Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tax Time at the Library

Tax-time is not the time to be working in a library.

Somehow libraries have become the local IRS branch office. We get in boxes and boxes of tax forms every week and, from the beginning of January, people swarm over these forms. Very few of the patrons know what forms they need so they grab at least two of every one (and there are dozens of different forms). Of course, all of these forms are available for printing on the IRS website but that would be too easy.

It's more than 2-1/2 months until taxes are due (I should know as I am one of those people who wait until the last couple of days). Already the patrons are stressed over their taxes and these forms and I have been bombarded with questions. And it's only going to get worse. The tension rises exponentially as we get closer to April 15th.

Sometimes I want to laugh at these people and their questions. I want to tell them, "I'm single, no kids, and rent. I file my taxes online in about 45 minutes without even knowing what form I'm using. How am I going to help you?"
I bite my tongue, however. It's not the patrons' fault, really. Our tax system is so out of control and totally disconnected from reality that I can't blame people for their difficulties and confusion.

I wonder why more people can't see the benefits of a flat tax. You make more money, you pay more tax. You make less money, you pay less in taxes. Sure, it would be a radical change but how can it be worse that what we have now.

Anyway, I read (what I at first thought) was
an interesting article about a couple in New Hampshire who haven't paid taxes in ten years. Ed and Elaine Brown don't believe the tax laws apply to them because they are not residents of "Washington, D.C., or other federal territories and that Supreme Court precedent had found that labor was not taxable."

before picture

They sent letters to the IRS requesting clarification of the tax laws and received no reply. So, after a decade of not filing taxes, they were tried in a federal court. They also chose not to hire an attorney, instead relying on the counsel of friends.

The story got a little more interesting when it stated that Mr. Brown is a leader in a national group called the Constitution Rangers of the Continental Congress of 1777. The original article only said that the group "protects the Constitution."

On January 18th, the couple was convicted of 17 felonies and will be sentenced on April 24th (April 15th would have been too ironic).

Here is where this tale starts taking a bad turn. According to this Fox News story, Ed Brown has said, "The verdict is in. I can guarantee you that all hell's going to break loose."

What does he mean by that statement? Well, it turns out the Browns live in a large, cement-walled house featuring a watchtower with 360 degree views of his 110 wooded acres of property. Brown claims the house is capable of generating its own electricity. He and about 25 heavily-armed supporters are preparing for a siege.

His wife is out on bail but is barred by court order from returning to her house. She has also said, "It's not in my mind-set or my character. I have no intention of returning as long as he's there."

after picture

So Ed Brown is set to wait out the federal agents, who he expects will swarm his house soon. "Live free or die," he said, quoting General John Stark and his state's motto. "What else can I say?"

Somebody needs to take a stand against the ever-invasive strength of our federal government and simplify our tax system but I don't think Ed Brown is the guy to do it. Unfortunately, I don't think this story is going to have a positive ending. If anyone hears any further news, please let me know.

Update #1: I just found this video from a hokey local TV station in Vermont. The interview is lame but you get to see Ed Brown's house and hear him in his own words.

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