Petitioner Cheek was charged with six counts of willfully failing to file a federal income tax return in violation of 7203 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) and three counts of willfully attempting to evade his income taxes in violation of 7201.What? You mean the sections of the law are stated in black and white? But we've been told over and over that the government never says what law is violated in such cases. How about that!
Although admitting that he had not filed his returns, he testified that he had not acted willfully because he sincerely believed, based on his indoctrination by a group believing that the federal tax system is unconstitutional and his own study, that the tax laws were being unconstitutionally enforced and that his actions were lawful.The Court ruled that Cheek should have been allowed to argue to the jury that he sincerely believed he was not liable for the tax, as unreasonable as that belief may be. His sincere belief goes to the crucial element of willfulness, which is a jury question. (The trial judge had told the jury to disregard the defendants statements to that effect.) But it also ruled that Cheek was properly barred from arguing to the jury that the income-tax law is unconstitutional. That, the justices said, is not a jury question. Some more highlights:
We thus disagree with the Court of Appeals' requirement that a claimed good-faith belief must be objectively reasonable if it is to be considered as possibly negating the Government's evidence purporting to show a defendant's awareness of the legal duty at issue. Knowledge and belief are characteristically questions for the factfinder, in this case the jury....The Court sent the case back for retrial, and guess what. The jury didn't believe Cheek's claim of sincerity. It convicted him, and he was sentenced to prison. The conviction was upheld on appeal.
It was therefore error to instruct the jury to disregard evidence of Cheek's understanding that, within the meaning of the tax laws, he was not a person required to file a return or to pay income taxes and that wages are not taxable income, as incredible as such misunderstandings of and beliefs about the law might be. [Emphasis added.]
To add insult to injury, Cheek had to pay all the taxes.
That's what I mean when I say a tax law applicable to regular wage earners exists.