Monday, November 17, 2008

Myth: Filing "Zero" Reduces Your Tax Liability

Some taxpayers are attempting to reduce their federal income tax liability by filing a tax return that reports no income and no tax liability (a “zero return”) even though they have taxable income. Many of these taxpayers also request a refund of any taxes withheld by an employer. These individuals typically attach to the zero return a Form W-2, or other information return that reports income and income tax withholding, and rely on one or more of the frivolous arguments discussed throughout this outline in support of their position.

The Law: There is no authority that permits a taxpayer that has taxable income to avoid income tax by filing a zero return. Section 61 provides that gross income includes all income from whatever source derived, including compensation for services. Courts have repeatedly penalized
taxpayers for making the frivolous argument that the filing of a zero return can allow a taxpayer to avoid income tax liability, or permit a refund of tax withheld by an employer. Courts have also imposed the frivolous return and failure to file penalties because such forms do not evidence an honest and reasonable attempt to satisfy the tax laws or contain sufficient data to calculate the tax liability.

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