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Sovereignty Over a Jail Cell

“Sovereign citizens” genuinely believe that there are two types of citizens: (1) “Fourteenth Amendment citizens” who are subject to federal, state, and local statutes and proceedings; and (2) “Sovereign citizens” who are subject only to the “common law.” Sovereign citizens claim the common law means a citizen possesses absolute power over all her property. A corollary to this power is that sovereign citizens are free from taxation. Individuals holding this position are also known as “tax protesters.”

“Tax protesters” refuse to pay federal or state tax. After the IRS or state tax agency comes calling for its share, sometimes the tax protester will go to court in dispute. Such was the case for Brian Steven Richmond in U.S. Tax Court, and the court’s decision was filed today.

Mr. Richmond’s income in 2008 was $38,915. He submitted his 2008 tax return, as required. Problem was, it was a “zero” income tax return. He listed no income, and claimed a refund of $3,447. Under established law, a “zero” income tax return is treated as if the return was not actually filed.

The IRS prepared a substitute for return for Mr. Richmond, and then sent a notice of deficiency for the amount owed. Mr. Richmond filed a petition to challenge the deficiency in court.

What were Mr. Richmond’s arguments? He claimed that he is a citizen of the “Sovereign State of Kansas” and not a citizen of the United States. As a result, he argued, federal income taxes are optional. Of course, the court rejected this argument. In ruling in favor of the IRS, the court also sustained penalties for the taxpayer’s failure to timely file a tax return. In addition, Mr. Richmond may very well face criminal charges for his acts.

Another self-proclaimed “sovereign citizen,” Samuel Davis, already has. As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Mr. Davis was sentenced to 54 months in prison earlier today for money laundering. Authorities described Davis as a national leader of the “sovereign citizen” movement, traveling around the country to preach his drivel philosophies. Davis won’t be spreading his words anytime soon.

Stories involving tax protesters never end well. Not that we expect them to. I just don’t follow the logic of these folks. Then again, there is no logic to follow.

Case: Richmond v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2011-251.

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