Federal Income Tax Legality, Part 4: Constitutional Amendments

This is the fourth article in a series dedicated to explaining the various arguments that some groups and individuals use for not paying federal income tax to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The first three articles in this series addressed objections to the paying of federal income tax related to the following areas:  the “voluntary” nature of paying federal income tax, the definition of income in the Internal Revenue Code, and the meanings of various terms in the Internal Revenue Code.    Read on to learn about a fourth area of objections to paying federal income tax.  If you have questions about any of these areas or other areas of federal income tax, you should work with a tax professional to address your specific questions.

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Fourth Argument Against Paying Federal Income Tax:  Constitutional Amendments

This article is dedicated specifically to how some interpret various Amendments to the Constitution of the United States in a manner such that those interpretations support not paying federal income tax.

First Amendment allows taxpayers to invoke religious or moral reasons for not paying taxes

This argument claims that people do not have to pay taxes because of religious or moral reasons, because they object to one or more of the projects that federal income taxes are spent on.  They consider this objection freedom of speech protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Although the First Amendment provides for freedom of speech and prevents the government from establishing a state religion, it does not provide any room from legally objecting to the government by refusing to pay federal income tax.

Federal income tax is theft of property with due process per the Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects people from the government abusing them through the use of their power.  Some groups argue that federal income tax is such an abuse of power, as it allows the federal government to take property without the consent of the taxpayer or through the course of a trial.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the United States Constitution does not conflict with itself, providing the authority to levy a federal income tax with the Sixteenth Amendment and taking away that authority with the Fifth Amendment.

Fifth Amendment protects taxpayers from being tried for a crime because it would require the taxpayer to self-incriminate themselves

Another argument is that being forced to file a federal income tax return or providing evidence of the numbers recorded on a federal income tax return is a violation of the Fifth Amendment, since providing such information could incriminate the taxpayer and thereby result in them receiving a fine, jail sentence, or other penalty.

But the Supreme Court has ruled that the requirement to file accurate federal income taxes and provide support for that information does not constitute self incrimination.

Forcing someone to pay federal income tax is basically a form of slavery in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed to outlaw the practice of slavery and involuntary servitude.  There are some who claim that forcing people to pay federal income tax is a form of involuntary servitude.

However, the slavery and involuntary servitude referenced in the Thirteenth Amendment is of a different nature than the requirement that people pay federal income tax.  Therefore, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Thirteenth Amendment does not afford someone protection from paying federal income tax.

The Sixteenth Amendment providing the government the power to levy a tax was never properly passed and is therefore invalid

This argument is simply that the Sixteenth Amendment was not ratified properly to make it an amendment to the United States Constitution and therefore it does not grant the power to levy tax.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise.  The Constitution outlines that only three-fourths of the states are required to pass an amendment to the United States Constitution.  Although opponents question if enough states initially ratified the Sixteenth Amendment for it to pass, ultimately more than three-fourths of the states did vote for the passing of the Sixteenth Amendment, which means that the power to levy income tax is in effect.

The Sixteenth Amendment does not authorize a tax that is not based on the number of people in a given state or the United States as a whole?????

There are those who contend that even if the Sixteenth Amendment authorizes a federal income tax, it does not indicate that the tax can be on everyone without consideration to the size of the population.  Therefore, the federal income tax in its current form is not valid.

Howeve, various courts have ruled that the method of taxation employed by the Internal Revenue Services is appropriate and acceptable under the Sixteenth Amendment.

Tax Attorney Information

If you have questions about your federal income tax return, property taxes, or other taxes in general, you can speak with a tax attorney.  A tax attorney will have an understanding of the Internal Revenue Code and other tax topics, so that he can provide the right answers to any of your tax-related questions.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.