Resistance to taxes is baked into Americans’ DNA. After all, it was cries of “taxation without representation” that spurred the American Revolution. Tax protests have continued on and off ever since, from the Whiskey Rebellion to Vietnam War-era tax resisters to the “sovereign citizen” movement.
People object to paying taxes for all kinds of reasons, from opposition to certain policies to not recognizing the government’s authority to collect taxes in the first place, but the IRS isn’t having it. No matter what you read on the internet or your weird Uncle Bob says, you can’t get out of paying taxes without suffering consequences.
“The IRS and the courts hear many outlandish arguments from people trying to avoid their legal filing and tax obligations,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement. “Taxpayers should avoid unscrupulous promoters of false tax-avoidance arguments because taxpayers end up paying what they owe plus potential penalties and interest mandated by law.”
Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to legally avoid taxes. Taking all your deductions or moving money into tax-sheltered accounts like a 401(k) are perfectly acceptable ways to lower you tax bill. It’s when you get into weirder tax avoidance strategies that you run into problems.
Trying to claim that filing a tax return is optional, that you aren’t really a citizen of the U.S., or that only certain types of income are taxable will backfire. When you submit a frivolous return or slam the IRS with other off-the-wall requests the result may be a fine of $5,000 to $25,000. Plus, you could also be prosecuted for tax evasion, a felony punishable by prison time and penalties of up to $250,000.
The IRS spends a lot of time and energy debunking various convoluted anti-tax arguments, and it’s collected dozens of them in a document titled “The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments.” Below, we’ve highlighted 10 of the more bizarre reasons why people say they shouldn’t have to pay taxes.