Q & A with NWTRCC Legal Advisor
(some of this is recorded and might be added at some point, but it requires editing to remove names and clean up – volunteers welcome)
Ed’s notes: These are general notes, so don’t take anything here as absolute word of god. If you have questions, check with a WTR counselor!
Peter starts off by saying that he thinks in general he’s getting fewer referrals and that probably has to do with Congress starving the IRS. Much more is being done by automated collection, they have to rely on that. Some have fairly high balances, or what the IRS considers high balances but collection is lagging. Some are low income or have low balances.
Statute of limitations – 10 years from assessment, which is not the moment from when you file but shortly thereafter. You don’t owe the money after the 10 years. For Social Security they could go back 10 years but not more. If you don’t file there’s no statute of limitations. Once they assess the nonfiler the 10 years kick in.
In the last few years they’ve automated the transcript of account. More info is available online in that way so you can see when your assessment was. There is no way that giving them your name and SS number will trigger anything new doing that. It may ask for what years you want.
Robert says that now they have to mail you the transcript rather than see it online.
One person said he got a letter saying that they closed his file. Peter says for some reason either a human or a computer decided that he is just plain uncollectible. He might be costing more to try to collect from than he’s worth. IRS is not a political police. They are a collection agency. If the probability of collecting money is not outweighed by the cost they will try. Sometimes they will try to collect but that might be to frighten others into complying. A certain number of people are audited to just spread the word, maintain the theory that it’s too dangerous not to cooperate with the IRS.
30 years ago there were more agents on people’s cases and it seems you were more likely to be collected from. The agents were more active and scaring more people. Peter doesn’t see a correlation between public activism and being a target.
Question about Hobby Lobby case and anything new:
The questions refers to the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision that might support a peace tax case or a peace tax fund idea as an accommodation to resisters (Read or watch Peter’s talk on this topic from Nov. 2014) . “Accommodation” is the model. In the decision the Supreme Court went out of their way to say “this is not like not paying for war/war tax resistance” – don’t think the Hobby Lobby/health care case is like that. Peter sees that is not making sense but they went out of their way to say it.
Peter is not seeing cases in the WTR network that could be used to challenge this. Peter hasn’t heard much coming up related to that or overruling it. They could go further. They could step back. Scalia’s death gives one less vote for those that favor reactionary religious views. He’s waiting to see what the Supreme Court says now on about 9 cases challenging Obamacare rules brought by nuns, Catholic hospitals, schools not within the exemptions . Unlikely to see a split. If it was 4-4 it would make them look bad to uphold very split opinions.
*** The day after our gathering, May 16, Peter sent this email: The Supreme Court this morning punted the pending ACA (“Obamacare”) RFRA cases back to the lower courts for further consideration of certain refinements and clarifications of the positions of the parties as articulated before the Supreme Court. So there will not be another major RFRA case this year, and the Hobby Lobby precedent will therefore not be reaffirmed, cut back on, or clarified, as I had anticipated it would be.
Are there private debt collectors? Yes, the IRS was told by Congress to use private collectors; the timeline for them to hire the companies is about now. Stay tuned. It’s privatizing, like so much else these days though it didn’t work last time they tried it. now. privatizing. One person heard they are hiring 700 more agents.
Assessment, collection, criminal enforcement = 3 wings of the IRS process.
Can the IRS renew of levy? They would have to bring a lawsuit or something and get a judgement to collect so that they can continue. Peter is pretty sure they have to sue within 10 years and court judgement good for 20 years. Maybe one or two people have been sued to renew their assessments. That’s more expensive. If there was an agent on the case and knew the person was going to get some money or something then they might do that.
Automated authority to collect federal debts from federal payments. Student loans, taxes, etc. from money gov’t owes them, like seizing tax refunds. They can seize from SS but because that is so important Congress put a ceiling on it of 15%. But then there’s our one resister with a 50% levy. This agent filed a levy on her SS. She appealed but the reply was 15% only applied to automated collection. Not that many WTRs have agents assigned to them. The agent seems to have to file every month to continue this levy.
Levies only apply as standing when regular employment but the IRS makes exceptions. If a contractor relationship with an agency is seen to be permanent/steady, then they can decide to place a standing levy.
Frivolous – they finally admitted that we were right about how the law was interpreted. Office of general counsel agreed with us about including a protest letter is not subject to penalty. A few of our folks got the money refunded with interest. Today resisters get warning letters, which are written to be threatening so it is misinterpreted. People do worry about it but the penalty should not apply if form is filled out accurately.
Not signing a tax return means that it will get sent back to you and then you get a late penalty. Without the signature the IRS won’t accept it.
Calling the IRS really is random luck. Sometimes you get a good person, sometimes a bad person.
Should we promote some of the people who have had problems – do more PR in some cases?
The more open and consistent and transparent people are the better they will do. The more they are seduced by anti-government rhetoric, acting like tax evader, hiding things, putting property in other people’s names, labeling things other than what they are – in the end it hurts. Politically Peter things it does not advance our principled approach. Don’t look like evader.
Criminal prosecutions in the last few years tended to be of people who did some evasion or something we would not recommend.
Question of how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) penalty is being applied or not. People are getting the penalty but we think that this year there is no enforcement to collect. As with much of the ACA, that process is being added gradually. Where is that money going? Into the general fund.
Income streams that are earmarked proves the point that income streams can be earmarked. Like gas tax to highway, like check off for presidential elections. This is an argument for why a Peace Tax Fund can be accommodated.
RFRA has to be used defensively. In the tax context, there are 2 statutes that prevent people from suing the IRS about taxes. You can be the plaintiff about taxes. Church groups can sue for their exemption but for taxpayers it’s not the same. Cases where an individual tries to sue the IRS won’t go forward because of this statute. Arguing a case against the IRS has to be used defensively when some enforcement is brought against a person who could and would have complied if the PTF was in place.
A question about farming and tax rules came up. See the IRS info on this and talk to some of the farmers in our WTR network. It has to be a business of farming and not a hobby of farming. IRS’s pubs do tend to be very good.
The right wing tax protesters attract most of the IRS attention. They are not redirecting. Peter has had them in criminal cases, and they generally found him because of his WTR related work.
IRS targeting illegal tax shelters can related to our Alternative Funds, though it has not happened often. Peter points out that the alternative fund does not tell people they don’t owe the money, which is a factor with true tax shelters. There have been no collections from alternative funds in years – you’d have to go back 30 years.
*****ran out of time **** VERY GOOD SESSION **** THANKS PETER!!
An earlier WTR 102 session brought up a few noteworthy things:
One resister is having trying to file her tax return. Because the IRS has been on her case, she wants to file in person and get the form stamped as received but the IRS office in Philadelphia will no longer let people in to do this. Something changed in the last year, and when she calls she gets the run around. Is this something we should investigate more or protest? Are there other similar experiences?
What is the experience with Social Security levies. Some resisters with significant debt have found that the levy disappeared after a few months and has not been reinstated. Do others have steady levies of the 15%?
One person is facing collection from their state. NWTRCC does not track state by state collection issues, but we do hear in general that the states tend to be harder to deal with than the feds.