No one likes paying taxes of any kind, and Federal income taxes are liked perhaps the least of all. I know of no one, apart from the U.S. Treasury Department1, that has any love for the IRS. People who would hardly utter a grunt at having to pay a sales tax, a real estate tax, a gasoline excise tax, or even a state income tax, will bellow and holler in consternation when it comes time to file a Federal income tax return. For most people, this is because the Federal income tax is the largest single tax they pay that is visible to them. And not just visible as a withholding amount on their paychecks; it stares back up at them from a line on form 10402 at the end of the year as a gargantuan lump sum. For others, it's because they feel the Federal government is inefficient and that the economy would be better off if the money were left in the private sector. For still others, its because they have had, or know someone who has had, or have read about someone who has had, a bad experience with the IRS in which the agency may have exceeded its authority in order to nab revenue and/or look threatening.
But there's another, smaller group that goes beyond this. They don't just feel that their expensive Federal government is inefficient, they feel that it is actively evil. That it has departed so radically from what the Constitution says it's supposed to be, that it is their patriotic and moral duty to fully reject living within its jurisdiction. And if this happens to save them tens of thousands of dollars per year in taxes, I guess that's just one of the "prices" they'll have to "pay". They call themselves "patriots", and their cause is to restore what they believe is their guaranteed "sovereignty" under the Constitution.
Like all good conspiracy theories, the theory that the U.S. isn't operating under the Constitution needs to have an "origin story". How did this "Sovereign Republic", the Greatest Nation on Earth, where Freedom Rings and Truth Goes Marching On, Glory Glory Hallelujah, lose its wonderful nigh-Utopian status? What evil snake infiltrated our sweet-and-innocent Primordial Government and tempted our Adams and Eves with the Fruit of their own downfall?
Some say it was Lincoln's declaration of Martial Law when the southern states tried to secede. Since he was assassinated before he got to formally un-declare Martial Law (if he even planned to), we've been in the grips of a military dictatorship ever since. This theory is most popular in the former Confederate states, for obvious reasons. Others say it was in 1845 when Congress unilateraly extended the jurisdiction of Maritime or Admiralty Law (the laws governing the high seas, coastal waters, and navigable rivers) all the way inland to cover the entire United States. Still others claim it happened when Congress granted FDR broad emergency powers to deal with the Great Depression, and point to the way Roosevelt outlawed private ownership of gold as evidence of a sinister objective.
And yet others say that it happened, or at least that the nails were
driven into the coffin of the "old" United States, by an obscure piece
of Federal legislation called the Buck Act.
You noticed (didn't you?) that according to Article-I-section-8-clause-17 of the U.S. Constitution, if your state legislature decides to sell land to the Federal government, and the Federal government buys it, Congress gets to have exclusive legislation over it. State laws don't apply within such Federal land. The Federal government usually buys small plots of land in this way to build military bases, cemeteries, or other kinds of things that wouldn't fit under normal zoning ordinances.
Unfortunately for the state the land was just purchased from, the state's new lack of jurisdiction over the land means that it can no longer collect taxes for anything that happens on that land. All those hot dog stands and clothing stores on the military base are immune from sales taxes. All those paychecks being handed out to employees that work on the land are likewise untouched by the state's income tax. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to see that any state making such a real estate sale would be getting a raw deal — unless it set its price really high. The Federal government, on the other hand, couldn't care less if state income taxes are applied to its employee's salaries; but it does care if it has to pay a large price to buy land from the states.
Enter the Buck Act. Named either after the Congressman who introduced the bill or some other obscure thing, it was passed by Congress on October 9, 1940 as "54 Stat. 1059". (A transcript of the Senate Committee on Finance's report, in which the Committee argued that the bill should be signed into law, can be read in full at http://www.geocities.com/b_rookard/buck_act_report.html.) On July 30, 1947, the Buck Act was "re-enacted by codification" (61 Stat. 641) and became sections 105-110 of Title 4 in the United States Code3. The Act permits state governments to collect all income and sales taxes that they normally do, even if the transactions being taxed take place on Federal land within their borders. To streamline their verbiage, the code sections coin the fictitious term "Federal Area" to describe lands or premises owned by any branch of the U.S. government.
Sounds innocent enough, right? I mean, allowing states to tax Federal employees hardly sounds like a power play by the Federal government to deprive U.S. citizens of their Constitutional rights, does it? Well, if it sounds harmless to you, that just goes to prove what a dupe you are of the Evil Federal Government Conspiracy. A good conspiracy theorist knows that the real purpose of such an innocently-worded Act is to turn you into the property of the Federal Government the instant you put your signature on any Federal form.
If that was your reaction, you must be one of those 2 or 3 people left in North America that hasn't read "The Story of the Buck Act", by Richard McDonald and edited by Mitch Modeleski4 (reproduced here without permission, and with line numbers added). This article appears on several "Patriot" websites in exactly the same form. It is, to my knowledge, the only article available for public reading presenting the "Buck Act = deprived sovereignty" argument; or at least, the only article that backs up this assertion by citing actual court cases.
If you haven't read it yet, you should, before going any further. This whole long-winded article of mine is about "The Story of the Buck Act".
The gist of the "Story of the Buck Act" article is this: (1) The Social Security Act established ten districts which cover the entire continental U.S.; (2) The Buck Act established that "Federal Areas" apply to any territory within a state where the Federal Government has jurisdiction, including those Social Security districts; and (3) Since the Buck Act says that "State" includes5 the District of Columbia, from whence the Social Security Administration operates, everybody who participates in the Social Security program is within a "Federal Area" and thus subject to exclusive, non-Constitutionally-protected, Federal jurisdiction.
However, under scrutiny, the arguments made by this article fall apart. The court cases it cites support a few of its incidental, preliminary arguments — the lemmas necessary for its main theorem, so to speak — but not one of those cases supports its primary thesis. Finally, the Buck Act itself provides the most damning evidence against this little conspiracy theory.
Of course, I'll have to be meticulous if I want to make this personal adventure
in debunking a success. Conspiracy theorists will not be deterred by a
few flaws in their pet arguments; only a solid refutation of each and every
single piece of alleged evidence they present can begin to plant the seeds of
doubt in them. And since we're dealing here with conspiracy theorists who
may feel that it is their patriotic duty to act on the theories presented in
"The Story of the Buck Act", I'll have to be doubly meticulous so as to avoid
the inevitable accusations of "distorting the facts".
The entire "Story of the Buck Act" article is reproduced here. I've numbered each line, so that references to specific places in this document can be made easily. These line numbers will be useful for discussing it with your sovereignty-minded friends, too, because the line numbers are the same for nearly all copies of this article — only two websites I've found that carry "The Story of the Buck Act" have ever applied any word wrapping to it.
Now, let's look at the arguments the article makes.
In lines 9-12, "The Story of the Buck Act" states:
No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
The next sentence (lines 11-12) of the article says:
The full text of the Social Security Act of 1935 appears at
http://www.ssa.gov/history/35actinx.html. Despite claims to the
contrary, a worker's payments into Social Security are not and never have been
"voluntary"; Title VIII of the Act even calls such payments an "Income Tax on
Employees"7. It was one of the first, if not
the first, Payroll Tax to be instituted at the Federal level.
However, any mention of Social Security numbers is conspicuously absent
from the text of the Act. They were in fact invented by the Social
Security Board as a means of uniquely identifying each wage earner, since a
person's Social Security entitlements at retirement were based on a percentage
of his or her lifetime Social Security tax payments. Hard-working Bob
Smith in Los Angeles didn't want some lazy Bob Smith in Dallas getting credit
for his Social Security money. (A short description of how Social
Security Numbers evolved into I.D. numbers can be found in
this Straight Dope
article.) The Social Security Board put up posters in 1936
encouraging workers to register for Social Security Numbers at the post office,
which gave the impression that not participating in the Social Security program
would merely mean you'd lose your old-age benefits; but this Postal
Registration system was merely a way for the Board to get all these new people
registered before the end of the year. If you missed this registration
"window", you were still required to register for an SSN and use it to have
social security taxes withheld from your paycheck. And if there was any
doubt, in 1960 the Supreme Court affirmed, in Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603,
that the Social Security system is not contractual in nature. Social
Security Numbers are no more a "contractual nexus", in which you agree to give
up some or all of your rights in exchange for voluntarily participating in an
optional program, than bank account numbers are.
But it gets worse. At the top of the last section of the Buck Act, 4 USC 110, is probably its most crucial line. With this one line, the whole argument about a "Federal Area" placing you under the direct jurisdiction of the Federal government crumbles into dust. It reads, simply:
So, if a Federal Area's scope is limited to sections 105 through 109 of the same Title, what "terrible things" do sections 105-109 impose upon us, the Once Proud Sovereign Citizens of These United States? Well, read them for yourself here. They allow a State (which according to 110(d) includes D.C. and U.S. Territories) to apply any of its sales taxes or income taxes on a "Federal Area" located inside the physical boundaries of that state. And that's all.
But is that all there is to this story? Is it possible that McDonald and Modeleski have found some other, less obvious way to read the exact wording of the Buck Act, a way which strips us of our Constitutional rights without coming out and saying so? Lines 42-44 say:
In other words, to the Federal government, the Buck Act grants it the right to tax Federal Areas — a power which it held even before the Act was passed.
