The Power to Destroy
Report by Jeff Jackson – Originally published in Hustler Magazine, March 1989
So, let’s talk about DEATH & TAXES. This is a documentary I produced approximately 15 to 20 years ago. The five year gap is how long I spent making this film. We have a lot of stuff up on our website for those who might want to immerse in the subject matter obsessively.
DEATH & TAXES started out as an article I wrote for Larry Flynt’s HUSTLER MAGAZINE (March, 1989). At that time Larry hired me to do an investigative piece on IRS atrocities. Ironically it’s even more apropos today then ever before. He was fighting the federal government in the courts over his constitutional right to freedom of speech, i.e. making a ton of money putting out pornography. Some of you older codgers might remember that he was wrapping himself in a diaper made from the U.S. flag and rolling himself into federal court in a solid gold wheelchair and paying his fines with wheelbarrows of pennies.
My poor mother was so proud her newly sober son was getting published as a writer. But, writing for Larry Flynt made it hard on her telling all her friends. If you know how anarchistic I am, you know I enjoyed the controversy of working for this guy. In defense of Larry Flynt I should say that during this same time period he hired me to do a series of columns in HUSTLER on the burgeoning AIDS epidemic and I exposed issues around AIDS which the main stream media were ignoring or distorting. At that time the majority of HUSTLER MAGAZINE’s apx. 3 million subscribers were inmates in prison(s) who were hit as hard as any group by AIDS.
This process is where I stumbled upon the Gordon Kahl story. It was great being paid to dig up stuff on the federal government. Incredibly, things have gotten much worse. So, we’re going to put this original article up in this blog for your edification.
Subsequently, I spent the next five years after writing this article documenting the Gordon Kahl story, Death & Taxes, which spider-webbed into the world of conspiracies within conspiracies. At one point during this process I was contacted by Hollywood producer/director Michael Apted, who was doing a documentary, INCIDENT AT OGALALA, on life long incarcerated Indian activist, Leonard Peltier (Wounded Knee).
It turned out that the same federal prosecutor and federal judge who prosecuted Peltier had also prosecuted the Gordon Kahl family following the infamous Medina, ND roadblock shootout between federal marshals and Kahl and his family and friends. Apted had been unsuccessful in getting the federal judge or prosecutor to talk with him about Peltier, whereas I had been able to talk with both of them and got a lengthy interview on film with Lynn Crooks the federal prosecutor. I shared whatever information I could with Mr. Apted, and now I share whatever information I can with you.
Gordon W. Kahl, a 63-year-old farmer, was driving his family home from a church meeting in Medina, North Dakota, on the evening of February 13, 1983, when he ran into a roadblock. Shots rang out, and Kahl saw his son gunned down. He pulled a Mini-14 automatic rifle from his gun rack, and a battle took place with local and federal officials–a battle that, Tax Patriots say, was fought because the government wanted to silence Kahl’s outspoken criticism of the income-tax system. When the smoke cleared, Kahl, a decorated WWII veteran, had killed two officers and wounded three others.
Thus began the largest manhunt in Arkansas’s history. Kahl went into hiding as 100 heavily armed state and federal agents combed the countryside. On June 3, 1983, more than 40 federal agents armed with automatic weapons surrounded Leonard Ginter’s farmhouse, where Kahl was purportedly staying. Gordon Kahl was shot a point-blank range in the back of the head. The sheriff who went in with two other officers to get him was shot by one of his own men. The house was then torched and Gordon’s body left inside to burn.
One deputy later admitted following orders to pour gasoline down the chimney to start the fire. The coroner reported that one of Gordon’s hands and both feet were missing from his body. A few weeks later a New York Times reporter found one of the feet under a refrigerator in the ruins; it had been chopped off. None of the siege force has come forward with a clear vision of what happened that day. No grand jury has convened to resolve the controversy surrounding Kahl’s killing and its bizarre aftermath.
