Lynn Johnston Is on a One-Woman Tax Strike

From the Spokane Daily Chronicle:

Author Waging War on Taxes

by Cynthia Kyle

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.

As a reminder of why the IRS finds these “show me the law” style tax protesters so threatening, here’s an article from the Ocala Star-Banner :

Flint-Area Workers Stage Income-Tax Protest

Some 3,500 Flint-area workers, in what the Internal Revenue Service calls “one of the biggest tax protest movements in the country,” are directing employers not to make income tax deductions from their paycheck.

Most of the workers are employees of General Motors Corp., where word of the protest has spread by word-of-mouth and through organizations promoting the revolt, the Detroit News reported Sunday.

The workers have been trying to sidestep deductions by claiming as many as 99 dependents on their W-4 forms. Others filed federal W-4E forms, designed for low-income workers who do not plan to earn enough to pay income taxes, he said.

One protest leader contends labor is a personal property traded to an employer for wages and is thus ineligible for taxation.

IRS officials initially became aware of the move when employers, as required by law, began informing the IRS of large numbers of employees changing their filing status last fall.

“This is the biggest, or at least one of the biggest, tax protest movements in the country,” said Leonard Nawrocki, IRS manager of criminal investigations in Flint.

Nawrocki said many of the workers, feeling there is “safety in numbers,” do not expect to be prosecuted for false returns.

“We’re trying to alert people and convince them that wages are taxable and they could be subject to penalties, interest and criminal sanctions if they continue to refuse to pay,” Nawrocki said.

Dean Hazel of Pontiac, a GM employee who founded the tax protest group “We The People ACT,” said an estimated 700 members pay $65 in monthly dues for such benefits as tax law workshops and cassette tapes explaining the rationale for avoiding taxes.

“If Nawrocki wants to haul our guys into court, he’ll get his ears pinned back,” said Hazel. “The IRS has been losing on ‘false and fraudulent’ W-4 cases for years. So many people are doing it they’ll never be able to keep up.”

Nawrocki said the IRS had increased its audits of tax returns and had begun forwarding names of violators to its collection unit to obtain compensation for tax liabilities.

However, only five cases had been referred for possible prosecution.

Hazel got showed the law good and hard , then lost his appeal. Last I checked, he’s still agitating in right-wing circles for the One True Constitution.

A correspondent for a London newspaper sent in a report on happenings in Pennsylvania on :

I can send you nothing but the continued news of scalping and internal confusions, arising from Quaker-government. I shall not therefore increase this packet by enclosing our late newspapers, since the substance of them is in short as follows, viz., that within past, several families in various parts of the province have been barbarously murdered. In Northampton county, on , one Sifluff and one of his sons was killed and scalped, and the other son killed but not scalped, the tomahawk being found sticking in his head. In Cumberland county at the same time, the house of one widow Cox was burnt, her two sons and the Craigs murdered and destroyed. It would be endless to descend to particulars. The enemy are lurking in every part of the country, and every week, (almost every day) brings us the catastrophe of some unsuspecting family; and we are no nearer our purpose of defence than at first. The money granted is of little or no use, for want of an equal and just military law. The Quakers, to save themselves, have given something like a law to bind the willing, but forgot that nobody would be willing to bear the burden of defence, unless it was borne equally. Hence nothing can be done among the people but by force of money; and even then they make their own terms with their leaders; and no wonder, since our laws are made to encourage licentiousness, by a vile levelling faction, who, in order to keep themselves loose, have loosened the whole government. Nor is this the worst: they are doing all in their power to raise a rebellion in levying the tax, persuading every Quaker to refuse paying it. As a proof of this, I send you a circular letter, signed by their preachers, and sent to the meetings in the province. It is a piece of mere enthusiastic jargon, but sufficiently shows our unhappy situation, and their wicked designs. Among the subscribers, you will see the name of [Samuel] Fothergill, your London enthusiast: I wish you would keep such men at home; for we are too much distracted by men of that kidney among ourselves. I hope some notice will at last be taken of such pests of society, who have undone this poor (though late flourishing) province.

The anonymous correspondent attached to this complaint the “Epistle of Tender Love and Kindness” sent by John Woolman and others to their fellow Friends.

This shows what the Quaker pacifists were up against. Rather than give up their principles, they eventually abandoned their seats in the colonial Assembly — this allowed the Assembly to give in to popular demand and organize a military defense, but without the assistance of Quaker legislators.