Sunday, February 03, 2008

Wesley Snipes Is Acquitted of Tax Felonies

Mr. Snipes had become an unlikely public face for the tax-denier movement, whose members maintain that Americans are not obligated to pay income taxes and that the government extracts taxes from its citizens illegally.

Two co-defendants — Eddie Ray Kahn, a promoter of tax denial, and Douglas Rosile, a disbarred accountant — were convicted on separate felony counts.

“The verdict shows that promoters face serious jail time” but clients who follow their advice will face a lesser but still-serious risk, said JJ MacNab, a Maryland insurance analyst who attended the trial and is writing a book about tax deniers.

Even as Congress has reduced income tax rates, the tax denier movement has spread, fueled by high payroll taxes, political attacks on the Internal Revenue Service and anger among people who have not benefited from decades of strong overall economic growth.

Instead of prosecuting all offenders, the Justice Department brings cases against well-known individuals, hoping that widespread news coverage will encourage compliance, a policy known as general deterrence.

Tax deniers assert variously that the tax laws are valid but do not apply to them, that no law makes anyone liable for taxes and that the government tricks people into paying. Promoters of tax denial claim that people can legally stop paying income taxes by executing certain documents, or by not signing others, such as tax returns. Courts have rejected all of these arguments.

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