Gordon Kahl confirms a taxpayer’s worst nightmare about confronting the IRS. Many within a growing tide of disenchanted Americans claim the IRS acted with the intention of striking terror into the hearts of Americans and portraying tax protesters as violent outlaws.
While Kahl represents an extreme, thousands of Americans are actively questioning the fairness of taxes and the tactics of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Many call themselves tax patriots, harking back to the Boston Tea Party–a rebellious gesture of our forefathers against the tyranny of taxation that lit the fuse of the American Revolution. Tax patriots today claim their hard-earned rights “to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are being denied and violated by the U.S. government.
Tax Protestors or Illegal Tax Absconders?
The IRS reports the number of “people who illegally protest against federal taxes” as growing from 7,661 in 1978 to 53,628 protesters in 1982. “The Freedom [tax] Movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Like the antislavery movement of the 1850s and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Freedom Movement is the human-rights issue for our day and time,” insists Lawrence Beecraft, a Huntsville, Alabama lawyer.
The IRS claims 1,063 convictions of illegal tax protesters in the past six years. All were convicted of willful failure to file. “We have about 24,000 illegal tax-protest cases per year on which we take enforced collection action,” states Larry Batdorf, spokesman for the IRS national office.
“They can call me an ‘illegal tax protester’ if they let me interpret it in my way and say I’m protesting illegal taxes,” maintains John Voss, director of the National Commodity & Barter Association (NCBA). His organization describes its main purpose as “putting a stop to the tyrannical activities of the IRS against the American citizen, and ridding America of the present, counterproductive system of income taxation.
Goon Squads Target Anyone and Everyone
The IRS seized nine-year-old Carmen Fisher’s savings account in Junction City, Oregon, to satisfy an unpaid tax lien against her grandfather, Charles Fisher. They hauled in $70.76 that the little girl had collected in pennies during six years. Under the spotlight of national scrutiny, the IRS admitted a mistake had been made and returned the money.
What’s a best-selling author doing in prison? “I wrote a book called How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes [Freedom Books, Hamden Connecticut] which sold 175,000 copies and was on the bestseller list for two years,” Irwin Schiff laments. “I am a political prisoner. I am in here for allegedly violating a civil code, not a criminal code. They can only charge you a fine for a civil violation. They cannot incarcerate you.” This statement was made from the Federal Correctional Institute in Lorretta, Pennsylvania, where Irwin currently serves a three-year sentence for tax evasion and fraud.
Schiff is probably the IRS’s most outspoken critic, having given hundreds of seminars around the country, lecturing on tax laws and the Constitution. His book states: “1. No American is legally required to file an income-tax return; 2. No American is legally required to submit to a tax audit; and 3. No American is legally required to have income taxes taken out of his pay or to pay quarterly tax estimates.”
In 1974 Schiff began filing “Fifth Amendment” tax returns on the grounds that any information he provided in his return could–and probably would–be used against him. Schiff’s position would seem to be backed by no less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court. In Garner v. United States (1976) the Court held, “The information revealed in the preparation and filing of an income-tax return is, for Fifth Amendment analysis, the testimony of a ‘witness’ as that term is used herein.’
“Can the government compel you to supply them with information that can be used against you in a criminal proceeding?” asks Guy G. Curtis, prosecuting attorney for the state of Nebraska. “No. Since no citizen can be compelled to be a ‘witness’ against himself, any statute that attempted to involuntarily require you to file a return would be unconstitutional.”
The Committee to Free Irwin Schiff and Other Political Prisoners issued the following statement: “Irwin is innocent (as are all other so-called ‘tax protesters’) of the crimes for which he is incarcerated…federal judges, as well as U.S. prosecutors, knowingly disregard the law and send innocent people to jail in order to intimidate the public into believing that filing and paying federal income taxes is mandatory rather than voluntary…”
Taxes and the Constitution: A Voluntary Requirement?
