Jack Townsend says that civil disobedience is only really justifiable in the case that there is a possibility of jury nullification, but no jury of US citizens would find a tax evader Canadian citizen “not guilty” for shirking the US tax code. Furthermore, he says that Americans don’t admire those who do their disobedience in hiding. I offer here the continuation of our discussion:
I understand the concept of civil disobedience, but that does not mean that we are entitled to only obey laws of our liking and disobey the rest. All of society would be in shambles if that were the case -‘- we may not like tax laws, hence we don’t report or pay, we may not like laws that say we cannot have nuclear weapons, hence we stock up on nuclear weapons, and so on. That is pure anarchy.
Specifically, in a tax context, in your imagination, every tax protestor in the world would be honorable to disobey the law. Yet, tax protestors routinely suffer society’s civil and criminal consequences of disobeying the law. All you are saying is that you and others with similar views are just tax protestors. I do not see any honor in that.
If you don’t like the system the U.S. has, then do what you did — expatriate and surrender your U.S. citizenship and then go somewhere else that has laws that you are willing to honor. (Although, I guess your theory is that, you can pick and choose which laws of Canada you will obey, as well; maybe at some point the citizens of Canada through their government representatives may have something to say about that).
And, to close the loop, I do know about civil disobedience. Depending on context, conduct which you call civil disobedience can be honorable or not honorable. I think you know where I stand on someone making the unilateral choice not to report and pay U.S. tax. The U.S. tax systems gives U.S. taxpayers plenty of opportunity to vet their complaints to Congress (the proper focus) or even in the Courts where in a civil or criminal case the jury could be asked to exercise its power of jury nullification to bless such civil disobedience. My experience with juries is that no jury — let me repeat, no jury — of U.S. citizens would find the sympathy required to exercise its inherent power of jury nullification.
So, if you are looking for sympathy or support for such notions, you won’t find it from me. There are any number of other blogs where you can get the echo feedback chamber you seek, but I hope the bulk of my readers do not sympathize with these notions.
On a final note, since this is not an echo chamber and you will soon dismiss my contrarian views as kooky: may I please remind you that Canadian citizens tried in an American court for alleged form crimes committed in Canada would be travesty of the sovereignty of Canada, not to mention a violation of Constitutional rights. Please consider my post on this subject from 2012. A kangaroo court it would be, and it would be against the fundamental principles of justice which the Founders of the United States shed their blood to protect.
Of course US citizen juries would find me guilty. But no jury of my peers would find me guilty for illegal accounts at my local Ontario branch.
Rosa Parks, by Jack standard of honourable civil disobedience, who have been condemned by an all white jury. So I would be condemned by an all US resident/citizen jury.
Jack Townsend responded:
I will just say that Rosa Parks did her civil disobedience in the open. Failing to file tax returns or omitting income required to be disclosed is not the type of civil disobedience that we so admire in this country.
I guess the analogy is from the Vietnam war era when persons who disagreed with the war refused to be drafted into service. Some in the U.S., refused and bravely took the punishment the law meted out. Others fled to, say, Canada. The type of civil disobedience we admire is the former and not the latter. Applying that to the tax return situation, the person who disagrees with U.S. taxation of expats and is willing to go to jail to express his or her disagreement is in a different category from those who just disappear from the IRS radar screen, either wholly by not filing returns or partially by omitting income.
Viet Nam is an interesting analogy, precisely because some of those who fled, whom Jimmy Carter pardonned, became Canadian citizens, and as a result lost their US citizenship. Then in 1986, that a Supreme Court decision unilaterally reinstated that citizenship. Now neanderthal border guards tell these Canadians who try to cross the border that they must cross with a US passport, and further, without informing of them that they have a right to expatriate–this creates a US citizenship trap. It seems the Federal Government is now more interested in revenue from these people whom you do not admire.
I have to say however that Viet Nam is a very good example of bad policy decisions that are not worth dying for. The US lost 58,200 military personnel and then left the country to the Viet Cong, and subsequently millions of Vietnamese were either killed or had to flee South Viet Nam. Since they let these South Vietnamese victims become homeless or dead anyway, the America casualties were wasted. So while you may not admire those who did not waste their lies on a policy mistake, at least many if not most of them are still alive and well in Canada, paying their taxes to our government, being productive and exemplary citizens of their new country.
Somehow I doubt that you really have much admiration for Irwin Schiff. I do. Also I love Wesley Snipes. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. But I don’t recommend that people become martyrs. However, your critique does not apply to me because I have been public about my civil disobedience, even as you have seen on this page, which I am sure that the IRS probably has an eye on–I’ve been told by a 30 year IRS veteran that the IRS monitors my activities at the Isaac Brock Society. So my open defiance is on behalf of all the Canadians for whom you have no admiration.
My punishment is not being able to return to the US. To be sure, I did once last summer to search my father who, as a result of his Alzheimer’s disease, disappeared in the Alaska wilderness. So apparently, the IRS is too busy to have issued a warrant for my arrest.
I come from a family migrants: my maternal grandfather did once return to the East after emigrating from Korean. The Dunns never returned to Scotland. Yet Scotland and Korea never tried to tax them after they left. And finally, one of us no longer really welcome nor admired in the land of his birth.
I actually recommend that people never present themselves to the IRS. As Christian historian, I will mention that the early church frowned upon those who gave themselves up to the Romans for martyrdom.
Perhaps in my upcoming trip to Europe the USA will have me arrested by one of the countries I’ll be visiting. That is a frightful idea. I have to say the lack of admiration is mutual.
Note to Jack Townsend: Don’t fret, Jack… it’s not just Americans. This is one Canadian who doesn’t admire you either. I’ve never had reason to get out a green card, nor would I even be considered a US person were it not for my wife (who is also considering dumping her US citizenship). Why the hell should I have to open up my bank accounts to your meddling IRS? Considering the fact that the US considers the flimsiest reasons to convey US person-hood (not United States citizenship) good enough to base IRS taxation upon, a lot of innocent Canadians who have NO reason otherwise other than marriage are considered ‘US persons for tax reasons’ If that’s the case. Why not enslave the entire world and make everybody US tax persons? Oh…wait, that’s what you’re trying to do.
Too bad, so sad. All the IRS is going to get out of me is a middle finger. Come ‘n get it.
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And if Townsend was standing in your shoes- he`d be screaming bloody murder himself.
The double standards are so nauseating.
Well, this is interesting. I offered the following comment on Jack’s site in response to his claims that the US would protect data passed to it by foreign governments (doubtful) and that non-US banks have the wherewithal to untangle complex US citizenship issues (as if). He binned it. Ho-hum.
If you look at the original lawsuit, Cook v, Tait, from over 90(!) years ago about the constitutional basis for CBT, you see some very eccentric statements
The contention was rejected that a citizen’s property without the limits of the United States derives no benefit from the United States. The contention, it was said, came from the confusion of thought in ‘mistaking the scope and extent of the sovereign power of the United States as a nation and its relations to its citizens and their relation to it.’ And that power in its scope and extent, it was decided, is based on the presumption that government by its very nature benefits the citizen and his property wherever found, and that opposition to it holds on to citizenship while it ‘belittles and destroys its advantages and blessings by denying the possession by government of an essential power required to make citizenship completely beneficial.’ In other words, the principle was declared that the government, by its very nature, benefits the citizen and his property wherever found, and therefore has the power to make the benefit complete. Or, to express it another way, the basis of the power to tax was not and cannot be made dependent upon the situs of the property in all cases, it being in or out of the United States, nor was not and cannot be made dependent upon the domicile of the citizen, that being in or out of the United States, but upon his relation as citizen to the United States and the relation of the latter to him as citizen. The consequence of the relations is that the native citizen who is taxed may have domicile, and the property from which his income is derived may have situs, in a foreign country and the tax be legal—the government having power to impose the tax.
Sounds like circular reasoning.
Or worse, simply argument by assertion.
@TDA and @foo,
The US case re CBT and FATCA is “because we say so” which is foreshadowed by the last statement in the quote above re “the government having power to impose the tax.”. The US has been able to extort IGAs from the globe because it has POWER to force FFIs (foreign financial institutions) to comply, and thus manipulate their non-US home countries, the residents, taxpayers and citizens there – which the US has no jurisdiction over.
Which is why Canadian and the sovereignty of the other non-US countries we call home is such an important part of the legal challenge http://www.adcs-adsc.ca/Issue_Cost.html and human rights complaint http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2014/07/28/human-rights-complaint-on-behalf-of-all-u-s-persons-abroad-has-now-been-submitted/ .
POWER to impose something clearly unethical and unjust on the rest of the world outside one’s jurisdiction and borders is not sufficient reason to command respect or obedience.
Through the FATCA decree, every bank in the world that wants to do business with the empire must now become a subject of it. The IGA’s aren’t protection, they are documentation to each country’s capitulation. The US Treasury must laugh when they hear MP’s like mine try to peddle it as something for all Canadians to be “thrilled” about.
