As April 15 Approaches, Some Tax Defiers Preach the Point of No Returns
For most Americans, April 15 is a date that lives in infamy. But this Thursday, as taxpayers wrangle with 1040s to beat the midnight deadline, a few citizens will be sitting blithely by, unflus-tered by the Internal Revenue Service. These are tax defiers—people who, out of principle or eccentricity or downright avarice, either refuse to comply with the IRS code or file what the government calls misleading returns. Not mere tax evaders, these hardy few do not hide their actions. They trumpet them to the skies, and urge other Americans to join in flouting the law or finding loopholes. Nobody knows exactly how many are abroad in the land, but those pictured on these pages are typical. They have the courage of their convictions—and most of them will need it. In the past four years more than 265 tax defiers have been convicted on criminal charges. As IRS spokeswoman Ellen Murphy admonishes: "Some people can go merrily along for years without paying taxes, but eventually everyone gets caught."
From his hot tub to his Mill Valley mansion to his three children by three women (he married one), Bill Greene, 44, is the picture of the successful Californian. But the author of Win Your Personal Tax Revolt (Harbor-Putnam, $14) may soon lose his appeal of a two-year jail term and $20,000 fine for, he says, "telling people that only fools pay taxes." Actually, Greene, who is a millionaire (from real estate) and says he hasn't paid "significant" income tax for 20 years, was convicted for tax evasion.
"Filing income taxes is voluntary," insists Connecticut's Irwin Schiff, 54, who says his peculiar interpretation of the tax code has won him over 100,000 followers. He aims for more: "My goal by 1983 is to make even the village idiot know you don't have to file." But Schiff's stance cost him in another way—the sometime insurance underwriter served four months in prison last year for failing to file. He claims not to have done so since 1973.
Texas commodities broker Lyle Gallagher, 27, got into tax defiance by accident: As a waiter turned law student at SMU, he forgot to file and kept putting it off until two years went by and "nothing happened." Gallagher says he hasn't filed since 1978 and keeps the IRS off his back by setting up and disbanding a new unincorporated company every quarter, making him difficult to trace. Now he has another cause, which is outlined in his just-published book: How Anyone Can Stop Paying Traffic Tickets ($20; P.O. Box 8082, Dallas, Texas 75205).
St. Louis cabbie Amos Bruce, 57, thinks he's found a loophole. The Constitution, he says, stipulates that only gold and silver are legal tender. Scholars disagree, but Bruce says that he needn't pay taxes in a monetary system based on paper money. A fifth-grade dropout who claims he hasn't filed a return in 11 years, Bruce is legal adviser to the St. Louis-based Monetary Realist Society and for three years has burned a 1040 form on local television every April 15. All his assets are in his wife's name—and she files every year, just like most of us.
On Newsstands Now
- The Little Couple: A New Mom's Fight to Live
- Remembering Nelson Mandela
- Princess Kate's Style Secret!
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine