Someone told me that there are people who claim that the income tax, and by extension the IRS, is unconstitutional, and that some have won in court using this argument. Is this true?

An example of a prominent claim is the book The Great Income Tax Hoax by Irwin Schiff.

Related to: Was the 16th Amendment (income tax) improperly ratified?

  • 1
    Questions here require a notable claim to investigate (and someone told me is not really notable). See: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/864/…
    – nico
    Nov 21, 2013 at 21:17
  • @Articuno Well they might get sued by the IRS and then win, no?
    – ike
    Nov 22, 2013 at 1:02
  • possible duplicate of Was the 16th Amendment (income tax) improperly ratified? Nov 22, 2013 at 3:45
  • I'm not clear why this was closed after @Mark added a notable claim. I generally avoid overriding the community votes, so I haven't voted to reopen, but that's the direction I would vote.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 22, 2013 at 4:03
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    @Nacht I found the 2000 conviction but not the acquittal. Even if it's true (which I do think it is), it's not because income tax is illegal, but due to gold being money or something like that.
    – ike
    Jan 27, 2015 at 4:00

1 Answer 1


No, it's not true. There is ample case law where the constitutionality of income taxes has been tested, and the courts have clearly ruled that income taxes are constitutional. Such claims are regarded as frivolous and subject to legal penalties. The IRS has a publication which clearly spells out the significant penalties for pursuing or promoting frivolous claims, and includes the following statement from the decision in one such case:

"Once the legal system has resolved a claim, judges and lawyers must move on to other things. They cannot endlessly rehear stale arguments . . . . [T]here is no constitutional right to bring frivolous suits . . . . People who wish to express displeasure with taxes must choose other forums, and there are many available."

The IRS discusses it at length in a document titled The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments

This document addresses numerous examples of claims that income taxes are unconstitutional and cites the case law in which courts have ruled in favor of income taxes. Some claims, and excerpts from the IRS response, include the following. All are supported by references to the actual court decisions.

First Amendment Claims:

The First Amendment, however, does not provide a right to refuse to pay income taxes on religious or moral grounds or because taxes are used to fund government programs opposed by the taxpayer. The First Amendment does not protect commercial speech or speech that aids or incites taxpayers to unlawfully refuse to pay federal income taxes, including speech that promotes abusive tax avoidance schemes.

Fifth Amendment Claims:

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that a person shall not be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . .” The United States Supreme Court stated that “it is . . . well settled that [the Fifth Amendment] is not a limitation upon the taxing power conferred upon Congress by the Constitution; in other words, that the Constitution does not conflict with itself by conferring, upon the one hand, a taxing power, and taking the same power away, on the other, by the limitations of the due process clause.”

There is no constitutional right to refuse to file an income tax return on the ground that it violates the Fifth Amendment privilege against self‑incrimination.

Thirteenth amendment claims:

Courts have consistently found arguments that taxation constitutes a form of involuntary servitude to be frivolous.

Sixteenth Amendment Claims:

the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the income tax laws enacted subsequent to ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment. Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R., 240 U.S. 1 (1916). Since that time, the courts have consistently upheld the constitutionality of the federal income tax

The constitutionality of the Sixteenth Amendment has invariably been upheld when challenged. Numerous courts have both implicitly and explicitly recognized that the Sixteenth Amendment authorizes a non‑apportioned direct income tax on United States citizens and that the federal tax laws are valid as applied.

  • For more information on bad legal arguments, see Tax Protester Legal FAQ
    – Paul
    Jan 7, 2014 at 6:29
  • @Paul I just mentioned your comment here. Jan 20, 2015 at 13:51
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    Being somewhat pedantic, and literally answering the question - yes, the courts have previously found income tax to be unconstitutional. Which is why the legislative branch passed the 16th amendment, at which point it was found constitutional.
    – Selkie
    Oct 31, 2018 at 19:22
  • ^^ Yes, exactly.
    – CramerTV
    Oct 31, 2018 at 19:41

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