But Robert and Mitch don't stop there. In lines 64-79, they assert that because the Social Security Board created 10 Social Security Districts that "covered all the several states like a clear plastic overlay" (lines 16-17), everybody living within any of those Social Security areas — which would include every Patriotic Flag-Waving Sovereign State Citizen who made the mistake of having a Social Security Number — was now considered within a "Federal Area" for purposes of the Buck Act. The physical boundaries of the District of Columbia were artificially stretched to cover everyone that received some kind of a "benefit" from the Federal government or who "participates" in a Federal program. Ignoring for the moment that section 110(e) limits Federal Areas to lands or premises, and that sections 105-109 (the only laws the term "Federal Area" applies to) don't seem to give the Federal government any powers that it didn't already have, lines 71-72 cite a court case to attempt to back up their assertion:
The City of Springfield, Ohio levied an income tax on its residents. Vernon E. Kenny, who was a Springfield resident, argued that he shouldn't have to pay the city's income tax because he was living in a Federally-owned housing project. In this court case, the appellate judges do quote section 106(a) of the Buck Act in their opinions, if only briefly. But they also explicitly state that, since the land for the Federal housing project was not purchased with the express permission of the Ohio legislature, this land was not under exclusive Federal jurisdiction! This is exactly the opposite of McDonald and Modeleski's claim. This case could hardly be said to extend the meaning of "Federal Area" from just lands or premises to everything the Federal Government has their grimy little paws in.
And even if it did, it still wouldn't be enough to make their argument gel. For that, "Federal Areas", and the supposed lack of Constitutional protections that go with them, would have to apply to laws outside the Buck Act.
How does this allegedly make all U.S. citizens into franchisees of the Federal government? That allegation centers on Wheeling Steel Corp.'s reason (C) above. Wheeling argued that discrimination in favor of natural persons, against corporations, was in violation of the Constitution's 14th Amendment8, which says that no State shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". Courts consider a corporation to be a "legal person", in that it can own property, sue and be sued, has a "life" separate from its owners, etc.. The justices' opinions in Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Fox imply that the "any person" mentioned in the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause may also be a "legal person" such as a corporation. (The issue isn't as well settled as that, though; c.f. Cecil Adams' Straight Dope article on corporate personhood.) So, a paranoid person might argue, since a corporation is to be given equal protection with a natural person, a natural person has to be given protection equal with (and not greater than that given to) a corporation; and since corporations are franchisees of the state in which they Incorporated, that makes natural persons no better than franchisees themselves. It's an almost reasonable argument, if a bit obscure, but one thing is missing: Where in this case does it imply whom the citizens are franchisees of?
And more importantly, what does this case have to do with the Buck Act?
Nothing. Ol' Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Fox was decided on May
18, 1936, more than four years before the Buck Act was even passed by Congress.
In lines 99-109, McDonald and Modeleski give instructions on how you can avoid being caught up in this Terrible Federal Area Trap. Not only, they claim, can you not have a Social Security Number or a Federal bank account, you also cannot have a State resident driver's license or a car registered in your name with the State's DMV. Whoa! Hold on there. A state driver's livence? The state DMV? I thought you only said that receiving a Federal benefit, or having some kind of Federal I.D. tag, puts you under direct Federal jurisdiction! Well, that just goes to show what a naive and trusting soul you are. The State governments are secretly in cahoots with the Federal government. When you register a motor vehicle with the DMV, a secret computer code is sent to their couriers in the Black Helicopters, who whisk it away to the state's Corporate headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, who are in direct communication with the Board of De-Sovereignization in Washington, D.C. — an organization so secret the government denies that it even exists — who gives you a Federal I.D. code without your even knowing you have one!
A more straightforward possibility, that the Federal government is
Constitutionally allowed to tax State residents and that not having any of
these forms of identification merely makes it impossible for the government to
prove you're a resident when your case goes to court, just doesn't have
that nice Conspiratorial ring to it.
But, of course, we can't just take the Constitution's word on it: in lines 111-115, McDonald and Modeleski list three Supreme Court cases alleged to show that Congress can't legislate anything that happens outside of Federal territories.
In the first case, American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, the United Fruit Company (a New Jersey corporation) had persuaded the government of Costa Rica to invade Panama in 1904 and interfere with a plantation and a railroad belonging to the American Banana Company. The American Banana Co. claimed that the United Fruit Co. did this in an attempt to eradicate its competition and fix banana prices, in violation of the Sherman Act. The Supreme Court ruled that since Costa Rica was a "sovereign power", U.S. laws didn't apply to it; so long as United Fruit Co. didn't break any international U.S. treaties, it cannot be held liable for Costa Rica's actions in a U.S. court. The sovereignty-minded patriots, of course, would argue that State Citizens are sovereign powers unto themselves, and since this case establishes that U.S. laws don't apply to foreign ("sovereign") countries, Federal laws shouldn't apply to State Citizens either. But a case dealing with foreign nations can hardly serve as a precedent for single human beings, even if such a thing as personal sovereignty does exist. The justices also said, "All legislation is prima facie territorial," which to someone not particularly fond of the Federal government could be construed as meaning that only in U.S. territories (not states) does the Federal government have any jurisdiction at all. Once again, Article I section 8 of the Constitution says otherwise.
The second case, U.S. v. Spelar, 338 U.S. 217, features a U.S. airline flight engineer (Mark Spelar) who died in a take-off crash from an airbase in England. The airbase was owned by England but leased to the U.S.. Spelar's estate sued the U.S. government for negligent operation of the airbase, using England's wrongful death statute. The suit was thrown out in that the airbase was owned by a "foreign country"; Spelar's estate appealed, and the appellate court reversed the decision. The U.S. appealed the appeal, taking the case to the Supreme Court, who reversed the reverse of the decision. The word "sovereignty" appears 3 or 4 times in the judicial opinions, but once again, it is referring to countries, not people.