@TDA – ironically, you quoted almost the entirety of that sparse decision justifying CBT known as Cook v Tait. There is almost no reasoning in it beyond the mere declaration that such taxation falls within the sovereignty of the national government (by contrast to the taxation authority of States which ends when the taxation authority of other States begins – at the border). There is almost no hint of reasoning involved. The Bennett case – whose reasoning the court in Cook v Tait merely applied almost without comment – was explicitly limited to citizens DOMICILED in the US (concerning a yacht tax applied to a resident’s property outside the US). Further, Bennett was an excise (not direct or income) tax case where the grant of power was never limited to the point of needing the 16th amendment (indeed Bennett precedes the 16th amendment).
At the limit, the judgment says little beyond confirming the bare and relatively uninteresting fact that the US Constitution does not explicitly restrain the government from destroying its citizens in whole or in part by taxation in any way it sees fit. Few constitutions do. The Canadian one, for example, does not limit Federal direct taxation power and CBT could almost certainly be created in Canada were we minded to engage in such a pointless task.
International law does not prohibit countries from enacting laws of their choice on the subject of their choice and enforcing them at home. Under international law, absent agreement from a foreign power, the US power to tax income earned outside the US from people resident outside the US is limited to threatening the affected individuals should they ever enter the US. The same is true of Canada, Britain or just about any other country. All countries save the US (and Eritrea) have recognized the inappropriateness (but not illegality) of creating an unenforceable CBTparticularly where it lacks much if any semblance of moral authority.
There was at least some hope the US Constitution might have prevented the US from its quixotic (and unique) attempt to impose CBT. For the first 100 years of its existence, it was almost completely a dead letter with only token submission to its unenforceable edicts from non-domicliaries.
Prior to the 16th Amendment, it ought to have been pretty clear that extraterritorial direct taxation (i.e. income tax) was unlawful, not withstanding the in extremis and temporary imposition of it during the Civil War. Art 1, s. 2 provided that direct taxes were to be “apportioned among the several States”. Someone who is not a resident of a State cannot be made the object of a tax apportioned among the states in accordance with their numbers (the Founders didn’t think about anyone living in DC nor territorial conquests). As well, by the 10th Amendment, powers not reserved to the Federal government explicitly (and only a limited direct taxation power was reserved) belonged either to the States or the people (in other words, the residual powers were NOT conferred to the Federal government).
The 16th Amendment changed that world with these few words: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” There was no explicit mention of extraterritorial taxation power and the “evil” the 16th amendment was aimed at was a prohibition on the creation of an income tax which was means tested (or progressive as is more commonly said) rather than “apportioned” by head count. Remember, income tax was not anywhere in contemplation in the 18th C – poll taxes (paid equally by all citizens rather than rateably in accordance with income as we do today) were known and that is why the curious apportionment language appears in the Constitution. It would have been open to the Court to have limited the application of the 16th amendment to the removal of that “apportionment” limitation but to have retained the obvious sovereignty limitation on extraterritoriality which the Bennett case (on which Cook v Tait almost completely relied) assumed since it was predicated on citizens resident and domiciled in the US. The court HAD imposed extraterritorial limits on States taxation powers (even though not explicitly limited by the Constitution) by implication from the 5th Amendment due process clause. The 16th Amendment was silent on the geographic extent of the newly-conferred taxing power. The Court chose to infer without discussion or comment a constitutional sea change in the enactment of the 16th Amendment beyond simply removing the prior barrier to a progressive tax income system, extending the Federal governments newly minted direct taxation power (without discussion – the 16th amendment is not even mentioned) to non-resident, non-domiciled citizens for the first time in history (the Civil War taxing statutes were not constitutional when enacted pre-16th Amendment, but war time did not permit much time for dissent). .
Is it possible the USSC revisits Cook v Tait? Yes, I suppose it is but I wouldn’t hold my breath. This little note is already longer than Cook if you exclude the recitation of facts at the front end of the case. Cook v. Tait did not decide lots of questions that unbridled extraterritorial application of US 16th Amendment taxing power raises. Among them is the question of dual citizenship and the dominant nationality rule. The USSC has imported a lot of international law into its constitutional debates in the past. I would not exclude Cook v Tait being circumscribed in the case of dual citizens at least where the US ties are tangential and the “foreign” ties much stronger. A Ginny or a Gwen, or even better still a Calgary411’s son plaintiff would make a very interesting test case in the US if anyone had the time, money or patience to try it on for size. Again, I don’t see it happening in the foreseeable future. Deep, deep pockets are needed for that sort of crusade and the payback is uncertain. None of the various pro bono civil liberties groups that sometimes bring such cases are likely to show any interest in the matter – we all know how expats are viewed by Homelanders (Benedict Arnold was the first expat, they would say, and all others are his children). As well, there may be a conceivable differences in the power to tax “14th Amendment” citizenship (which is unchangeable by Congress and conferred by birth in the US) and other types (eg. children born to citizens abroad who make no choice).
