There is no law requiring you to pay taxes

March 16, 2018

The Freedom Law School challenges anyone to find a law stating that the average American wage earner has to pay income tax. Many people claim to have found the answer, but like any good lawyer will tell you, you have to read the fine print.

A Brief History

Bill Conklin fist made this offer a few decades ago. The offer back then was only $50,000. It had a few requirements to claim the prize. The two most notable among them were that you had to show the law and that you had to show how you could legally file your taxes without violating your own 5th amendment right. Several claims were made, but they were all struck down by Conklin, who had spent a little more time getting to know the cryptic myriad of tax codes.

The second requirement about protecting your 5th amendment rights was interesting too. When filing a return, you are signing under penalty of perjury. That means you could be imprisoned for lying, and the very documents you file could be used against you in a civil or criminal case. That means you were literally testifying against yourself by paying your taxes. One of the most creative submissions claimed that if you filled out a form anonymously and sent it in with a money order, that you wouldn't be testifying against yourself. The problem is if it's anonymous, you don't get credit for paying it. Likely the IRS would end up coming back to you for seconds. Also, a tax form is not considered valid if it does not have the tax ID and signature, so it could not count against your tax "debt".

Counter Claims

The 16th amendment!

Actually the 16th amendment is not a law creating any tax. On it's own, the 16th amendment doesn't create any taxes, order anyone to pay taxes, define exactly what is to be taxed or how much. The wording of the 16th amendment very simple gives congress the authority to create a tax. Many argue that even with this amendment, they still have no right to levy a tax, because the people who created the 16th amendment didn't have that right to delegate to the government in the first place. There are also many other problems with this, including the fact that the supreme court had previously ruled a graduated income tax was unconstitutional because it was direct and reapportioned. The 16th amendment was aimed to fix that, but federal courts still rule that hte 16th amendment gave congress no new power, in that it gave the permission to create taxes, but didn't change any of the prior rules regarding apportionment.

If you don't pay you'll go to jail!

Not really. In fact I've done a lot of research on this. In the US code which lays out all the laws regarding the income tax, there is only one mention of anyone going to jail for not filing. That person is defined in that chapter as an employee of a corporation. In the chapters about individuals, there is no criminal penalty for not filing or not paying. I've also dug around to find out if anyone has actually gone to jail for not filing or paying. Not one. In fact everyone I could find who went to jail for anything related to the income tax had either perjured themselves by lying on their return, or had committed tax evasion. Tax evasion is not simply not paying your taxes, tax evasion is a compound crime of not paying your taxes by doing something illegally like laundering money.

Wesley Snipes

If you don't have to pay taxes, why did Wesley Snipes go to jail? Well, he didn't go to jail specifically for not paying taxes. Also remember that the original question asks for a law stating that individuals need to pay taxes. Wesley Snipes used a series of corporations and was misled by some bad tax advisors to do attempt to move money around and hide it. Corporations are little different, in that you are asking government for financial protection against liabilities. In exchange for this protection, you are consenting to follow a whole new set of rules voluntarily, including tax rules. In another post, we talk about the indictment and you can clearly see that he did not go to jail for refusing to file or pay, but because of other complex accusations including fraud and evasion. I personally don't think he did anything wrong. He was attempting to protect himself against theft, and that is not a crime. But unfortunately he did so in a way that ended up getting the better of him.

The Verdict?

You'll have to figure this one out for yourself. Taxation is theft, but as most Americans support a system that penalizes those who don't submit, and the IRS often use practices against their own laws to collect, attempting to avoid paying taxes even legally can be dangerous. Proceed at your own risk.

About the author:

Dan Behrman

Dan Behrman is an international speaker, promoting the ideas that Taxation Is Theft, individual freedom is pararmount to government, and we are not government property. He is founder of the Taxation Is Theft Shop, blogger on, and host of Taxation Is Theft podcast, YouTube channel, and Facebook page

See all posts from Dan Behrman