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Tax laws target of business rebels

The IRS is suing a Spring Hill man who is part of a small but vocal group that claims withholding taxes is wrong.

By SCOTT BARANCIK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


SPRING HILL -- Local post offices will be inundated with last-minute tax filers April 16, but David Bosset won't be among those standing in line.

The Spring Hill businessman didn't file early. He simply isn't filing at all.

Tax scofflaws are nothing new; some of them end up residing in federal prisons. But Bosset, 56, isn't your garden variety tax cheat. He's a self-described patriot who says the U.S. government has no legal authority to tax its citizens or corporations.

He's also one of a tiny but increasingly vocal group of business owners who not only won't pay their own personal or corporate income taxes but refuse to withhold federal taxes from their workers' paychecks.

Among the truths Bosset and his compatriots hold self-evident: that the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which led to the creation of a federal income tax, was never actually ratified; that Florida is a sovereign nation; and that the government is doing everything it can to hide these facts.

"If the American public knew the truth," he says, "Washington would be a ghost town tomorrow."

Now the government is turning up the heat. Last week, the Justice Department filed suit against Bosset, seeking thousands of dollars in employee tax withholdings. Criminal charges could follow. At a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday, senators are expected to urge the Internal Revenue Service to get even more aggressive with those it considers cheats.

Bosset says he's willing to go to jail. Someone, he says, needs to show his grandchildren and their generation the importance of principle. But as he sees it, the government is more likely to back down in the face of his iron-clad logic.

Bosset wasn't always a rebel.

A Michigan native with an accounting background, he says he worked as a computer and turnaround consultant until the early 1990s, when his mother-in-law in Florida fell ill. Bosset's wife, Sandi, came to care for her, and fell in love with the Tampa Bay area. He sold his business interests and joined her.

In early 1995, Bosset decided to go into business for himself. With other members of his family, he founded a Clearwater company called Bosset Partners Marketing Inc. and made himself president.

The company billed itself as a consultant to individuals involved in multilevel marketing operations, such as Amway's. By 1997, Bosset says, it employed as many as 55 people at once and paid more than 150 independent contractors.

Meanwhile, Bosset says, he was burying his nose in documents most Americans would never dream of opening up -- the law that spawned the income tax, the internal revenue code, the history of the 16th Amendment -- and posing irksome questions in letters to the IRS. How do you determine whether income is taxable? What is the legal definition of a person, for tax purposes?

"I became an unwanted guest in their house," he says, with evident pride.

Toward the end of 1997, Bosset came to the conclusion the government did not have the right to tax anybody other than non-citizens or foreign corporations and their workers. To withhold taxes from his own employees, he decided, would be wrong.

So wrong that he eventually filed an amended return, seeking the return of more than $18,000 he had paid the IRS in 1996, plus interest. The IRS actually coughed up the money, convincing Bosset that his arguments had adherents, at least at the agency's lower levels. In the suit filed last week, however, the Justice Department said the IRS had simply made an error and demanded repayment.

It turns out Bosset sees evil in many of his life's circumstances, not just in the workings of the IRS.

When asked why his company withheld roughly $120,000 (his own estimate) of employee taxes in 1997 but did not forward the funds to the IRS, he blames incompetence by his former accounting staff and payroll firm.

Will he return the funds to his former employees? At first Bosset says yes. Once his new firm, BPM Inc. of Spring Hill, gets its cash-flow moving, he'll make good on his debt. But later, he accuses a majority of his ex-employees of plotting to destroy the now-defunct firm. He'll pay them a "token amount," he says, and invite them to sue for the rest.

And what about the 25 or more complaints lodged with the Better Business Bureau of West Florida against his firm by 1997? Almost all, he said, were made by clients who owed him money and filed complaints as an excuse for not paying. The BBB twice told Bosset to stop using its logo on his Web site and canceled his membership.

For the moment, Bosset is enjoying a minor celebrity. Last month, his photo was featured on a full-page ad in USA Today sponsored by the We the People Foundation for Constitutional Education, which shares his anti-tax views. In June, he participated in a We the People symposium at the National Press Club in Washington. He gets e-mails and calls daily from business owners who want to learn more about his ideas. He's been mentioned at least twice in the New York Times.

And at Thursday's Senate hearing, he hopes, he'll finally get to sit across from IRS commissioner Charles Rosotti and publicly grill him about the agency's legal charade.

But he may be up against a more intransigent foe than he imagined. Today, the IRS is coming out with a fact sheet that warns taxpayers about "false arguments" against taxes, such as the alleged non-ratification of the 16th Amendment.

And that Senate hearing? Senate Finance Committee chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has decided Bosset and others represented by We the People just don't belong.

"The purpose of Thursday's hearing is to inform taxpayers of illegal efforts to avoid paying taxes," Grassley said Tuesday. "After reviewing material issued by We the People, the committee decided that hearing the group's testimony would be detrimental to achieving this important goal."

- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.

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