The third case, New York Central R.R. Co. v. Chisholm, 268 U.S. 29, featured a U.S. citizen employed by New York Central Railroad Company. He was on one of their trains when, 30 miles north of the U.S.-Canada border, he was fatally injured. His estate recovered $3000 in damages from the railroad company under the Liability Act (a U.S. law). The railroad company appealed the case to the Supreme Court, claiming that since the Liability Act said nothing about its applicability outside the U.S., it had no jurisdiction in Canada. The judges agree with the railroad company, quoting an earlier case, Sandberg v. McDonald, 248 U.S. 185, in which their own court had said "Legislation is presumptively territorial and confined to limits over which the law-making power has jurisdiction." They also quote American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., mentioned above. While it is true that Congress only has exclusive jurisdiction over Federally-owned land, this doesn't mean it has no jurisdiction over land belonging to any of the states.
To this list of 3 supreme court cases, I would like to add a Federal Circuit court case, United States v. Mundt, 29 F.3d 233, 237 (6th Cir. 1994), which states:
"On the merits, defendant argues that the District Court lacked jurisdiction over him because he is solely a resident of the state of Michigan and not a resident of any 'federal zone' and is therefore not subject to federal income tax laws. This argument is completely without merit and patently frivolous."
The case itself concerns a Naval Ordnance Plant within the State of Kentucky, which had been acquired by the Federal government and thus was under the Federal government's exclusive jurisdiction. (At last!) The city of Louisville, Kentucky, decided to increase its city limits to completely encompass this Federal land, and then imposed a tax on the ordnance plant's employees equal to 1% of the income they earned within the city limits. Even though this tax was not considered an income tax under Kentucky law (it was officially a "license fee" levied on "the privilege" of engaging in certain activities), it could be construed to fall under the definition of an income tax given in section 106 of the Buck Act. The ordnance plant employees sued the city, claiming it had no right to annex the plant since it had been ceded to the Federal government before it was part of Louisville. The Supreme Court said that, since Louisville was extending its municipal borders according to Kentucky law, and that all state income taxes were valid on a Federal Area located within the state's borders thanks to the Buck Act, all municipal taxes of that state were valid also.
The line from the judicial opinions that doubtlessly got McDonald's and Modeleski's attention was the following: "The fiction of a state within a state can have no validity to prevent the state from exercising its power over the federal area within its boundaries, so long as there is no interference with the jurisdiction asserted by the Federal Government." The fictitious "state within a state" referred to by this court opinion was, of course, the Federally-owned naval ordnance plant lying within the Commonwealth of Kentucky, in which the Federal government (not Kentucky) had ultimate jurisdiction. For the convenience of this court case, the justices referred to such land as a fictitious Federal state within a State. In that sense, and considering that the Buck Act includes U.S. territories in its definition of "State" for some reason, yes, you could consider any wholly-owned Federal land to be "a fictitious Federal state within a state."
The second case they cite, Schwartz v. O'Hara TP. School Dist., 100 A. 2d. 621, 625, 375 Pa. 440, dates from 1953 and thus is too old to be around in any databases. I had to go to the "really old copies of the Atlantic Reporter second-series" section of the law library to look it up. In this case, in 1923 the Pennsylvania legislature ceded some 147 acres of land within the physical boundaries of O'Hara Township to the Federal government for a Veteran's Administration hospital. This hospital had some permanent residents in it who had school-age kids. The O'Hara Township School District refused to pay these kids' public-school tuition because they weren't living "in" the city. The plaintiff argued that, since the Buck Act (aha!) permitted Pennsylvania and any of its subdivisions to levy sales and income taxes on residents of the V.A. hospital, it should therefore "force" the state and local governments to give these Federal-Area residents all the perks they would otherwise have if they weren't living in Federal Areas. Never mind the fact that O'Hair Township levied no such taxes to begin with. The judges basically said, "Oh no it doesn't," and the parents in the V.A. hospital had to keep paying for their kids' tuition.
About four-fifths of the way through the Judicial Opinions in Schwartz v. O'Hara Tp. School District, they mention that the plaintiff cited Howard v. Sinking Fund of Louisville (the same case related above) "concerning the limited valitidy of the 'fiction of a state within a state'." The Pennsylvania judges reply that the concept of a "state within a state" was a perfectly decent way to describe exclusive Federal jurisdiction over ceded areas. So, yes, I suppose you could say that fictitious Federal states within states exist, if only as a legal convenience.
Lines 119-120 ask the reader to compare parts 51.2 and 52.2 of Title 31 of the
Code of Federal Regulations. The search engine at
claims that Title 31 of the C.F.R. contains parts numbered 1 through 19,
and that the next part is part 100. It's pretty typical for each
CFR title to reserve blocks of 100 part numbers for related regulations,
and then not use all of them. I can't find out if there really is
(or ever was) a part 51 or part 52 of 31 CFR. I'll give Rich
and Mitch the benefit of the doubt here and assume that, if it exists,
it also describes Federally-owned territory as a kind of "state within
And that's why you have to pay Federal Income Tax.
