No hero Ellicott City man becomes poster boy for fringe tax protest.

July 05, 1996

THE WORD "hero" is an accurate description for those who make sacrifices to help others. The soldier who dies defending his country, the woman who donates a kidney to her mother, the teen-aged youth who raises his brother are examples that come to mind. "Hero" is not a fitting moniker for a tax resister, even when acquitted of federal tax evasion charges.

But that is what Fred Allnutt Sr. calls himself as he criss-crosses the country via radio talk shows and cable television. He was also appearing at a California rally as the new poster boy for the tax protest movement.

The Ellicott City man is riding a wave of anti-government and, particularly, anti-Internal Revenue Service sentiment. He disputes that he is obligated to pay income taxes.

His illogical argument was similar to one made by Jabari Zakiya of Largo, an engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who was convicted of tax evasion in 1994. He argued that groups to which he belonged believed that individuals were not constitutionally required to pay the very taxes that paid his salary. In Mr. Allnutt's case, a federal jury ruled last March that the government did not prove that he participated in a conspiracy to hide his assets. That verdict brought him misguided attention from a marginalized fringe of self-described patriots whose philosophy seems more in line with anarchists. It is the mindset that brought us the Freeman of Montana and the Viper group in Arizona.

Most people look to pay as little taxes as possible when they file. Others downright cheat. And many believe the IRS's voluminous code should be replaced with a simpler system. But the argument that government does not have the right to collect taxes is a misreading of one of the shortest amendments to the Constitution, the 16th: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived."

Mr. Allnutt still owes about $2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties. The IRS has seized $4 million from the sale of his business, which once flourished in Howard County and afforded him some of life's luxuries. A hero? Only an interpretation of the dictionary as skewed as his reading of the Constitution would produce the term.

Pub Date: 7/05/96

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