took war tax resister Cindy Sheehan to federal court to ask a judge to
compel her to turn over information about her finances so they could find
assets to seize.
And the agency completely struck out. The judge told them that if they want
Sheehan to come in and talk to them, they should ask her nicely. But can’t
you make her come in and answer our questions? they asked. Maybe I
could but I won’t, the judge said.
There is a second hearing scheduled for at which time the judge may reconsider.
During the hearing, the judge said others have made political statements with tax protests while still managing to comply with the law.
“Finally, someone in this government recognizes my pain,” she told reporters.
Sheehan has agreed to meet again with the
but not to answer their questions or to pay the taxes the agency says she
owes. “No matter if the government says I owe a penny or $100,000, I’m not
paying one penny to them,” she told supporters outside after the hearing.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George,
presented a report to the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee
on Government Organization, Efficiency, and Financial Management
The Internal Revenue Code permits the
slap a $5,000 “frivolous filing penalty” on anyone who files a tax return
that “(A) does not contain information on which the substantial correctness of
the self-assessment may be judged, or (B) contains information that on its
face indicates that the self-assessment is substantially incorrect,
and … (A) is based on a position which the Secretary has identified
as frivolous… or (B) reflects a desire to delay or impede the administration
of Federal tax laws.”
has been abusing this authority to fine people who file full and correct tax
returns but who also include with their returns letters of protest indicating
why they are not paying the full amount or why they feel their taxes are being
The law pretty clearly says the penalty only applies to filings that
both assert a legal position the
considers frivolous or designed to delay or impede tax collection and
accompany a tax return that is incomplete or incorrect.
a trick up its sleeve: in order to challenge an unlawful fine like this,
according to the
own rules on the subject, you must first pay the fine. Tax resisters who are
unwilling to give money to the
thereby locked out of the appeal process, and the agency can fine them whether
or not they have the legal authority to do so. The agency seems determined to
continue abusing its authority in this way.