Peggy and Bob Christensen of Montana got so fed up with taxes that they studied the U.S. Constitution and formed the Golden Mean Team to assist tax patriots in courtroom battles with the IRS. They’ve participated in more than 300 cases and claim to have won more than any lawyer in the country. Simple country people, the Christensens got involved with the Tax Protest Movement when “Bob came home one day and said he’d go to jail before he’d pay more taxes to finance the destruction of our two sons,” Peggy Christensen relates. “I started studying the Constitution to prove him wrong! Instead, I became a born-again taxpayer, or nontaxpayer.” Peggy and Bob started filing Fifth Amendment tax returns, and they sent along copies of the Constitution on four-by eight-foot sheets of paneling, “to make it easier for the tax officials to read.”
Peggy and Bob represent what the IRS fears most: common people who’ve become tax patriots by taking a stand., speaking out and informing the public that the tax system is corrupt.
The central belief of tax patriotism is that the filing of federal income tax is voluntary. Strangely enough, the IRS itself agrees, sort of. IRS guidelines state, “The IRS’s primary task is to collect taxes under a voluntary compliance system.” When questioned about that, Larry Batdorf, spokesperson for the IRS, states, “The argument for voluntary compliance is asinine, absurd!”
The U.S. Supreme Court in Flora v. United States (1959) decrees, “Our tax system is based upon voluntary assessment and payment, not upon distraint [force].” A dictionary defines voluntary as something “done of one’s own free will and without legal obligation.”
“Uhhh, overall the payment of taxes is on a voluntary compliance. But, failure to pay taxes puts you in a collection status with the IRS,” explains Jim Mack, IRS Information.
“No, it’s not voluntary…hold on…my supervisor reiterated what I just told you: It is a voluntary requirement. It’s the law that you should file your taxes,” elucidates Ms. Stevenson, IRS Information. “I’ll tell you how voluntary it is. People call in to report other people that have been evading taxes. Then the Criminal Investigation Division looks into that individual and finds out, in fact, that they are breaking the law. Then they prosecute that person to the fullest extent! If it was voluntary, you would not be able to prosecute them.”
Tax patriots claim the IRS has a history of saying one thing and doing another, relying on unclear laws that can be bent to fit its needs in any dispute with a citizen.
Asseverates Ron Paul, last November’s presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, “The IRS is probably the most abusive of all agencies in the U.S. government. It has no respect for the Constitution. There is no due process of law, and the assumption always is that you are guilty until you the citizen can prove yourself innocent. it is totally un-American.”
Tax Thieves Strike Again
The IRS abuses raw force to confiscate property, seize bank accounts, sell houses, attach wages and notify employers to disregard an employee’s sworn “exempt” W-4 statement.
Paul Adam of Chicago had his $50,000 house put up for auction by the IRS over a disputed $500. The IRS offered the house for a minimum bid of $989.
Tax-patriot claims that the IRS knowingly uses Gestapo tactics seem to be confirmed in the IRS-manual discussion on “exempt” W-4s: “The employer has no legal obligation to intervene with the employee. However, the Service has found that in many situations, this is the more effective means of correcting an erroneous withholding certificate with the least inconvenience to all parties.” Herbert Mosher, the IRS district director for Massachusetts, states, “The IRS could not enforce penalty on employers who refused to cooperate with this policy. But, ” he continues, “let’s face it, no employer wants to incur the wrath of the IRS.”
Daniel Pilla refused to withhold income tax and social security from his employees’ wages at his St. Paul, Minnesota, printing plant. He lost that battle. The IRS sold his plant to pay his tax debts and sent him to prison for seven months. But the war still wages for Pilla, who wrote a book about his experiences, The Naked Truth. “This is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. But it’s the land of the serfs and the home of the slaves!” contends Pilla.
IRS Goons Not Accountable to Anyone
Congressional investigators found that IRS toll-free lines for taxpayer assistance gave wrong answers 22% of the time. Another 15% of the answers were incomplete. IRS Information Publication #920 states, “…if we do make an error, you are still responsible for the payment of the correct tax.”
Ralph Nader’s consumer group tested IRS accuracy. They submitted identical financial records for a fictional family to 12 different IRS offices. Each office computed a totally different amount owed.