(This is quite a remarkable claim, considering that neither two-letter state abbreviations, nor ZIP codes, were around at the time the Buck Act was passed. It's even more remarkable when you consider that, since 1971, the post office hasn't been a part of the Federal government; it's now a separate nonprofit organization in its own right which just happens to be under special Federal protection for things like mailboxes. The Buck Act article is not at all clear on why addresses with 2-letter state names or ZIP codes fall within a "fictitious Federal State". Perhaps the Evil Federal Government applied the same sneaky "plastic overlay" strategy to all those Zoning Improvement Plan [ZIP] codes created in 1963 that it previously did to the Social Security Act. Perhaps those bar codes at the bottom of your mail tell the government how many unregistered guns you own, too.10)
This mailing code warning occurs in other Sovereignty-oriented literature as well. This isn't surprising, since, like Social Security numbers, special government-concocted codes have the flavor of that darned Mark of the Beast. But, of course, each different Sovereignty document claims a different thing you have to do to your mailing address if you want to get out from under the Evil Federal Government's thumb. For example, suppose the mailing address you've been using up until now is as follows:
Why so much attention to detail? Why this feeling that you're walking on a tightrope, that one misstep throws you into the jaws of doom? Perhaps it is because some Patriots have tried other methods in the past, and failed. The Feds got 'em. How could they do this? How could the Feds possibly win their case, when obviously the laws and the courts all say that you don't have to pay income tax if you don't have a social security number or use a postal code? It couldn't possibly be because our arguments are wrong, could it? No, there must be some legal mis-step that the other person took which led to his downfall. If we refine our mailing address, maybe quote some more Federal regulations (or maybe not quote any Federal regulations, since maybe the mere act of quoting them puts us under their jurisdiction!), then we'll be immune to anything They can throw at us. We might have to give up receiving mail at our house, but dog gone it, that's the Price We Pay to Be Free.
I submit, once again, that what not claiming a "normal" address for
your mail does is makes it more difficult for the government to prove you're
a resident within any of the United States, should you contest this claim
in court. In the extreme case of using a General Delivery address,
it makes it impossible to prove residency in a court. Revocation
of your Social Security number, and perhaps of your voter registration
(under the belief that the "U.S. Citizenship" requirements on the ballot
mean "Citizen under the direct and total jurisdiction of the Federal government",
of course), also makes it impossible to prove in court that you are a U.S.
citizen (or for that matter, one of those "State Citizens" you hear the
patriot sovereign guys cheering about). And if they can't prove you're
a citizen in the U.S. or a resident in the U.S., you get
to be a Non-Resident Alien, which only has to pay Income Taxes on income
from "sources within the United States". And if your income source
successfully refutes his U.S. citizenship and residency, they can't
prove that he's a source within the U.S., either. And you both end
up getting away with being tax-free.
Starting in line 133, the article takes an unexpected twist. Now, we already "know" from lines 103-104 that state drivers licenses and state vehicle registrations with your name on them somehow put you in a Federal Area, right? Yet, here, in lines 133-138, we are told:
Wow! Wouldn't that be great? A copy of California Form 590, called a "Withholding Exemption Certificate", is available at http://www.1040.com/forms/state/ca/97/97_590.pdf or http://www.ftb.ca.gov/forms/97_forms/97_590.pdf. According to its instructions, this form is supposed to be used to exempt a California resident from withholding of California State income taxes by a Withholding Agent. California income taxes are required to be withheld from all California source income paid to non-California residents; the person or organization doing the withholding is called the Withholding Agent. You would give this form to your withholding agent if you were receiving California source income and were a California resident, to tell him to stop withholding. (However, it doesn't get you out of having California income tax withheld from a regular employee paycheck.) So in order to use this form at all, you would first need to find somebody other than your employer who qualified as a Withholding Agent, and then you would give this form to him — not to the California or Federal government. You might just as well write "I live in California" on the back of a used envelope, and hide it in your basement.
But let's give McDonald and Modeleski the benefit of the doubt on this one. Whether you use California Form 590 or some other method, you can still proclaim to the world, "I live in California", and sign it under penalty of perjury if you so wish. (I assume you'd want to substitute the state you actually live in if you don't happen to live in California. Maybe the Alabama Franchise Tax Board has a form 590, too.) And once you do so, according to our intrepid author and editor, you need pay neither Federal nor State income tax ever again.
Why? Because of the way the term "includes" is supposed to be interpreted by the courts, of course!5 Lines 139-146 bring up the point that most states have laws that define what the term "in this State" means, as used in other parts of that state's laws (including its tax laws). This definition appears, according to lines 144-146 of the article, as:
(Oh, and did I mention, the Internal Revenue Code13 has a similar definition for the term "within the United States"? So now we have at least two reasons why, assuming you haven't been drawn into one of those "Federal Areas" by having a Social Security Number or a street address, you obviously don't owe any Federal income taxes.)
