The Death of Irwin Schiff.

On October 16th, 2015, tax protester Irwin Schiff died in prison. He spent his final hours shackled to a prison bed. He was an old and feeble man, legally blind and suffering from advanced skin cancer across his entire body.

Irwin Schiff is famous within libertarian circles. Firstly, he is the father of financier and commentator Peter Schiff, who hosts a magnificent YouTube channel dedicated to news on the economy. You should watch his videos. Secondly, Irwin Schiff is famous for his strict anti-income tax views. He dedicated most of his adult life and energy to vigorously opposing the income tax. He wrote multiple books in study and protest of the income tax in the USA. In fact, one of his books – “The Federal Mafia” – is one of only two books ever officially banned in the United States, the other being “Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure” which was banned for obscenity in the 1800s.

Irwin Schiff was probably the most famous tax protester in America. He was the poster child of anti-tax sentiment. Because of this, the Federal Government chose him to be the poster child for punishment. When he was finally arrested and charged with tax evasion in 2005, they threw the book at him. At the ripe old age of 78, he received roughly 15 years in the slammer, which amounted to a death sentence.

I agree with Irwin Schiff in many ways. I think the income tax is illegitimate. He is correct that there is no constitutional basis for the income tax. But who cares? The US Government abandoned any strict adherence to the constitution long ago. There have been hundreds of tax protesters who have sued the Federal Government over the legitimacy of the income tax. It has never worked. These people end up going to jail every time. They waste away years of their lives in the slammer while their wives divorce and remarry. The kids grow up without daddy.

I do not like the income tax, but let me be clear: I never try to get out of paying it. I will never try. I will never encourage anyone else to try. Pay your income tax. If you Google “income tax avoidance”, you will get literally hundreds of hits for books and strategies which will supposedly show you how to legally avoid paying the income tax by invoking some obscure clause of the tax law. The people who write these books are quacks. It is not possible to live a normal life in the USA and avoid the income tax. If it were, everybody would be doing it. As it stands, nobody does it; that is, live a normal paranoia-free life without paying income taxes.

The income tax is automatically withheld except in cases of cash payment. So in order to get a job where you could avoid automatic withholding, you have to work for cash. This already eliminates about 99% of the nice jobs in America. Have you ever worked directly for cash in your adult life? I doubt it. Everyone receives checks. And if you do work for cash, you can forget about keeping it in the bank. The IRS watches the banks. If they see you sitting on a mountain of cash without a clear idea of how it got there, they’re going to audit you, at which time they will discover your tax evasion and send you to jail. Furthermore, you cannot legally make most big purchases with cash. You cannot rent in any decent locations with just cash; the landlord will want a bank account. So you’ll be relegated to renting a trailer somewhere and buying everything off of Craigslist.

I can keep this scenario going. The point is, the life of a tax evader is a hard life. Not only is it hard to function in normal society, but you’ll always be looking over your shoulder for IRS agents on your tail. The risks simply ain’t worth it. Irwin Schiff spent the last 20 years of his life in court and then in jail. He was rarely able to see his family. He hardly knew his grandchildren. He suffered alone in prison while slowly dying of skin cancer. Was the tax evasion worth it?

I don’t think so. I’d rather pay my taxes and be done with it. Yes, I consider taxation to be theft. But the way I see it, the Federal Government is running a “protection racket” not unlike the Mafia does in areas they control. For a monthly price, the Mafia “protects” you – and it’s an offer you can’t refuse. Protect from what, you might ask? Mainly, the Mafia itself; they simply want the money, and will whoop your ass if you don’t pay. However, there are some “benefits”, in a manner of speaking. Firstly, faithfully paying your protection money usually means the Mob will leave you alone. While they could kill you and steal everything you own, they won’t as long as they can count on the money. Secondly, the Mafia generally will provide some semblance of “protection” from other criminals; not because of any moral imperative, but simply because they don’t want criminal competition on their turf. So as a “protectee” of the Mafia, you can at least expect that they’ll probably keep other criminal gangs out.

Of course, this is still an illegitimate situation. You’d rather not pay the Mafia anything. But reality is reality. As long as the Mafia is there and they have the upper hand, you’d better pay that money or get the heck out of dodge.

I think of income taxes in the same way. I’d rather not pay, but I’d even more rather not end up like Irwin Schiff. I’ll pay their protection money if it preserves my freedom in other ways.

Irwin Schiff really wasted the final years of his life. What could have he accomplished if he had just paid the money and stayed out of jail? He was a great writer and a powerful speaker. He could’ve continued to write books and deliver speeches. He probably could’ve had way more influence on the Liberty Movement if he’d paid his taxes and stayed out of prison. After he went to jail, he ceased to have any influence at all. He never wrote any other books. His blog was updated for the final time just over 10 years ago, around the time he was sent to jail. He ceased to have influence.

Schiff’s family and various concerned politicians tried to get him released from jail after his terminal diagnosis so that he could die with his family. This is a common thing with elderly or terminally-ill prisoners. But Irwin Schiff did not get the chance. His application was tied up in the bureaucracy, and he died before it could be approved.

I really do believe that somewhere along the line, his application was purposefully stalled. I think that somewhere along the bureaucratic chain, an individual bureaucrat decided to stonewall his application to send a message to the public: “The IRS is in control here. Do not cross us. Pay your taxes, or you will receive no mercy.

I dislike the income tax. But it could be worse. On the whole, the USA is still one of the least-taxed nations in the Western world. The corporate tax rate is unbelievably high, but personal taxation is not too bad as compared to other western nations. It is good to keep this in perspective.

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