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Quatloos! > Tax Scams > Tax Protestors > Tax Protestor Theories De-Bunked > EXHIBIT: Tax Protestor Dummies

Penalties For Pursuing Frivolous Tax Arguments

Those who act on frivolous positions risk a variety of civil and criminal penalties. Those who adopt these positions may face harsher consequences than those who merely promote them. As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted in United States v. Sloan, 939 F.2d 499, 499-500 (7 th Cir. 1991), "Like moths to a flame, some people find themselves irresistibly drawn to the tax protestor movement's illusory claim that there is no legal requirement to pay federal income tax. And, like moths, these people sometimes get burned.

Taxpayers filing returns with frivolous positions may be subject to the accuracy-related penalty under section 6662 (twenty percent of the underpayment attributable to negligence or disregard of rules or regulations) or the civil fraud penalty under section 6663 (seventy-five percent of the underpayment attributable to fraud). Tax preparers who submit returns maintaining groundless positions may be subject to penalties in addition to those imposed on their clients.

Moreover, section 6702 provides for the imposition of a $500 penalty against any individual who files a frivolous income tax return. The legislative history underlying this section states, "the Committee is concerned with the rapid growth of deliberate defiance of the tax laws by tax protesters. The Committee believes that an immediately assessable penalty on the filing of protest returns will help deter the filing of such returns." S. Rep. No. 494, 97 th Cong., 2d Sess. 277, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. 781, 1023-24.

In the 1980s, Congress showed its concern about taxpayers misusing the courts and obstructing the appeal rights of others when it enacted tougher sanctions for bringing frivolous cases before the courts. Section 6673 allows the courts to impose a penalty of up to $25,000 when they come to any of three conclusions: - a taxpayer instituted a proceeding primarily for delay, - a position is frivolous or groundless, or - a taxpayer unreasonably failed to pursue administrative remedies.

An appeals court explained the rationale for the sanctions in Coleman v. Commissioner, 791 F.2d 68, 72 (7 th Cir. 1986): "The purpose of § 6673 . . . is to induce litigants to conform their behavior to the governing rules regardless of their subjective beliefs.

Groundless litigation diverts the time and energies of judges from more serious claims; it imposes needless costs on other litigants. Once the legal system has resolved a claim, judges and lawyers must move on to other things. They cannot endlessly rehear stale arguments . . . . [T]here is no constitutional right to bring frivolous suits . . . . People who wish to express displeasure with taxes must choose other forums, and there are many available.

Relevant Case Law:

Jones v. Commissioner, 688 F.2d 17 (6 th Cir. 1982) - the court found the taxpayer's claim that his wages were paid in "depreciated bank notes" as clearly without merit and affirmed the Tax Court's imposition of an addition to tax for negligence or intentional disregard of rules and regulations.

Baskin v. United States, 738 F.2d 975 (8 th Cir. 1984) - the court found that the IRS's assessment of a frivolous return penalty without a judicial hearing was not a denial of due process, since there was an adequate opportunity for a later judicial determination of legal rights.

Holker v. United States, 737 F.2d 751, 752-53 (8 th Cir. 1984) - the court upheld the frivolous return penalty even though the taxpayer claimed the documents he filed to claim a refund did not constitute a tax return. Noting that "[t]axpayers may not obtain refunds without first filing returns," the court then found that "[h]is unexplained designation of his W-2 forms as 'INCORRECT' and his attempt to deduct his wages as the cost of labor on Schedule C also establish the frivolousness and incorrectness of his position.

Rowe v. United States, 583 F. Supp. 1516, 1520 (D. Del. 1984) - the court upheld section 6702 against various objections, including that it was unconstitutionally vague because it does not define a "frivolous" return. "Frivolous is commonly understood to mean having no basis in law or fact," the court stated.

Monaghan v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2002-16, 83 T.C.M. (CCH) 1102, 1104 (2002) - the court rejected the taxpayer's frivolous arguments and imposed sanctions in the amount of $1,500, stating that "[h]e has caused this Court to waste its limited resources on his erroneous views of the tax law which he should have known are completely without merit.

Hart v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2001-306, 82 T.C.M. (CCH) 934 (2001) - the court imposed sanctions in the amount of $15,000 against the taxpayer, because his delaying actions caused the Service and the court to needlessly spend time preparing for the trial and writing the opinion.

Haines v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2000-126, 79 T.C.M. (CCH) 1844, 1846 (2000) - stating, "[p]etitioner knew or should have known that his position was groundless and frivolous, yet he persisted in maintaining this proceeding primarily to impede the proper workings of our judicial system and to delay the payment of his Federal income tax liabilities," the court imposed a $25,000 penalty.

Sigerseth v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2001-148, 81 T.C.M. (CCH) 1792, 1794 (2001) - pointing out that this case involving the use of trusts to avoid taxes was "a waste of limited judicial and administrative resources that could have been devoted to resolving bona fide claims of other taxpayers," the court imposed a $15,000 penalty.

MatrixInfoSys Trust v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2001-133, 81 T.C.M. (CCH) 1726, 1729 (2001) - in claiming that his income belonged to his trust, the court stated that the taxpayer had made "shopworn arguments characteristic of the tax-protester rhetoric that has been universally rejected by this and other courts," and imposed a $12,500 penalty.

The Nis Family Trust v. Commissioner, 115 T.C. 523, 545-46 (2000) - concluding that the Nis chose "to pursue a strategy of noncooperation and delay, undertaken behind a smokescreen of frivolous tax-protester arguments," the court imposed a $25,000 penalty against them, and also imposed sanctions of more than $10,600 against their attorney for arguing frivolous positions in bad faith.

Madge v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2000-370, 80 T.C.M. (CCH) 804 (2000) - after having warned the taxpayer that continuing with his frivolous arguments - that he was not a taxpayer, that his income was not taxable, and that only foreign income was taxable - would likely result in a penalty, the court imposed the maximum $25,000 penalty.

Davis v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2001-87, 81 T.C.M. (CCH) 1503 (2001) - after warning that the taxpayer could be penalized for presenting frivolous and groundless arguments, the court imposed a $4,000 penalty.

Gass v. United States, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 1513 (10 th Cir., Feb. 2, 2001) - the court imposed an $8,000 penalty for contending that taxes on income from real property are unconstitutional. The court had earlier penalized the taxpayers $2,000 for advancing the same arguments in another case.

Brashier v. Commissioner, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 6270 (10 th Cir., Apr. 13, 2001) - the court imposed $1,000 penalties on taxpayers who argued that filing sworn income tax returns violated their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, after the Tax Court had warned them that their argument - rejected consistently for more than seventy years - was frivolous.

McAfee v. United States, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7131, at *4 (N.D. Ga., Apr. 4, 2001) - after losing the argument that his wages were not income and receiving a $500 penalty, the taxpayer returned to court to try to stop the government from collecting that penalty by garnishing his wages. The court stated that "bringing this ill-considered, nonsensical litigation before this court for yet a second time is nothing but contumacious foolishness which wastes the time and energy of the court system," and imposed a $1,000 penalty.

United States v. Rempel, 87 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) 1810, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8518, at *5 (D. Ak. Feb. 14, 2001) - the court warned the taxpayers of sanctions and stated: "It is apparent to the court from some of the papers filed by the Rempels that they have at least had access to some of the publications of tax protester organizations. The publications of these organizations have a bad habit of giving lots of advice without explaining the consequences which can flow from the assertion of totally discredited legal positions and/or meritless factual positions.

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