It's a lovely, prizewinning argument. But try using it to convince
a judge or jury. No court case haggling over the definition of "includes"
in either the Buck Act or any state's definition of "In this State" has
ever come to light. If anyone out there knows of one, I'd love to
Most of the denominations of this American Sovereignty religion share at least a few of the same sacred documents. Mitch Modeleski's The Federal Zone14 is linked to several "patriot" web pages, although both the older links to http://www.levity.com and the newer links to http://www.deoxy.org are no longer active. Irwin Schiff's books How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes, and The Federal Mafia (which he wrote while in jail for tax-related crimes), receive several mentions, and are available for sale from a few sites. George Gordon, who also went to jail for something-or-other, has some writings available on "sovereignty" web pages, and a book titled The Common Law (not to be confused with the book of the same name by former Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendall Holmes). Complete 400-page transcripts of U.S. vs. Lloyd R. Long, a Tennessee case in which Long is charged with willful failure to file tax returns and is found Not Guilty because his Patriot arguments and poor responses from the IRS convinced him that he wasn't liable for any income tax (so his failure to file wasn't willful), are available in at least two places. And, of course, there is "The Story of the Buck Act", originated by McDonald and edited by Modeleski.
When I first read "The Story of the Buck Act", I was a True Believer of this new (to me) Religion of American Sovereignty. But soon, holes started appearing in their arguments. The postal zone and state driver's license admonitions seemed to come out of nowhere. I looked up the text of 4 USC 110, and there at the top were the words "As used in sections 105-109 of this title" qualifying each and every definition contained therein — including the definition of "Federal Area" so crucial to their Buck Act argument. If there were problems with some of their assertions, were there also problems with others? Line 156 of their own article gave me the answer. It began:
Incidentally, much more recently (16-September-1999), my limited ongoing research brought two more Federal court cases to my attention: Johnson v. IRS (CD Cal 1994) 888 F.Supp 1495, which is a Federal district court case; and US v. Kolchev (9th Cir unpub 4/5/94) 21 F3d 1117(t), 73 AFTR2d 1817, which is a Federal Circuit court case. Johnson and Kolchev both invoked the Buck Act as part of their fusillade of Sovereign Citizen arguments. And in both cases, the judicial opinion was that the Buck Act only does what it says it does (allows states to apply their income/sales taxes on Federally owned land within their physical borders).
1. An obscure conspiracy theory making its way around "sovereignty" circles is that the U.S. Treasury Department went bankrupt in 1933 and had all its assets transferred to the Federal Reserve, or the International Banking Conspiracy, or the Bavarian Illuminati, or whomever. This theory appeared in, among other places, a formerly-electronic book called The Federal Zone14 by Mitch Modeleski4, in which he claimed to have evidence for it but failed to disclose any of this evidence. Under this theory, the new organization created a fake front called "The Department of the Treasury" (or sometimes it's "The Treasury Department" without a "U.S." in front of it), whose name sounds like the real U.S. Treasury Department to those dupes out there who don't know the "real" story. And it's this privately owned Treasury Department that uses the IRS to collect your money. To this assertion, I must reply: Then why does it say "United States Treasury" at the top of my IRS refund checks?
2. Yes, yes, I know, there's no Internal Revenue Code13 saying that you have to file a "form 1040". There are, however, Internal Revenue Codes saying that you have to file a "return" if you have more than a certain (small) amount of gross income (IRC 6012), and that you must sign it under penalty of perjury (IRC 6065). You could write it on a piece of toilet paper with a pink crayon, but you still have to file a return. Form 1040 is a tax-return template; it's provided by the IRS as a "courtesy" to assist you in filing a return that meets all Internal Revenue Code requirements for information disclosure and tax calculation. Of course, it's not exactly chock-full of hints as to how to reduce your taxes, but that's your job, not the tax collector's.
3. The United States Code, also known as the United States Consolidated Statutes, is an enormous document. It contains just about every law passed by Congress. There are over 50 "Titles" in the Code, each one of which may have thousands of "Sections", each one of which may be several pages long. The search engine at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/, which contains the entire Code, limits your searches to a single Title; that's how big the Code is. A specific statute within the Code is usually abbreviated as "Title USC Section(subsection)"; so Title 4, Section 110, subsection e would be abbreviated as "4 USC 110(e)". You'd better get used to it. McDonald and Modeleski cite the U.S. Code a lot in their article.
4. A website calling itself the Supreme Law Firm claims that Mitch Modeleski is a pen name for Paul Andrew Mitchell. Not surprisingly, this is Paul Mitchell's website. Interstingly, this website has a copy of The Story of the Buck Act that claims to be written by Richard McDonald and edited by "Paul Andrew Mitchell, B.A., M.S." (In earlier years, the "edited by" credit on this page was given to a "John E. Trumane." Perhaps John E. Trumane was another pen name for Paul Andrew Mitchell.)
