolling in their graves to learn that we have to hire someone to do our own taxes because the tax code is so complicated.  How can this make any kind of sense to anyone?  No one in government ever makes a decision that makes good common sense or makes anything any easier. 



Mar 24, 2011 3:04PM
I work for a CPA, and the IRS wastes so much of my time because of the LAME workforce.  I have written too many letters to count regarding clients filing returns late and then getting a late filing penalty.  After researching each letter, it turns out that they were post marked on time but some moron at the IRS office put the date is was received or processed.  Of cource we get a letter saying penalties and interest have been removed but that doesn't give me any consulation in all the time wasted because of a data entry mistake.
Mar 24, 2011 9:43AM
Taxpayers to IRS: We're tired of paying for lame a** government ineptitude.
Mar 24, 2011 9:50AM
Taxpayers to IRS: We're tired of paying for lame a** government ineptitude.
Thats why we have elections every two years.  And despite that ineptitude, we bring back 90% of government.  Maybe voter ineptitude is the real problem?
Mar 24, 2011 6:32PM
The average taxpayer has excuses, the non paying Corporations have loopholes, offshore accounts and legislation.
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