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Is the Income Tax Illegal?

No, but there certainly are people out there who make the argument that the Sixteenth Amendment, which gave Congress the power to levy direct income tax, is illegal. Of course, most subscribers to this theory are already ideologically opposed to income taxes.

Anti-tax activist William J. Bensen argued that the version of the Sixteenth Amendment sent to the states was improperly and fraudulently ratified, basing this on grammar differences between various state versions the amendment proposed by Congress and on research which claimed that the amendment was not actually ratified by forty-two states.

Benson, it should be noted, really, really hates paying taxes, and was prosecuted in 1991 for tax evasion. His defense was based his claims about the Sixteenth Amendment. He lost.

Another, somewhat more light-hearted, theory is that Ohio was not technically a state when the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified due to a congressional oversight (Congress never formally admitted Ohio into the Union), and so the ratification is invalid.

It’s a classic irrelevant argument, though, since forty-two states did ratify the Sixteenth Amendment (unless Bensen is to be believed).

But wait, William Howard Taft was from Ohio … and since Ohio wasn’t a state at the time … that means William Howard Taft wasn’t really a natural-born citizen! (The sitting president may take some solace in the fact that birtherism flourishes for dead presidents, too.) That makes his proposal for the Sixteenth Amendment illegal!

Well, no, and the people who make that argument should re-watch Schoolhouse Rock (granted, the clip is about how a bill becomes a law, but we here at Questions couldn’t resist.

Although Taft was an advocate of the income tax, the Sixteenth Amendment was introduced in the Senate, passed through Congress, and the states ratified it.

In short, pay your taxes!