Tax rebel can't sell his book, judge rules

By The Associated Press
First Amendment Center


06.21.03


LAS VEGAS, NEVADAŚ A tax protester may not sell his book that contends paying income tax is voluntary, a federal judge ruled June 16.

U.S. District Judge Lloyd D. George wrote in an order banning the book that Irwin Schiff is not protected by the First Amendment because he has encouraged people not to pay taxes.

"There is no protection ... for speech or advocacy that is directed toward producing imminent lawless action," George wrote in support of the preliminary injunction on the book, The Federal Mafia: How It Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service claims Schiff has 3,100 clients attempting to evade $56 million in taxes.

Government attorneys have argued Schiff had been advocating the "false and frivolous position that paying federal income taxes is voluntary," and one called it one of the largest tax scams in U.S. history.

Schiff said the judge's order was wrong on all counts and he planned to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

"There's a reason why my book is called The Federal Mafia and this is a perfect example," he said. "The government has just thrown the First Amendment out of the window, and if anybody can't see that they should be declared legally blind."

Schiff has been convicted twice on tax charges since 1978.

The IRS raided Schiff's office Feb. 11, and the government later filed a civil complaint against him and two associates in March. George issued a temporary order March 19 against Schiff, ordering him to stop selling his book, lecturing and giving seminars.

The latest ruling, in effect indefinitely, means Schiff, 75, cannot sell his book through his Web sites or the Las Vegas, Nev., office of his company, Freedom Books. The order also prohibits Schiff and his associates from preparing tax returns for others or assisting in tax preparation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a friend-of-the-court brief saying Schiff's expression of his opinions should not be outlawed.

"It is unfortunate that the judge did not see the First Amendment violation," ACLU lawyer Allen Lichtenstein said. Lichtenstein also said the injunction only limits Schiff from distributing the book.

"There's a bit of irony that the injunction prevents Mr. Schiff from distributing the book but doesn't prevent anybody else" from doing so, he said. "One has to wonder what's the point since the book is clearly available to the public."

Eileen J. O'Connor, assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Tax Division in Washington, D.C., praised the judge's ruling.

"Today's order is another in the long line of court orders stopping the sale of fraudulent tax scams," she said.


 

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