We’ll see if Jim Bopp and the Republicans Overseas make any of these points. Mr. Bopp is certainly far, far better qualified to comment on the US Constitution than this amateur! First we’ll have to wait to see if the US suit even gets the funding to get off the ground.
“First we’ll have to wait to see if the US suit even gets the funding to get off the ground.”
I know nothing about the specific strategies being employed by Bopp, Arvay, and the people supporting this on both sides of the border.
However I wonder–as a matter of pure speculation–if a decision has been made to pursue the US suit primarily in stealth mode through deep pocket funding for the time being to avoid diverting funds that might otherwise go to the Canadian suit. Right now–based on how the needed funds are dropping day-to-day–the Canadian suit is on target to meet its funding goals. However, it isn’t substantially ahead of target, so it can’t afford any significant drop in the rate of funding–so any significant diversion of funds (ie to the US suit) would threaten the ability of the Canadian suit to meet its goals.
I notice that it was shortly after I posted the FATCA legal action website on here that it got pulled–possibly because it might have been a threat to this Canadian suit. Of course I can’t be blamed for that 🙂 –the website was up there and no doubt someone else would have noticed it if not me. I myself was planning to donate only to the Canadian suit to avoid diluting my own efforts.
Before they put the FATCA Legal Action site back under lock and key I did a quick glance through it and I noticed they had raised $100K towards their goal of $500K. I think they may have just been testing the site and it will come back as soon as everything is working as they want it.
I noticed that too but because $100,000 is such a round number–as opposed to, say, $34,355–it occurred to me that they were just testing whether their ‘thermometer’ for showing funding works–as opposed to that being the actual number.
Yes, Dash, I see what you mean. Still, best of luck to whatever it is they are doing.
I think I read somewhere that the RNC gave them some funding to start. That may be what the 100K is all about.
The site was up for only a brief time but one thing that I noticed is that donations from foreign individuals and foreign companies are accepted. This means renunciants / relinquishers can donate as well.
“That may be what the 100K is all about.”
Yes the RNC may have given them a donation of 100k but then the total should NOT have been a round number. Why? Because they also got at least one smaller amount from an individual: me. They have a PDF form for donations too via which they are already accepting small individual donations.
It is organized as a 501 c 4 which means you don’t need to be a “US person” to contribute (US person being a dirty word around here) but OTOH no one gets a tax deduction for donating.
Actually I thought the RNC donation was 20k which would mean–if the 100k figure is accurate–unaccounted for donations of a bit less than 80k: 100k – 20k – my donation.
Jack, although he claims otherwise, is still in the mindset of the IRS/US Govt. He left government, but sucks of the governments tit by defending people ensnared in the nets he helped create as an DOJ/IRS enforcer.
Sadly, Jack will be that guy standing on his front lawn cheering the secret police while they cart his neighbors away. “Clearly they did something wrong or my government would not be taking them away”. Trying to explain to him that his narrow view on issues (“The govt is just trying to collect tax”) is saddening as he is missing all of the little pieces that illustrate something larger is going on (police state/rogue nation).
FATCA is not about “overseas tax compliance” (capital controls)
The rampant renunciations are not a fluke (people with money and means are getting out)
The endless wars are only going to increase (the health of the state)
The financial terrorism is increasing (FATCA, SWIFT lock out, wire transfer limits, fining of foreign banks)
“Getting out” – that’s a curios term that Bill Yates, former IRS attorney, used at one time (and I just happened to be thinking about just this morning).
For long-term emigrants it’s not really a matter of us getting out, but getting US out of our lives after only recently finding out they are in it to the degree that they are.
The history of CBT is full of things that are bizarre.
It is interesting that the Cook v. Tait plaintiffs came from Mexico. The U.S. government soon after passing CBT declined to protect U.S. citizen property in Mexico. They simply told Americans to get the heck out of there because it was dangerous. Maybe the protection has never been as good as the courts suppose.
Jack Townsend is undoubtedly a bright guy but sometimes he completely misses it. In his post “Israeli Banks to Require Foreign Clients to Declare Tax Compliance in Country of Residence” he comments at the end: “Note that, as presented, (banks in Israel) require the declaration only for the country of residence and do not require the declaration for the country of citizenship. Strange. ”
Jack, let’s go over this again. Of around 200 countries in the big wide world, there are only two countries that tax based on citizenship: the USA and Eritrea. That’s about 1% of countries. On top of that, asking questions about national origin is a crime in some countries. Israel’s approach to focus on tax residency is reasonable and not particularly “strange”.