IRS commissioner Lawrence B. Gibbs assured a Senate committee investigating the IRS that he would not anticipate the agency imposing penalties on taxpayers if discrepancies on their returns resulted from erroneous IRS information.
Four-term former Congressman George Hansen (R-Idaho) would probably disagree with Commissioner Gibbs’s assurances, having recently completed six months in prison for what many people claim was being an outspoken critic of the IRS and Justice Department. “My husband was railroaded into prison by the U.S. Department of Justice for supposedly breaking a law that the Congress never intended to carry criminal penalties,” states Connie Hansen.
Hansen was accused of not reporting some if his wife’s income on his Congressional financial-disclosure statement. He told the court repeatedly that he sought the advice of the Congressional auditing staff and completed the forms as he was advised. The court refused to take this evidence into account. George became the first and only congressman ever convicted and jailed for violating the 1973 Ethics in Government Act. According to The Justice Times, a monthly tax-patriot newspaper, an estimated 230 members of Congress were then allowed to change forms that would have failed under the same ethics law that sent Hansen to prison.
“I saw the IRS efforts to get rid of Congressman Hansen,” states Paul DesFosses, a retired IRS agent and president of the National Coalition of IRS Whistleblowers, a group that supports IRS employees and citizens who speak up against IRS illegal acts. During Hansen’s 1976 campaign for reelection, “the IRS Idaho district director, Howard Martin, met with Hansen’s opponent and his campaign manager [who is the current Idaho congressman, Richard Stallings] to plan the illegal leak of misinformation to hurt and embarrass Hansen’s reelection efforts,” spills DesFosses.
Many people feel that Congressman Hansen was persecuted because of his book To Harrass Our People: The IRS and Government Abuse of Power (Positive Publications, Washington, D.C.), which details, “Law-breaking government at all levels jails ministers and church members–makes fugitives of women and children–rigs juries, conducts illegal wiretaps and spends billions to send innocent citizens to jail.”
Taxpayer Bill of Rights
DesFosses gives another reason for the IRS’s abuse of Congressman Hansen: “Hansen’s arrest and imprisonment was an IRS message to those in Congress supporting Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” Though it passed the Senate, this new bill is dying in the House of Representatives. If enacted into law, it would require the IRS to prepare a comprehensive statement of taxpayer rights and obligations. It would also allow a citizen the right to recover defense costs and damages if IRS actions were proved unreasonable, careless or reckless and in intentional disregard of statutes. The IRS would also have to issue the taxpayers a Miranda-type warning before interviewing them.
Senator David Pryor (D-Arkansas), cosponsor of the bill, stated at committee hearings that the legislation has “touched a raw nerve in our population. People are afraid of the IRS. The IRS relies on intimidation and arm-twisting to strike fear in the hearts of those it bullies.”
IRS commissioner Lawrence Gibbs responds, “We’re not looking for love. We’re looking for respect and confidence.” The following testimony was made at Congressional hearings:
- IRS managers routinely pressure revenue officers to seize the property of delinquent taxpayers even when less extreme measures are warranted. –IRS memo
- “It’s an awesome organization with powers that are virtually unchecked.” –IRS employee for 18 years
- “…the most hated organization in the United States. People had rather deal with the KGB. I was once proud to be a revenue agent.”
- “For five years I have been consumed by a nightmare that began with a seemingly routine IRS audit. Taxpayers have no rights in dealing with the IRS. They’ve totally destroyed my life!”
- “We are victims of an IRS mentality that believes all taxpayers are criminals and should be punished.”
- “We have in the IRS an agency that simply has too much power.” –Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan)
- Even congressmen are afraid of the IRS, according to Senator Pryor, who stated that most lawmakers declined to help sponsor the bill out if fear that they would be audited.
“The real sad part about this Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is that taxpayers need special protection. Why shouldn’t the Constitution protect them? And why does Irwin Schiff, who defends himself on the Constitution, go to jail? That tells us how far we’ve drifted from protecting civil liberties in this country!” says Ron Paul., former Libertarian presidential candidate.
