Actor Wesley Snipes is facing three years in prison (pending appeal) for three misdemeanor charges of willful failure to file income tax returns, after years of following the exotic advice of "no one really owes income tax" tax advisor Eddie Kahn.
I spent a lot of time reading the writings of and hanging out with these sort of tax rebels for my May 2004 Reason magazine feature on their movement and ideas. Among the rank-and-file, I never met a one who I wasn't sure was absolutely sincere in their beliefs, not just out to pull a scam on Uncle Sam. (The ones selling the ideas, I was less sure, but even there sincerity is more common than you might expect.)
Snipes is profiled at length in the new GQ, in a story not online, at least not yet. But here is an interesting excerpt, presented without comment, about how and why he was willing to believe the legally dubious advice of Kahn:
"My cultural experience is such that I know we're been deceived. We've seen examples of lies and information purposely withheld or distorted or misrepresented….And you become a little skeptical of what they say to you….So it's easy to believe that there's something that's hidden, that there's something that they might not be telling you, or that there might be information out there that is accessible to you if you do the research, but nobody's going to give it to you….What I'm saying is that I know that there are people out there that have information and benefit from things that the majority of people in this country do not know or do not get the benefit of…there is information people are not privy to."
GQ's writer Chris Heath asks Snipes: "So you think there is secret information that a group of people are deliberately trying to keep from the rest of us?" Snipes replies: "I don't believe that. I know that for a fact."