There’s a rather large sect of people out there (here’s just one) who believe that the 16th Amendment was never properly ratified in 1913, and therefore they are not compelled legally to pay income taxes.

Every person I know of who has put this belief into action has ended up in jail — at the very least. It’s a big controversy. I don’t think I’ve written a column that got more circulation than “Free Ed and Elaine Brown,” but for the most part I look at tax avoiders and wonder, “What are you thinking?” It’s hard enough to fight the government, but it’s damn near impossible to do it from prison.

Actor Wesley Snipes became the latest in a long line of examples of this, and he was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday.

Is income tax unlawful? Answering that question first requires solving a somewhat separate issue, which is this: Sometimes it doesn’t matter what is legal or illegal, but rather what the government thinks is legal or illegal. The latter is a much larger problem than just 16th Amendment interpretations.

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