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Can I ever stop paying taxes?

Nov 3, 2011, 11:53 a.m.

The U.S. Federal tax code is a gigantic document consisting of 72,536 pages, more or less. That's about 150 reams of paper, which, if you stacked them up, would reach 35 feet into the air. Can anyone understand our entire tax code? Doubtful. So it's fair to ask, "Under what conditions do I no longer have to pay Federal income taxes?"

It turns out, there are some interesting answers. The one that has generated the most controversy is modeled after various "zero-taxation" protesters who claim that tax laws run roughshod over the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects individuals against abuse by the government in legal proceedings. Or, that the Sixteenth Amendment, which implemented the Federal income tax, was never properly ratified by the States. Or, that one is born a sovereign citizen of the State of his or her birth, not of the United States, and is therefore immune from income taxes. According to these fringe protesters, paying income tax is voluntary. While there have been rare, occasional cases where a jury acquitted a protester, the law is clear. So let's agree that challenging federal law, constitutional processes and the IRS is probably not the best answer to eliminating your tax obligations.

Another approach is to expatriate. Move to another country and, once you're there, determine how to become a citizen of that country. Then, renounce your U.S. citizenship and turn in your U.S. passport. Not only is this extreme, but most other countries have an income tax, and it may well be higher than taxes in the United States.

In the final analysis, we live in a country of laws under the rule of law. We are obligated by those laws to pay taxes until our income falls below the levels provided in the tax code. For 2010, a single person was excused from paying taxes if his or her income was below $9,350. For a married couple filing jointly, $18,700. If both are 65 or older, $20,900.

It's all there, somewhere, in the 72,536 pages of tax code. Perhaps the thousand or so new pages added to the code for 2011 will bring more favorable rules.

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