The nonPerson Notion
By: Bill E. Branscum
Copyrights 2000, 2001 & 2002

Some maintain that they are not a “person” as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, and thus not subject to the federal income tax laws. This argument is based on a tortured misreading of the Code.

The Internal Revenue Code clearly defines “person” and sets forth which persons are subject to federal taxes. Section 7701(a)(14) defines “taxpayer” as any person subject to any internal revenue tax and section 7701(a)(1) defines “person” to include an individual, trust, estate, partnership, or corporation. Arguments that an individual is not a “person” within the meaning of the Internal Revenue Code have been uniformly rejected. A similar argument with respect to the term “individual” has also been rejected.

Relevant Case Law:

United States v. Karlin, 785 F.2d 90, 91 (3d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 907 (1987) – the court affirmed Karlin’s conviction for failure to file income tax returns and rejected his contention that he was “not a ‘person’ within meaning of 26 U.S.C. § 7203” as “frivolous and requir[ing] no discussion.”

McCoy v. Internal Revenue Service, 88 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) 5909, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15113, at *21, 22 (D. Col. Aug. 7, 2001) – the court dismissed the taxpayer’s complaint, which asserted that McCoy was a nonresident alien and not subject to tax, describing the taxpayer’s argument as “specious and legally frivolous.”

United States v. Rhodes, 921 F. Supp. 261, 264 (M.D. Pa. 1996) – the court stated that “[a]n individual is a person under the Internal Revenue Code.”

Biermann v. Commissioner, 769 F.2d 707, 708 (11th Cir.), reh’g denied, 775 F.2d 304 (11th Cir. 1985) – the court said the claim that Biermann was not “a person liable for taxes” was “patently frivolous” and, given the Tax Court’s warning to Biermann that his positions would never be sustained in any court, awarded the government double costs, plus attorney’s fees.


Some individuals argue that they have rejected citizenship in the United States in favor of state citizenship; therefore, they are relieved of their federal income tax obligations. A variation of this argument is that a person is a free born citizen of a particular state and thus was never a citizen of the United States. The underlying theme of these arguments is the same: the person is not a United States citizen and is not subject to federal tax laws because only United States citizens are subject to these laws.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution defines the basis for United States citizenship, stating that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The Fourteenth Amendment therefore establishes simultaneous state and federal citizenship. Claims that individuals are not citizens of the United States but are solely citizens of a sovereign state and not subject to federal taxation have been uniformly rejected by the courts.

Relevant Case Law:

O'Driscoll v. I.R.S., 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9829, at *5-6 (E.D. Pa. 1991) – the court stated, “despite [taxpayer’s] linguistic gymnastics, he is a citizen of both the United States and Pennsylvania, and liable for federal taxes.”

United States v. Sloan, 939 F.2d 499, 500 (7th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1060, reh’g denied, 503 U.S. 953 (1992) – the court affirmed a tax evasion conviction and rejected Sloan’s argument that the federal tax laws did not apply to him because he was a “freeborn, natural individual, a citizen of the State of Indiana, and a ‘master’ – not ‘servant’ – of his government.”

United States v. Ward, 833 F.2d 1538, 1539 (11th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 1022 (1988) – the court found Ward’s contention that he was not an “individual” located within the jurisdiction of the United States to be “utterly without merit” and affirmed his conviction for tax evasion.

United States v. Sileven, 985 F.2d 962 (8th Cir. 1993) – the court rejected the argument that the district court lacked jurisdiction because the taxpayer was not a federal citizen as “plainly frivolous.”

United States v. Gerads, 999 F.2d 1255, 1256 (8th Cir. 1993) – the court rejected the Gerads’ contention that they were “not citizens of the United States, but rather ‘Free Citizens of the Republic of Minnesota’ and, consequently, not subject to taxation” and imposed sanctions “for bringing this frivolous appeal based on discredited, tax-protestor arguments.”

Solomon v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1993-509, 66 T.C.M. (CCH) 1201, 1202-03 (1993) – the court rejected Solomon’s argument that as an Illinois resident his income was from outside the United States, stating, “[he] attempts to argue an absurd proposition, essentially that the State of Illinois is not part of the United States. His hope is that he will find some semantic technicality which will render him exempt from Federal income tax, which applies generally to all U.S. citizens and residents. [His] arguments are no more than stale tax protester contentions long dismissed summarily by this Court and all other courts which have heard such contentions.”


Some argue that the United States consists only of the District of Columbia, federal territories (e.g., Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.), and federal enclaves (e.g., American Indian reservations, military bases, etc.) and does not include the “sovereign” states. According to this argument, if a taxpayer does not live within the “United States,” as so defined, he is not subject to the federal tax laws.

The Internal Revenue Code imposes a federal income tax upon all United States citizens and residents, not just those who reside in the District of Columbia, federal territories, and federal enclaves.

In United States v. Collins, 920 F.2d 619, 629 (10th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U.S. 920 (1991), the court cited Brushaber v. Union Pac. R.R., 240 U.S. 1, 12-19 (1916), and noted the United States Supreme Court has recognized that the “sixteenth amendment authorizes a direct nonapportioned tax upon United States citizens throughout the nation, not just in federal enclaves. This frivolous contention has been uniformly rejected by the courts."

Relevant Case Law:

In re Becraft, 885 F.2d 547, 549-50 (9th Cir. 1989) – the court, observing that Becraft’s claim that federal laws apply only to United States territories and the District of Columbia “has no semblance of merit,” and noting that this attorney had previously litigated cases in the federal appeals courts that had “no reasonable possibility of success,” imposed monetary damages and expressed the hope “that this assessment will deter Becraft from asking this and other federal courts to expend more time and resources on patently frivolous legal positions.”

United States v. Ward, 833 F.2d 1538, 1539 (11th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 1022 (1988) – the court rejected as a “twisted conclusion” the contention “that the United States has jurisdiction over only Washington, D.C., the federal enclaves within the states, and the territories and possessions of the United States,” and affirmed a tax evasion conviction.

Barcroft v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1997-5, 73 T.C.M. (CCH) 1666, 1667, appeal dismissed, 134 F.3d 369 (5th Cir. 1997) – noting that Barcroft’s statements “contain protester-type contentions that have been rejected by the courts as groundless,” the court sustained penalties for failure to file returns and failure to pay estimated income taxes.

Once I have time to link all the foregoing cases and post them to this site for your review, you will note that these cases tend to have a common thread. The appeals are filed pro se; no self respecting lawyer would walk into a federal court and make these ridiculous arguments.

I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

© Copyright 2002 - Bill E. Branscum. All Rights Reserved.