Secret Police and Profit-Driven Snitches
In 1975 the IRS started the Fremont County Returns Compliance Program in Idaho. Armed agents went door-to-door demanding proof of filed income-tax returns. The National Treasury Employees Union intervened, complaining to the IRS that the program was likely to provoke violence against the agents.
“Have you ever looked at the wrong end of a .357 Magnum?” asks John Voss of the National Commodity and Barter Association (NCBA) as he describes the day “15 to 20 gun-toting federal agents” burst into the NCBA offices in Denver and threw everybody up against the wall. They “hauled everything away that wasn’t nailed down. A week later the judge ordered everything returned. The whole raid was illegal.”
Hitler consolidated his power in Germany, in part, through a taxing system that allowed the government to invade every individual’s private life. The Gestapo turned neighbor against neighbor, urging them to turn each other in for crimes against der Fuehrer.
“Snitch fees are fairly substantial,” reports Paul DesFosses of the IRS Whistleblowers. “Bank tellers in Las Vegas or Reno sometimes make more money from their referral reports or snitches than they do from their jobs. Somebody will win a large amount of money and come in to get a cashier’s check payable to himself. The tellers run down to the IRS with that report.”
DesFosses also says, “Attorneys sometimes turn in clients. Especially divorce attorneys. Where they have all of the records of the wife, they’ll turn in the husband. If they have the records, they can obtain 50% of what the IRS collects. The poor husband doesn’t have the records to defend himself. He’s in a pretty bad spot.”
IRS Criminal Investigation Division responded enthusiastically when asked if there were rewards for snitching someone off: “There sure is! It’s based on the value of the information turned in,” gushes Special Agent Grant Covey. “We don’t reveal there was an informant, let alone reveal the identity of the informant.” Covey laughs. “I’ve been real busy today!”
“Our tax system is supposed to be a voluntary system. People are supposed to want to support their government,” comments Jim Morrow in the newspaper Freedom. “Why don’t these people want to chip in? Part of the answer may lie in the internal revenue code itself. An individual’s fair share of taxes is determined by a set of laws and rules so complex that it requires a certified public accountant to translate them. The complexity of the code results in and then masks countless injustices perpetrated by IRS agents who say they are ‘only doing their jobs.'”
IRS Tries to Steal Quadriplegic’s Wheelchair
After a two-year battle, Texas patriot quadriplegic Sammy Lott was forced to file bankruptcy to stop the IRS from illegally confiscating his home, wages, wheelchair and specially equipped van, reports The Justice Times (Clinton, Arkansas). Though confined to a wheelchair since a near-fatal automobile accident in 1973, Lott has been self-supporting, receiving no government assistance. In three court hearings requested by the IRS, the IRS failed to show up. Finally, the judge fined the IRS $600 for Lott’s attorney fees and reduced the agency’s “exaggerated” claim of $20,000 owed by Lott to $1,300.
“Our federal tax system is utterly impossible, utterly unjust and completely counterproductive. The present system of taxation reeks with injustice and is fundamentally un-American. It has earned a rebellion, and it’s time we rebelled,” pontificated President Ronald Reagan in May of 1983 at Williamsburg, Virginia.
In the first five years of Reagan’s Administration tax-fraud convictions increased dramatically (18%). There was an 86% increase, 11 months to 21 months, in the average length of tax-fraud prison sentences handed out from 1980 to 1985.
The Constitution stipulates that all citizens have equal rights and receive equal treatment under the law. Contrary to that concept, the IRS targets people for prosecution, keeping a tax-protester hit list.
“That’s hogwash. There never has been a hit list!” says IRS national spokesman Larry Batdorf.
Paul DesFosses disagrees, presenting sample pages out of the “IRS Tax Protester List.” “There are hundreds of thousands of people on the IRS hit list or tax-protester list. John Wayne and Howard Jarvis were put on because they supported the Property Tax Proposition 13. War protesters have been put on. Any kind of government criticism can get you on it,” says DesFosses.
