Steve Martin used to do a bit explaining how to make a million dollars and never pay taxes.
Step one, get a million dollars. Step two, don't pay your taxes. When the I.R.S. comes calling and says you've never paid taxes, you say: "I forgot."
Daniel Berglund, a Minnesotan who lives in Cottage Grove, took a different approach. A few years ago, the Minnesota Department of Revenue politely informed Berglund that he hadn't filed anything for three years in a row.
Berglund's response? "No."
In 2014, the state tax agency tried collecting on almost $670,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest accrued during the years 2008, 2009, and 2010. Berglund informed the Department of Revenue that he was not obligated to pay income taxes under federal law.
Because Berglund believed he was not a person "required to file a [tax] return," he was therefore not a "taxypayer," and not subject to pay income taxes under Minnesota state law.
There's actually a long history of so-called "tax protesters," who have used a number of legal arguments to say the Sixteenth Amendment (ratified back in 1913!) is bogus, and doesn't apply to their personal income. The people making these arguments often have a lot of money. They don't have a great record in court.
Neither does Berglund, whose argument was rejected by the Department of Revenue, and has now been dismissed by the highest court in the state.
When, in 2014, the tax agency filed returns on Berglund's behalf and mailed them to him, Berglund argued on a technicality. The department calls tax documents it files for a delinquent taxpayer "Commissioner Filed Returns."
Berglund took one look at the returns mailed to him and saw there was no signature from the Commissioner of Revenue, meaning — aha! — this was not a "Commissioner Filed Return" after all.
On Wednesday, less than a week before this year's tax day, our tax protester found out he was wrong again (or still), when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against him. Because the requirement of a commissioner's signature doesn't appear anywhere in state law — in fact, the need for a signature on orders above $1,000 was explicitly removed back in 2004 — Berglund had no leg to stand on there.
He had also made the case that, because his returns were not actually prepared by the Revenue Commissioner himself, he had been denied his due process as a taxpayer. This claim, which would effectively turn a state cabinet member into the personal accountant of everyone who doesn't feel like filing their taxes that year, was a stretch.
The court's response goes on for a bit, almost out of courtesy, but it's best to just leave it at this.