Monday, January 23, 2017

The hard line

In preparing their 1969 taxes, my parents voiced their objections to the expenditure of money on what they considered an immoral war in Indochina, and on their 1970 taxes they simply didn't pay a small "surtax" that was levied that year, arguing that it was a war tax.

In 1971 and 1972 they seem to have paid in full and without comment, but in tax year 1973 they went in big, claiming a $13,000 deduction for "Illegal gov't action," which had the effect of reducing their tax bill by about 50%.

In the summer of 1974 the IRS got back to them and said, in effect, "No, that's not actually a thing. We've recalculated your taxes with a deduction of $0 instead of $13,000, and here's what you owe." My parents wrote back to the IRS asking for a conference with a conferee, and to Noam Chomsky asking for advice.

The next item in the file is dated Jan 24 1975, a response from the IRS. Where the one from July had been "Form RSC-525 (Rev. 1-73)", this one was "Form L-87 (Rev. 11-69)", but like the other one, it began, "Dear Taxpayer:".

It's very similar to the first one, except that the original one says, "If you do not agree with the adjustments, you may do one of the following," whereas the later letter says, "If you do not accept our findings, you may do one of the following." In other words, the first letter operates under some sort of useful fiction that the taxpayer has simply made an error, and the IRS has fixed it for you. The second letter comes after some question has been considered, and findings have been arrived at.

The other difference is in the options for a response. Both letters offer:
  1. Send us more info
  2. Request a meeting with a tax auditor
  3. Request a conference with a conferee.
But in the second letter options 2 and 3 have been crossed out by hand, but with a straight edge. They also crossed out the line, "The enclosed instructions concerning unagreed cases explain your appeal rights."

And both letters then explain, "If we don't hear from you within 30 days, we will have no alternative but to process your case on the basis of the adjustments shown" etc. etc., but in the second letter the "30" has been crossed out and "15" written above it.

And where the first letter came from J. Conti, Chief, Service Center Audit Division, the second one is from the District Director, whose signature seems to be "JE Foristall".

On February 4, 1975, Mom wrote to the clerk of the U.S. Tax Court in Washington, asking, "Please send us the necessary forms for filing a petition to appeal in tax court, as well as an up-to-date copy of the necessary rules."

That same day, my parents also wrote to the IRS office in Boston:


We do not accept your findings; we maintain our previous position; we are appealing to the U.S. Tax Court and therefore request a statutory notice of deficiency. We are following the instructions concerning our appeal rights as contained in Publication 1973-733-297/3434, which you sent to us. If any further or different action is required in order to make an appeal, please notify us immediately.

We are curious why you lined-out the statement on your form letter L-87 (Rev 11-69) referring to our appeal rights.

We do question and object to the 5% penalty, item 37.04 on Explanation of Adjustments. The so-called deficiency is not a matter of our negligence; we filed our report carefully and on time. Nor is it a question of intentional disregard of rules and regulations covering preparation and filing of an income tax return. We did make a claim not explicitly covered by IRS rules; had we not done this, we would have been willing accomplices in support of illegal and immoral activities financed by taxes. As citizens, we are deprived of due process if we are not allowed to consider ourselves party to the manner in which our money is spent. It therefore seems that the tax rules and regulations are deficient, and no penalty should be assessed.

(signed Charlotte BSeeley)
(signed Robert T. Seeley)

Charlotte B. Seeley
Robert T. Seeley

The IRS was unimpressed, and wrote back on February 27th (but this time not with a form letter):

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Seeley,

Your letter of February 4, 1975 has been received by this office and this response can be considered an acknowledgment of receipt.

The form letter L-87(Rev. 11-69) was modified to exclude certain paragraphs which are not pertinent in this instance. The provisions of Section 601.105(c) (3) of the Code of Federal Regulations apply in part stating the "District and Appellate appeals procedures are available in tax controversies involving questions of fact or law. Such appeals procedures do not extend to cases of failure or refusal to comply with the tax laws because of moral, religious, political, constitutional, conscientious or similar grounds. The Internal Revenue Service does not have the authority to consider such grounds in administering the tax laws."

The form letter L-87 was amended to reflect this position and inapplicable explanatory paragraphs were deleted. Referencing your original request, a statutory notice of disallowance will be issued in response to which you may petition the U.S. Tax Court.


(signed James D Wilson Jr.)
James D. Wilson, Jr.

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