Die and Pay Taxes

19 01 2010

It’s that time of the year again when the Wesley Snipes’ and Vivien Kellem’s of the world come out of the woodwork to cry foul against the IRS for the annual collection of taxes.  The idea of paying taxes to the governing body of your nation is as old as time itself, with documented history of being required in the days of pharaohs, Athenians, Romans and so on.  Yet somewhere along the way an overzealous American snagged their copy of the Constitution and decried the right of the US Government to follow suit.  Obviously, they overlooked the sixteenth amendment and have left it up to the IRS and judicial system of our country to point out their oversight in courtrooms.

The 16th Amendment states:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

In plain English this means, that through the discretion afforded Congress, they can impose the collection of tax on the income of US citizens.

The argument is that since the founding fathers had not incorporated this idea at the birth of our nation, then it has no bearing on the current laws.  And in part, yes, our country went without an income tax system imposed on a federal level since the birth and up through the Civil War.

This isn’t to say that Americans weren’t taxed til that point though.  From early days of colonization in fact, taxes were levied against citizens.  Initially these taxes were collected by the British monarchy, which led to the No Taxation Without Representation battle that truly pulled people from the fence and onto the side of the Americans during the Revolutionary War era.  It stemmed from the fact that while they were still forced to pay taxes to the monarchy, their voices went unheard in Parliament because well frankly, they were on another continent and had no voice.  The English Bill of Rights promised representation in Parliament for any and all tax payers, but this was not fulfilled.  All imports were taxed, exports were taxed and even trade amongst the colonies themselves had taxes imposed.  The rebuff against these taxes were the backdrop for the Tea Party of Boston.

After the creation of the United States of America, taxes were imposed quite regularly on citizens as a means of paying the wages and budgets of the government arm, though typically imposed at a state level and the states were then required to donate to the federal government a maintenance fee.  In 1794, there was the first federal excise tax, which imposed taxes on goods, specifically liquor.  And until 1802, there was a federal property tax imposed on US citizens, called direct taxes.  Over the next five or six decades, there were several taxes imposed and later overturned, typically in place only long enough to pay down military related debts.

The Civil War costs brought about the first income tax, 3% on annual incomes of over $800.  That was quickly changed to accommodate for the different classes of wealth in our country, 3% for under $10,000 a year income and 5% for over $10,000 a year income.  By 1915 those levels were changed to various tiers, randing from 1% to 7% on income, as well as the change in wording from lawful income to any income – allowing for the collection of tax on any income, no matter how it was gained.  And with the costs of WWI and pre-depression days, the need for money for government expenses grew and so did the taxes – to 6% to 77%.  With WWII, the range was 23% to 94%.  Over the few centuries of our nation, the tax on income has varied, usually in conjunction with the needs of our nation, but always has been present.

So why is it that every tax season people gamble on the constitutionality of the income tax and try to justify their refusal to pay?

A lot of it stems from the ratification of the sixteenth amendment and how it purportedly never was.  At the time of its proposal, there were 48 states in the Union and law required that 75% or 36 states be in agreement to make the amendment binding.  Philander Knox was charged with obtaining those agreements.  It is believed that the state of Kentucky, counted as being in approval, did not actually have the completed amendment and upon later receipt of it, rejected the proposal.  The state of Oklahoma, also noted as being in approval of the amendment, had supposedly sent in a counter offer which was disregarded and their response was instead marked as an approval.  The state of Tennessee at the time had a moratorium on approval of congressional documents when their lawmakers sent in the stamp of approval.  Massachusetts and Vermont voted against the bill, but sent in an approval without signatures to validate it. The following states had state level laws requiring a three day waiting period between the receipt of a bill and voting on a bill, yet they voted and their approvals were accepted: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and West Virginia.  And California voted in approval but never did send in the signed and certified document, thereby nullifying their vote.  Pennsylvania and Virginia ignored the bill entirely and Florida rejected the bill.  This leaves only 27 states to legally approve the document, which is not enough to ratify it – but this fraud was overlooked and has been the stomping ground of objectors ever since.

To date though, all courts have denied these tin foil hat claims and until that changes, April 15 is still the tax day.

Source: Bill Benson, Law That Never Was
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