Yeah…Mr. Taxman

Actor and martial arts expert Wesley Snipes finally began serving his three-year prison sentence for tax evasion. Snipes’ problems began when he aligned himself with a group of “folk lawyers”(like jailhouse lawyers, only not in jail) who began in the 1990’s to espouse the view that under section 861 of the Internal Revenue Code, United States citizens were only required to pay taxes on income related to international trade and commerce or income earned off-shore in US possessions, but not on income earned in the United States.

This odd tax dodge has been referred to by leading proponents such as Larken Rose, as the “tax section the IRS hopes you never read” and by others as an “idiot law argument”. Mr. Rose is a self-described anarchist who completed a prison sentence in 2006 after his 861 defence was tossed out of court.

Other 861 followers have advanced companion legal arguments such as the one used by James Molen when he attempted to persuade a Court during his 861 tax trial that if the names of the litigants in a court action were typed in capital letters, the charges were invalid since the upper case letters described a new legal entity and not the defendant. Molen lost both arguments.

Snipes and two others unsuccessfully relied on section 861 to defend against charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States, failing to file tax returns and filing fraudulent tax returns. Snipe’s main argument was that he was scammed by his two co-accused who apparently convinced him their tax theories were legitimate.

His co-accused, an accountant and an anti-tax crusader, were found guilty of conspiracy and fraud and sentenced to ten years and four years . Snipes was acquitted of the most serious conspiracy and fraud charges but found guilty of failing to file an income tax return. At the time of his conviction, his attorney Daniel Meachum was confident Snipes would not be sentenced to the maximum of three years. Meachum, who also acted for dog abuser Michael Vick, miscalled that play.

An appeal failed and a last-ditch effort this week to challenge his conviction based on allegations of “rogue” jurors was thrown out.

What is as bizarre as the 861 argument itself, is that Snipes actually believed it was bona fide,when no one has ever succeeded with this argument.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang


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