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Irwin Schiff vs. the IRS

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Lots of prisoners get released early, or, if terminally ill, are let out to be with their families when they die. But not Irwin Schiff, a high-profile tax protester who died last week of lung cancer at the age of 87.


His son, Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and a well-known financial advisor and author, wrote that his father was a “political prisoner” who passed away on October 16, 2015, while legally blind and shackled to a hospital bed in a guarded intensive-care room at the Federal Correctional Institution. But the free nation he was born into had already “died years earlier,” his son added.

Why did Schiff die during his third prison term while serving a 14-year sentence? Starting in the early 1980s, he had urged citizens to stop paying taxes and to file federal and state tax returns claiming that they earned no taxable income because their dollars weren’t backed by Constitutional money (gold or silver). He also argued that the 16th Amendment was never properly passed and, therefore, was not enforceable.

He wrote a “how to” bestseller called “How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes” and gave thousands of seminars showing people how to file these “no tax” returns.

Unfortunately, Irwin Schiff’s book should have been called “How Anyone Can Go to Jail.” No matter how valid his arguments were, no federal or state judge was going to admit they were right. They dismissed them because to support Schiff’s cause would mean the end of their own salaries. Schiff’s extremist views went counter to the vested interests of the establishment.


As a result, thousands of tax protestors went to jail, an unexpected consequence of Schiff’s tactics. And for that, government officials and the courts ensured that he was held accountable.

Still, the refusal of the IRS to allow Schiff to return home to die with his family is a travesty and a sad commentary about what can happen in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” when government dictates trump compassion.

To read former Senate candidate Peter Schiff’s tribute to his father, go here: http://www.schiffradio.com/death-of-a-patriot/. I encourage you to read the New York Times’ obituary about Irwin Schiff, whose practicality could be questioned but never his passion to stand up for his staunchly held beliefs.


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