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Income Tax Myths

"The IRS refuses to show anyone the law that requires people to pay taxes."

Many tax protestors claim that they have sent the IRS letters or petitions demanding to be shown the laws that require them to pay taxes. They say that they've asked the IRS what law requires people to pay taxes and the IRS refuses to answer. Here's an example.

Actually, the IRS answers this question on its website. The IRS has developed a document called "The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments," which is posted on the IRS website and which explains which laws require people to pay taxes. I like my explanation better, but the IRS explanation gets the job done.

Now, it may be true, as the protestors report, that if you send the IRS a letter asking them to show you the laws that require you to pay taxes, you do not get an intelligent answer. I don't really know; I've never tried. If I ran the IRS, I would certainly have a form answer, which I would send to anyone who asked to be shown the laws, which would clearly and courteously lay out exactly what the laws are. If the protestors are to be believed, the IRS does not do this. But the answer is on the IRS website for anyone to see.

If it is true that the IRS can't get its act together to send this document to anyone who asks the question what laws require payment of income taxes, I'm guessing it's because the IRS is a big government agency, and big government agencies often have trouble doing things that seem like they would be pretty simple — like sending out a document that's already posted on the agency website. It's not because there is no law requiring people to pay taxes.

Sidebar: Why Doesn't the IRS Just Show People the Law?

My experience of corresponding with tax protestors has given me some sympathy for the IRS. It sounds like it should be easy to show people the law that requires them to pay taxes. And really, it is.

The problem is that tax protestors are never satisfied. Arguing with them is like playing whack-a-mole. Each time you answer whatever absurd argument they're making, they just switch to a different, but equally absurd argument. You answer that, and they switch to another one, and so on, until eventually they cycle back to where they started.

Tax protestors frequently say "if someone would just show me the law that requires me to pay income tax, I would pay." But they're not serious.

If a tax protestor says, "there's no law requiring most people to pay income tax," and you show them the law, they never say, "oh wow, there it is, I was wrong, now I'll pay!" No, the next thing they usually say is, "the Internal Revenue Code is not a law!" You explain that it is, and they say, "but income tax is unconstitutional because it isn't apportioned!" You explain that to them and they say, "but it only applies to foreign income because of section 861!" No matter how patiently you answer their questions, they always have some further, misunderstood, irrelevant point that they claim is the double-secret key to the whole thing. I can understand the desire not to get started down this road.

My own experience suggests that maybe the IRS is showing tax protestors the law, but the protestors just won't accept it. Protestors report "the IRS refused to show me the law," but possibly, the IRS did show them the law, but the protestors thought that what was shown to them wasn't the law because of one of their absurd fallback arguments.

That's why the target market for my website is not hard-core tax protestors, but people who have been exposed to tax protestor rhetoric and who wonder if it could possibly be true, but who are still open to reason and who can accept the law if it's intelligently laid out for them.

For a good example of a hard-core protestor who's seen my website and who still isn't satisfied, and who refuses to accept even the most basic, objective fact, see this.