5. In Mitch Modeleski's4 book The Federal Zone14, Modeleski spends and entire chapter on the legal definition of the word "includes". If the word "includes" occurs in a statute before a list of things, are things that are not on that list automatically excluded from it? Obviously, a phrasing such as "includes only" or "means and includes" means that other things are excluded, while "includes but is not limited to" means that other things are not necessarily excluded; but what if "includes" occurs by itself? While someone who's been around the courts a while might answer, "It depends on the context", Modeleski is not so easily satisfied. He cites Treasury Decision 3980, part of which says that "includes" with no modifiers should be construed to exclude everything not following it. Additionally, a Usenet acquaintance of mine referred me to Powers exrel. Dovon v. Charron R.I., 135 A. 2nd 829-832 (a state court case), in which the judge's opinion states: "Where a general term in Statute is followed by the word 'including,' the primary import of specific words following quoted words is to indicate restriction rather than enlargements." [Note that United States v. Condo, 741 F.2d 238, 239 (9th Cir.1984), cert denied, 469 U.S. 1164 (1985) directly contradicts this.] Since no court case has ever come to light where this interpretation of "includes" is used on the Buck Act, it's still a nebulous sticking point. My guess is that the original intent of the law, as appears in Congressional transcripts, would decide whether or not "the term 'state' includes D.C." should be interpreted to mean "the term 'state' includes what is normally meant by 'state', plus D.C." or as the more questionable "the term 'state' includes only D.C.".
6. There is some controversy over whether the 16th amendment was properly ratified. The official record is that 38 of the 48 states — two more than the 3/4 majority required — voted to ratify the amendment in 1913. Only 4 of these states, however, voted to ratify the exact wording of the proposed amendment; the other 34 ratified versions with tiny punctuation or capitalization errors; so, a Sovereign Citizen "Patriot" might argue, it was never properly ratified and nobody has to pay income tax. This ignores the fact that many previous amendments, including the Second Amendment which is sacred to so many "Patriots", were previously ratified with different spellings and/or punctuations by the states — some deviations being far worse than the ones in the states' versions of the 16th Amendment texts. Another argument was that the actual number of states that voted to ratify any spelling of the proposed 16th Amendment was smaller than the 38 reported by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox in 1913. Georgia, they claim, actually voted "no". Minnesota informed the Secretary of State as to its "yes" vote orally, rather than in writing, which doesn't carry the signature authority of the Governor and thus "obviously" doesn't count. And one of these 38 states was Ohio; at the time Ohio was admitted to the Union its state legislature forgot to formally vote to let Ohio become a U.S. state (this error wasn't noticed and corrected until 1953). So, therefore, the income tax opponents argue, Ohio's vote didn't count either. And thus, subtracting Georgia, Minnesota, and the "non-state" of Ohio from the reported figure of 38 "yes" votes, only 35 out of the 47 states — one less than the 3/4 majority required — voted to ratify the 16th amendment. The problem with the Ohio argument is that the admission process for states in the early 19th century was a lot less formal than it is now, and it's obvious that both the people and the government of Ohio wanted to be and liked being and thought of themselves as being a state throughout the 1800s. There's an even larger list of "reasons" why any state's "yes" vote should be counted as a "no" vote at http://www.constitution.org/ica_ltnw.htm. However, even in the highly unlikely event that the 16th Amendment wasn't properly ratified, that still wouldn't make modern Federal income taxes unconstitutional. In 1916, the Supreme Court decided (in Brushaber v. Union Pacific, 240 U.S. 1) that the sixteenth amendment really didn't change the Constitution at all; it merely clarified that an income tax should not be considered a direct tax regardless of the source of the income. (Income derived from property rental had been deemed a property tax [and thus a direct tax] in the 1894 Supreme Court case "Pollock v. Farmers' Loan and Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429".) See also Daniel B. Evans' Tax Protestor FAQ.
7. In 1939, Title VIII of the Social Security Act was moved into Internal Revenue Code (26 USC)13 sections 1400-1425. In 1954, it was moved again into Internal Revenue Code sections 3101-3126, forming a chapter entitled "Federal Insurance Contributions Act". The current Social Security tax rates are higher than they were in the 1935 Act.
8. The 14th Amendment is another popular target of southern Patriots. It was ratified by the southern states under the duress of a Federal garrison; the Federal government's decree at the time was "we won't take this garrison out of your state until you ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments". By stating that "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States", instead of Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1's less strongly-worded "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States", the 14th Amendment eroded the old dogma of States' Rights. Patriots also like to point out how "citizen" in the 14th Amendment is no longer capitalized, even though it was capitalized as late as the 11th Amendment (which had abandoned the earlier convention of capitalizing all nouns). Of course, since States' Rights were the immediate cause of the Civil War, most northerners weren't too hot on the idea any more anyway.
