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All the Weird Ways People Have Tried to Avoid Paying Taxes

January 24, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Nobody likes that corporations can make unlimited political donations under the First Amendment. On the campaign trail the next year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a protester that “corporations are people, my friend.”

In this vein, some sneaky tax filers have tried to argue they aren’t “people” or “individuals” in the eyes of the government and therefore can’t be taxed. The Internal Revenue Code defines a “person” as an “individual, trust, estate, partnership or corporation.” These filers say that “individual” refers to companies, not humans; and therefore, they’re not a “person” who can be taxed.

This has not amused the IRS. The government agency has taken some of these non-people to court, and warns potential tax evaders against the strategy in the “The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments.”

7. The government has a secret $630,000 account in my name.

Some Americans have forged their taxes or refused to pay them because they believe in a complex conspiracy theory that the government already has a bank account in their names. Known as “sovereign citizens,” these people argue that they’re not subject to U.S. laws or taxes because their tax bill is made out to a legal entity with a well-funded bank account that shares their name but isn’t actually them (if you’re confused, that’s because conspiracy theories don’t usually make sense).

These views can be traced to a conspiracy theory promoted by the anti-semite Roger Elvick in the 1980s. “Elvick espoused the belief that when the federal government grants a birth certificate, they create the strawman associated with the real human at the same moment—and also deposit $630,000 into the strawman’s account,” writes Brea Tremblay, whose father was a “sovereign citizen,” in the Daily Beast.

Elvick believed a “secret Jewish cabal” was behind these accounts, and he filed over $1 million in fake tax returns and sight drafts to try to withdraw the money in his secret account (and then some). He spent most of the ‘90s in prison, but his views remain popular enough that the IRS still explains and disputes his theory in “The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments.”

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