Prominent anti-tax charlatan Joe Banister was acquitted of tax conspiracy charges by a federal jury in California yesterday. He was charged with conspiring with fast-driving Al Thompson to evade taxes for Thompson and his business. Mr. Thompson is serving a six-year sentence for his tax evasion conviction.
DOES THIS MEAN THE TAX LAW IS INVALID?
Whenever a tax protest figure dodges a conviction in a jury trial, members of the Tax
Delusion Honesty movement cite the acquittal as proof that the income tax really is invalid. That's like John Gacy citing the O.J. acquittal as evidence that there is "no law" against murder. It just means that for whatever reason, the prosecutors failed to convince the jury that Mr. Banister was guilty of conspiracy.
WHAT'S WITH THE GOVERNMENT?
The ponderous IRS response to tax protestors has always been puzzling. The government should have a special unit devoted to swiftly and publicy shutting down sellers of tax non-compliance schemes. By responding slowly, the IRS gives the Tax Honesty charlatans more time to get more folks in trouble. As time passes without injunctions and arrests, the gullible see it as evidence that their goofy theories actually work.
While the IRS and the Justice Department have stepped up their efforts in recent years against the tax protesters, the Banister acquittal may indicate that their efforts are still haphazard and unfocused. Tax Analysts quotes one frustrated observer of the tax protest movement:
McNab expressed frustration because only the regional CI (criminal investigation) office was able to move on Banister, rather than having the IRS build a more comprehensive case.
"I don't know why they don't treat him [Banister] as a national figure. He certainly has more than one client," she said. "Joe's a promoter. Al Thompson never was."
WHAT'S WITH TAX ANALYSTS?
The Tax Analysts story on the Bandister acquittal has this strange paragraph:
The Banister case now joins the 1991 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Cheek (498 U.S. 192), the 1993 Eastern District of Tennessee decision in United States v. Lloyd R. Long (CR-1-93-1), and the 2003 Western District of Tennessee decision in IRS v. Kuglin as the preeminent decisions shielding tax protesters.
"Preeminent decisions shielding tax protesters?" Only in the way the O.J. verdict is a preeminent decision shielding multiple homicides.
In Cheek, the Supreme Court ruled that a tax protester could try to convince a jury that he really believed his goofy theories. Mr. Cheek got another trial, and another conviction.
In both the Long and Kuglin cases, tax protestors won aquittal by a jury on criminal counts. They still had to pay the taxes, though.
These cases do next to nothing to "shield" tax protesters, despite their earnest assertions otherwise. It's strange that Tax Analysts seems to agree with them.
OR IS IT JUST A CLEVER CONSPIRACY?
The subscription-only version of the Tax Analysts article quotes a tax protester as taking a more sinister view of the Banister acquittal:
Longtime tax protester Otto U. Skinner said that because Department of Justice attorneys are notorious for bringing tax cases they are 90 percent sure they can win, the defeat all but confirms the theory that Banister may still be operating as an IRS mole.
"If Banister gets off, it's because the government put on a weak case," he said. "And that can only be done on purpose."
That's right, Otto, you're surrounded by spies. And how do we know you're not one, eh?
UPDATE:The TaxProf has more, with links.
Also: New York Times coverage.
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