Supreme Court Shoots Down Freedom of Information Act
Would you like to know if you’re on the hit list? Forget it! The Supreme Court, in November 1987, ruled that the public has no right to get information kept by the IRS. Tax patriots see this as a blatant affirmation of what they’ve been proclaiming all along, that the judiciary protects the IRS.
“This ruling essentially immunizes the IRS from public scrutiny,” points out David Vladeck, a lawyer with the Public Citizen Litigation Group. “Ironically, this is the one agency that every American deals with annually. What the court has done is erect an insurmountable obstacle to obtaining IRS records.”
This gives the IRS virtually complete protection from outsider monitoring of their activities.
The IRS functions on a level that totally ignores the U.S. Constitution. Our Founding Fathers though our most important rights were those of free speech and a free press. We are supposed to be able to criticize the government without them sending us to Siberia.
But what would happen to the author of an article critical of the IRS? “If you wrote an article advocating any of these things, you might find yourself being considered a tax protester, and we might be taking a look at your returns,” avers Robert Giannangeli of the IRS public affairs.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment?
E. Kevan Rowlee is currently under indictment for 50 counts of fraud, mail fraud, and “conspiracy to hinder IRS activities.” If convicted of all counts, he could be sentenced to 220 years in prison and fined $1.9 million. Rowlee is a tax protester and a social commentator–a writer. His crimes are sending letters to the editors of local newspapers and publishing the New York Patriot’s Society newsletter.
Most people involved believe Rowlee’s trial is a direct attack by the IRS on First Amendment rights. They describe the case as a “landmark trial,” a battle representing the rights of all U.S. citizens.
Rowlee says, “They’ve charged me with telling people that the banks are going to fail, that American banks won’t protect your privacy. They’re not making any bones about it. They’re trying to jail me for the rest of my life.”
Thus far the court has disallowed or disbarred four attorneys from representing Rowlee. The Attorney General apparently doesn’t want to face any attorneys with track records of winning cases against the IRS.
“I watched the booted marshals and their attack dogs prowling the corridors of the federal courthouse, and I saw the fear in the faces of the defense attorneys and witnesses. There could certainly be nothing less equitable behind the Iron Curtain,” states Paul DesFosses as he describes a “trial” of six tax patriots in St. Paul, Minnesota, who were convicted of “conspiracy to hinder IRS activities.” DesFosses was there to present the court two top-secret IRS documents, which he says would prove the IRS charges were without substance. The judge would not allow them as evidence.
Tax patriots believe it’s almost impossible to get a fair trial against the IRS. Whistleblowers documented IRS abuses including:
- memos from IRS managers who instruct their agents how to “educate” judges and attorneys and pressure them to find a person guilty;
- how the IRS has worked with the U.S. postal inspectors, illegally opening citizens’ mail;
- IRS coaching of witnesses to change their testimony the night before a trial;
- threatening citizens with audits and grand jury investigation if they refuse to stop criticizing the IRS.
“Many attorneys are scared to death to represent their clients because of the fear of IRS retaliation. You can imagine what kind of representation their clients get,” states Paul DesFosses.
“They’ve done a good job of brainwashing and intimidating the public,” sums up John Voss of NCBA, who won his “willful failure to file” case against the IRS.
“None of the major newspapers and news media will print what my dad [Irwin Schiff] talks about. They don’t want to antagonize the IRS by letting the truth come out,” flatly states Peter Schiff.
Our Founding Fathers repeatedly warned of the sinister power of federal taxation. Patrick Henry, one of our heroes of the American Revolution, uttered these prophetic words in 1788: “Unlimited power of taxation will produce such dreadful oppression as the people cannot possibly bear. The federal sheriff may commit what oppression, make what distresses he pleases, and ruin you with impunity. How are you to tie his hands? Have you any sufficient means of preventing him from sucking your blood? Thus thousands of your people will be most shamefully robbed!”