Passenger 57 arranges his affairs so as to make taxes as low as possible

|

Welcome to the fight, Wesley Snipes! On the iron principle that even inadvertent tax cheats are secret tax rebels, it's clear that the increasingly straight-to-video screen hunk is reviving his star turn as Demolition Man villain Simon Phoenix—the last free man, breaking the law and playing by his own rules. Or more precisely, claiming $12 million in refunds from the Internal Revenue Service in 1996 and 1997, and failing to file tax returns after that.

snipesblade.gif

The Snipes-as-tax-protestor theory may have more than joke support. Apparently the actor was working with "American Tax Litigators," the nuisance-suit group affiliated with infamous tax skeptic Eddie Kahn. An ATL tax preparer (now in custody), claimed the troubled star of Liberty Stands Still (if only Snipes' commitment to tax freedom were accompanied by support for the right to bear arms!) was entitled to a $7.3 million refund in 1997; using the classic tax-protest argument that only income from foreign sources is taxable, Snipes' income for that year was adjusted down to a cool $0.00. Foolishly, Snipes failed to file returns from 1999 to 2004: His filmography from that period indicates he may have been entitled to some substantial refunds, plus federal emergency relief.

Another plot wrinkle: the Blade star may be on the lam. Authorities don't know where Snipes is, and he has yet to come forward to either the press or the law. "We've spoken to his former attorneys over the weekend," U.S. Attorney Paul I. Perez tells AP. "We presume that he knows, and of course after this press conference he will definitely know."

But will he care? I suspect his supporting role in the new Toussaint L'Ouverture movie has kindled the fire of Snipes' lust for liberty, and he's getting ready to stand or die in the name of maniacal tax-protest theories.

Brian Doherty took a tour through the land of the 16th Amendment rebels a few years back.