Do I Really Have to Pay Taxes?

Paying taxes: legal plan or big, fat sham?

Adam Freedman
April 22, 2009
Episode #089

Page 4 of 5

Is the Income Tax Unconstitutional?

For example, some people argue that the Internal Revenue Code is unconstitutional because of Article One’s requirement that “direct taxes” be apportioned among the states on the basis of population, rather than on the basis of individual income. The only tiny flaw in this argument is that the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1913, specifically grants Congress the power to tax individual incomes without any apportionment. Over the years countless tax protestors have tried to persuade federal judges that the Sixteenth Amendment was not properly ratified, but such arguments are routinely tossed out of court.

What About the Old Unlawful Money Argument?

Another perennial loser is the argument that the tax code doesn’t apply because the prevailing form of currency in the US – Federal Reserve Notes – is not lawful money. In 1980, for example, a Kansas man named Gary Rickman declared that he had no taxable income whatsoever, despite the fact that he had admittedly been employed as a mathematics instructor at a community college. At his trial, Rickman explained that his income was zero “dollars,” because all he had earned were measly Federal Reserve Notes. For the purposes of tax law, Rickman contended, one’s earnings must be either gold or silver coin as supposedly required by the Constitution.

Rickman bolstered his argument by pointing out that the Form 1040 uses the dollar sign ($) which, as everyone knows, is a symbol that refers exclusively to coins, not notes. The idea, it seems, is that the dollar sign comes from the old Spanish Dollar, or piece of eight, which was a silver coin at the time that the “dollar” was adopted as the unit of American currency. The federal court of appeals referred to this theory as “the height of absurdity” and upheld his conviction for tax evasion.


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