9. 10 USC 311 defines the "Organized Militia" as the U.S. military and various National Guards, and the "Unorganized Militia" as all able-bodied male citizens age 17-44 who aren't in the Organized Militia. Both Militias can be called forth, organized, armed, and disciplined by Congress, per Aricle I, section 8, clauses 15 and 16 of the Constitution. If you are a male U.S. citizen who's at least 17 and less than 45, and are physically able to carry a gun, you're in the Militia, whether you want to be or not. It should be noted, though, that since the term "unorganized militia" first appeared in Federal law in 1903, they have never been called into actual service. See The New Militia FAQ Part Three for a non-"patriot"'s history of militias in the states.
10. Thanks to Jim Ellwanger for this one. (Note to Patriot readers: Jim was not being serious.)
11. Note that Mitch4 spells "united States" with a lower-case "u". This is because the Federal government calls itself the "United States" with a capital "U", and he sure as heck doesn't want anybody to assume he's part of them. I've also seen it spelled "united states", with both a lower-case "u" and "s", because some other Sovereignty-minded citizen claimed that State (with a capital "S") refers to a mysterious unconstitutional incorporated government entity that secretly controls each otherwise-free-and-sovereign lower-case-"s" state. Perhaps this is the same secret government that sends your State DMV registration to the top-secret Federal Board of De-Sovereignization.
12. I just know some tax protestor out there is going to figure out an excuse to call every U.S. citizen a "Member of Congress" so that we can be exempt from state income taxes — including taxes from the "state" of D.C., which as every good Patriot knows is synonymous with the entire Federal Government (right?), thus exempting you from Federal income taxes as well.
13. The term "Internal Revenue Code" is a synonym for Title 26 of the U.S. Code. One of the many Sovereignty-oriented Patriot claims as to Why We Don't Owe Income Tax is that the entire corpus of the Internal Revenue Code (all of 26 USC) was never actually voted into law by Congress. Modeleski's The Federal Zone14 cites a Preface to the 1982 edition of the U.S. Code, in which the Speaker of the House states: "Titles 1, 3, . . . 23, 28, . . . have been revised, codified, and enacted into positive law and the text thereof is legal evidence of the laws therein contained. The matter contained in the other titles of the Code is prima facie evidence of the laws." Since the preface to this particular edition of the Code doesn't explicitly mention Title 26, Modeleski claims, Title 26 was never voted into positive law. By this logic, Titles 2, 24, 25, and 27 must never have been voted into law either. According to Daniel B. Evans' Tax Protestor FAQ, what this actually means is that Congress never voted to call the laws "Title 26" or "Title 2" or anything of that sort. Congress called some Federal tax laws "Public Law 99-514", for example, the "99-514" meaning that they were combined in the 514th bill to be passed by the 99th Congress and signed by the President. The U.S. Code contains the texts of many Federal laws with similarly obscure names, re-numbered for easier reference. To be officially called "26 USC", these same tax laws would have to be "re-enacted by codification", i.e. passed as another bill explicitly calling them 26 USC 1, 26 USC 2, etc., which has not yet happened. (Note that the Buck Act was re-enacted by codification when it became 4 USC 105-110; the original Buck Act bill passed by Congress was "54 Stat. 1059".) So, even though Congress has never passed a law that called itself "26 USC 1", the text of 26 USC 1 has been passed as a law, as have all the other sections of the Internal Revenue Code.
14. Mitch Modeleski's book The Federal Zone used to be available in electronic form at http://www.deoxy.org/fz/. Modeleski (a.k.a. Paul Andrew Mitchell) since decided that this was an "unauthorized copy" of his work and constitutes a copyright violation. As of the end of June 1998, he hads sent out several threatening e-mail messages, not only to deoxy.org but also to the owners and ISPs of any web pages that contain so much as a link to the offending web pages, claiming that his Supreme Law Firm4 was going to prosecute them for fraud if they don't cough up written permission from Paul himself to display those links within 10 days. Although an unauthorized reproduction of a work does constitute a copyright violation, I've never heard of a weblink to an unauthorized reproduction constituting a copyright violation in and of itself. However, the on-line version of The Federal Zone which used to be at www.deoxy.org has been removed from that site, so I can assume that deoxy.org took Paul Mitchell's threats seriously. Update 19-April-2002: In an ironic twist, Paul Andrew Mitchell is now making The Federal Zone freely available electronically on his own website, at http://www.supremelaw.org/fedzone11/index.htm. Update 27-January-2003: In another ironic twist, the place where www.deoxy.org used to have an online copy of The Federal Zone, they now have a page containing other "sovereign citizen"/"Patriot" arguments and 4 links to pages debunking The Federal Zone (including this webpage). As of this date, Paul Andrew Mitchell has also failed to carry through with his threat to prosecute for Copyright violations, although he did at one point send out e-mail offering "Copyright amnesty" to people who formerly had links to the "unauthorized" online copy of The Federal Zone, if (A) said people paid the full price for a printed copy of The Federal Zone, and (B) Paul Andrew Mitchell was feeling in a nice mood.
Legal-looking disclaimer: This article is presented "as-is" and is not to be considered legal or tax advice of any kind. In particular, I would really not recommend that you actually try submitting your tax return on toilet paper in pink crayon.
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