Author Waging War on Taxes
by Cynthia Kyle
Unadilla, Mich. (AP) — Lynn Johnston is certain the Internal Revenue Service has shadowed her, read her mail, picked over her garbage and scared off would-be beaus.
At 33, her hair is slowly turning gray, but nothing is slowing her self-proclaimed campaign to put the IRS out of business.
Miss Johnston — author of “Who’s Afraid of the IRS?” — remains a “taxpayer on strike.” She always pays property taxes late and hasn’t paid income taxes in years.
She is orchestrating seven legal battles against taxes. Six of them are in federal courts, and one is headed for the Michigan Supreme Court.
Her first court fight — in in Grand Rapids — was over $16.34 in federal taxes she refused to pay.
“I went to trial, picked my own jurors, did my own research and won. It was easy,” says the vivacious self-employed lecturer, writer and researcher. In the past, she has modeled, sold antiques, peddled advertising and worked for Michigan Bell Telephone Co.
Her latest fight — which so far has reached the state Court of Appeals, where she lost — is over the federal excise tax on her telephone bill. Miss Johnston went without a telephone for 22 months at one stretch.
“I missed two funerals. I missed lectures. I missed dates. I was stood up five times and I’m a single woman — aging,” she says with a grin.
In every case, she’s her own lawyer, arguing complicated court rules and tax laws despite no formal legal training.
“If you know what your rights are you don’t have any trouble,” she says. “If you don’t, you get confused — real fast.”
The woman’s personal war against taxes started as part of a Vietnam War protest when she was 18, headed for a teaching degree at Western Michigan University.
She refused to pay excise taxes on telephone calls then “because I didn’t want my money spent for the war.” When the fighting was over, her low-risk tax protest wasn’t. By then she had decided that taxes on telephone conversations are like “taxing the First Amendment.”
“I came to realize the excise tax was wholly inappropriate. You’re held back from talking that much more if you’re on a limited budget — like I am most of the time.”
She hasn’t paid income taxes “because I don’t owe any,” refuses to pay into Social Security, but eventually comes up with property taxes because they go toward basic services.
She’s never been convicted of tax evasion, and has only once been questioned at home by IRS agents. “All you have to do is tell them to get off your property and they boogie,” she says.
She lives with “Pinky,” a pedigreed angora rabbit in a weatherbeaten 1837 house that leans, has no closets and is cluttered with Victorian-era finishings.
Her income — how much she won’t tell — comes from writing, research and contributions.
While saying she would rather spend her time pursuing quieter research about such things as human health, Miss Johnston insists her anti-tax days aren’t over.
“The Internal Revenue Service has always seemed confiscatory to me. Freedom is my highest value,” Miss Johnston says. “You’re either free or you’re not free.
“I’m not going to give up as long as I think freedom isn’t being properly protected,” she says. “I am going to live all my life as a free person. Hard choices in life develop character.
“They have called me the sweetheart of the tax resistance movement. The sweetheart is getting gray. I may be getting older, but I’m no less determined to put the IRS out of business.”
This grizzled 33-year-old went on to run for Senate on the Libertarian Party ticket in . In she tried to get an initiative on the Michigan ballot to abolish all state and local taxes!
She developed something called the “Public Servant Questionnaire” with which citizens could turn the tables and request useful and important data about the government agents who had come to ask for useful and important data about them.
Here’s an article about the tax case that she won (in ). Amazingly, she convinced a jury that she did not have to pay a city income tax because the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had not been properly ratified by Ohio! You don’t see that old chestnut succeeding often.
This is another interesting case of a sort of hybrid “show me the law” tax protester and a conscientious tax resister.