The U.S. Department of Justice [sic] announced the rollout of what it calls the “National Tax Defier Initiative” (“or TAXDEF,” the press release notes, to feed the acronym-hungry public).
The purpose of this initiative is to reaffirm and reinvigorate the Tax Division’s commitment to investigate, pursue and, where appropriate, prosecute those who take concrete action to defy and deny the fundamental validity of the tax laws.
Millions of hard-working Americans take time out of their hectic schedules to perform a time-consuming and often arduous task of filing federal income tax returns. 130 million Americans voluntarily engage in this ritual every year. These individuals participate because they know that with the privileges that the United States has given them come the responsibilities and obligations of citizenship.…
There’s that word “voluntarily” again. No wonder the tax protesters get confused when the government itself keeps using this word in misleading ways. Anyway…
This initiative is aimed at stopping those tax defiers who do not meet their federal tax obligations and seek to transfer those obligations to their neighbor’s back. The tax defier is not someone who has a legitimate or factual dispute about the amount of tax due. The tax defier is not someone who is merely exercising his or her First Amendment rights to challenge the tax policy choices that Congress has made. Instead, the tax defier is someone who rejects the legal foundation of the tax system, despite decades of legal precedent upholding the system’s constitutional and statutory validity, and who takes specific and concrete action to violate the law. It is this tax defier conduct, which results in fraudulent claims, frivolous returns and bogus schemes, that threatens the foundation of our tax system and must be vigorously countered. This activity not only wastes limited governmental investigative, administrative and judicial resources, but it also fundamentally undermines the public’s confidence in the fairness of the tax system.
So what does this mean in concrete terms? It sounds to me like more of the usual. The bullet points describing the actual components of this exciting new initiative were all things like “strengthen and expand coordination…”, “leverage expertise and resources…”, “expand our efforts…”, “maximize our use of technology…” and “alert and educate the public…”. In other words, a lot of vague hand waving about bigger, better, faster, more.
So it probably just amounts to the government’s annual tax season puffing-up-of-the-chest so as to let everybody know that the IRS isn’t just a paper tiger.
One interesting thing about the new initiative is its new terminology. The Justice Department used to refer to the tax protesters it prosecuted either as “tax protesters” or as “tax resisters”. , they started to use “tax defiers” instead.
To some extent, the news media have gone along with it. Before, the term was rare in the news, compared to “tax protester”.
At first, when I heard about this, I was worried that they were going to start pulling tax resisters into the dragnet — that maybe the government had invented this new term to serve as an umbrella term for what has been more-or-less successfully differentiated as tax protesters and tax resisters, for instance on Wikipedia.
But I don’t see much evidence of this from today’s announcements. The two enforcement actions the government has used to roll out their new terminology were both examples of the Constitutionalist tax protest school. And organized tax resisters, with few exceptions, don’t tend to “reject the legal foundation of the tax system.”