A few questions about the Tax Protestor Movement

  1. In regards to Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192 (1991): did John L. Cheek eventually pay his tax liability? He avoided the criminal conviction due to the whole “ignorance” vs “willingness” thing and the poor jury instructions, but he should still have been liable to pay the taxes, right? Did he end up paying it? Is there a follow up?

  2. What other cases are commonly referenced as “victories” to the Tax Protestor Movement?

  3. Has there been a single instance in the last 100 years where a person in the United States was able to avoid criminal prosecution or civil liability based on any of the Tax Protestor arguments such as the inability of the prosecution (or the IRS) to prove taxes are involuntary, etc. I’m specifically interested in any technicalities, or lower court decisions where the jury was just ready to go home that day, or something like that.

Out of nowhere, it appears I have two “taxes are voluntary” a-holes working along side me. I didn’t know that otherwise sane people actually believed this crap. I am going to go to work tomorrow with five $100 bills and offer to give them the money if they can show me a single instance where a person refused to pay taxes on the grounds that taxes are voluntary, and won the court case–either criminal or civil. Is this a safe bet?

The March 2018 The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments from the IRS mentions:

This statement has me cautious. Who are the “handful of taxpayers” who “avoided conviction” and under what grounds, I wonder? And, in any of those cases, did the IRS choose to not pursue any underlying tax liability?

Sounds like your bet is lost via the IRS’s own words.

How can you expect to win when they admit a handful have avoided conviction?

What am I missing here.

Some murderers have avoided conviction as well. I am interested in how exactly they avoided it. Cheeks, for example, was was acquitted because of improper jury instructions regarding his intent. The court ruled that a belief that the tax law is invalid is not a defense, however, an actual good-faith belief that one is not violating tax law does negate “willfulness”, so there is no criminal intent. Cheeks got off because the lower court told the jury his arguments were so irrational and unreasonable, they could not possibly be genuine. The higher court ruled that, these instructions were improper, because maybe Cheeks did actually believe that wages did not count as income. That’s a different matter than saying a person can reasonably believe that taxes are not mandatory. I don’t think anyone has ever gotten off based on the argument that taxes are not mandatory. But there might be a technicality or something in a confused, lower court decision sometime in the past few decades.
Cheeks claimed that he believed “wages are not income”. His claim was not, “The IRS has no authority to force me to pay taxes.”

I’ve found the answer to #1, as well. He did pay the liabilities and fees and stated that he learned his lesson. https://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/09/business/supreme-court-ruling-supports-tax-protester.html

People who would believe that taxes are voluntary would never except your explanation here, they will just think they are right.

A better way is have them not pay taxes this year, and then pay them $500 if they don’t get in trouble because of it.

Here is an account of Cheek and a couple of other well-known instances where someone avoided conviction. No court adopted any of the tax-protestor arguments in these cases; they’re just acquittals by a jury, who may have concluded that the defendant was just too stupid to have formed a criminal mind-set. Note that one of these defendants later told a radio host that the IRS did indeed pursue her for the underlying liability.

Cheek was convicted in a retrial, and one of the conditions of his probation was that he pay his back taxes and a fine.

That list is perfect, thank you. It’s pretty much what I was expecting.

And report them to the IRS – they pay rewards if you report someone who is convicted. That’s an extra, on top of winning your bet.

I don’t think that anyone has ever managed to avoid paying the actual taxes they owed after an IRS audit unless they made an offer in compromise. What they are more likely to avoid are penalties and jail time. Without being able to prove a criminal motive, they won’t get jail time. If they had “substantial authority” that they didn’t owe taxes for some reason, then they could avoid penalties. No one has ever gotten out of paying interest either - the only way to avoid it is simply to have not actually owed what the IRS claims you owe. It’s impossible for me to say with certainty that there hasn’t been a single person who has succeeded with this defense, but I would easily stake a large amount of money on it at, say, 100-1. I certainly wouldn’t accept as my compensation for the bet that some people would be shamed, because that’s never going to happen if they’re this deep down the hole.

However, it is absolutely true that plenty of people get away with not paying the taxes they owe because the IRS has limited resources. The IRS only goes after the most egregious offenders. It’s not too hard to avoid paying taxes on income that’s never reported to the government. I suspect the vast majority of such income never has tax collected on it.