Fed up with taxation as we know it, some prominent Americans are planning a little tea party Tuesday morning in--where else?--Boston Harbor.
Not an original idea, perhaps, but, hey, it worked the first time.
This time, protesters will be dumping not Ceylon and Darjeeling but the federal income tax code--thousands and thousands of pages--inside a tea chest. (In the interests of the environment, it will be hauled back up by rope.)
The dumpers, Republican Reps. Dan Schaefer of Colorado and Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, will then hurry back to Washington to introduce a bill to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, repeal the federal income tax and replace it with a 15% national retail sales tax.
About the time the tea party starts, San Franciscan Robert Barber, 51, a self-described "philoeconopolist" (one who examines political, social and economic aspects of taxation) plans to set off by car from Sacramento on his coast-to-coast 1997 Abolish Income Taxes Tour.
En route to Washington--where on Sept. 30 he intends to mount the steps of the Capitol with his message--Barber will stop at 48 state capitals. The semiretired computer consultant is a man on a mission: "Nobody wants to pay taxes, but nobody wants to get out there and do a Patrick Henry, except for me."
He has no stirring slogan such as "Give me liberty or give me death." But he has his "Abolish income taxes" T-shirts. And his passion.
Every April, in the tradition of the patriots who, fortified by rum and applejack, boarded those ships in Boston in 1773, some Americans delight in telling the IRS what it can do with its code.
Armchair activists are exchanging tax chat at Internet sites such as the Tax Channel. Using monikers such as TAXMDRY, they ask: "Did we tell the king to take a hike so we could do worse things to ourselves?"
They share slogans--"Just Say No to the IRS," "Honk If You Hate the IRS"--and even accountant jokes: "Did you ever hear a child say he wanted to grow up to be an accountant?"
Some have imaginative, if not practical, ideas. One such: The government should decide how much it needs, then send every citizen an equal bill. Because many couldn't afford to pay, the theory goes, Uncle Sam would have to tighten his belt.
New Jersey college professor Murray Sabrin and his Alliance for a Tax Free America would just phase out Social Security, Medicare and welfare by 2000.
Some protest with flair, parading in Revolutionary garb. Others just quietly refuse to pay, some taking a stand against war or government excesses or environmental neglect.
IRS spokesman Henry Holmes estimates that 6 million Americans fail to file each year, but, "We are able to put a large dent in that number through our collection actions."
Non-filers include Lynne Meredith of Huntington Beach, who contends that the income tax is illegal. She says she has never paid and has "never gotten so much as a phone call from the IRS."
Meredith, who drives a Corvette Stingray bearing TAXREBEL plates, has written two books on how to best the IRS--"Vultures in Eagle's Clothing" and "How to Cook a Vulture." The publisher is We the People, which operates out of a posh Huntington Beach high-rise and, she says, will soon file as a political party. "They're actually going to run me for president in the year 2000" on a platform including repeal of the Internal Revenue Act.
Meredith, a self-taught tax scholar, gives pricey seminars explaining that there is no mandatory graduated income--"It would be unconstitutional"--and how most people can "volunteer out" of the system.
The crux of her argument? That while the 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, authorized Congress to collect taxes on income, income does not include compensation in the private sector because the right to labor is a fundamental right, and fundamental rights cannot be taxed. Further, she says, the 16th authorizes only indirect taxes such as duties and excise taxes, not direct taxes on personal assets unless such taxes are equally apportioned.
San Francisco tax attorney Fred Daily says he has heard it all in 29 years of practice. "Even if every argument she makes is true and valid, it's not worth its salt until a federal court buys it."
Daily, author of "Stand Up to the IRS," a guide to fighting back legally, adds, "Believe me, if it were possible not to pay income taxes, I would be the first one in line." But, he says, highly intelligent people buy into such theories. "It's not just a bunch of Freemen farmers."
Meredith, who says she is a patriot and would pay legal taxes, bristles at being lumped in with groups such as the Freemen or the now-defunct California-based Pilot Connection Society, which made millions selling tax evasion kits until its leaders were jailed for tax evasion and mail fraud. "We definitely don't promote anarchy," she says. "No one here even owns a can of Mace."