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Author and associates halted from selling anti-tax books

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Author and associates halted from selling anti-tax books

  • A federal court issued a preliminary injunction barring an author and his associates from promoting a plan for avoiding income taxes and from selling publications, and ordered them to provide the government with information about their customers.

June 20, 2003 — A federal court in Las Vegas Monday barred Irwin Schiff and two associates from selling books and other materials that the court said “provide information about how to fill out fraudulent or false tax forms.” The ban includes Schiff’s book “The Federal Mafia: How It Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes,” which criticizes the federal income tax and encourages readers to evade payment of taxes.

The order, issued by U.S. District Judge Lloyd D. George, follows a temporary ban issued in April, which was put in place to allow attorneys on both sides to submit more information in the case.

The order, also bars Schiff, Cynthia Neun, Lawrence Cohen and Schiff’s company, Freedom Books, from promoting their “zero-income tax return” plan by lecturing or conducting seminars and from preparing tax returns for others.

The court Monday also ordered Schiff, Neun and Cohen to place a copy of the order on their two Web sites, and, within 10 days. It also requires them to provide the government a list of “people or other entities who bought any product or service, including tax-return preparation, from them or Freedom Books from January 1, 1999, through present, including names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and social security numbers or employee identification numbers.”

In April, The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a friend-of-the court brief in Schiff’s case arguing that the ban and the requirement to post the court’s order are unconstitutional.

“To extend the reach of the tax code to enable the government to censor such a volume is unjustified base[d] on both the record and the content of the book,” the ACLUN wrote in its brief.

According to the court’s order, Schiff’s ventures have “involved over 3,000 individuals and an estimated $56 million in attempted tax evasion.”

In its opinion the court called Schiff’s books commercial speech, which enjoy fewer protections than other forms of expression.

“As the court has previously explained, defendants knowingly promote and participate in an abusive tax scheme that teaches taxpayers that they may lawfully file zero-income tax returns and exempt withholding statements to avoid paying taxes, and assists them in doing so. This message is subject to injunction as false, misleading and deceptive commercial speech,” the court wrote.

On his Web site, Schiff calls the decision “a putrid nonsensical unsubstantiated doublespeak from the department of injustice.”

“If the Government can get away with banning a book that deals with taxes, law, politics and related economic issues, a new and dangerous precedent will have been established,” Schiff wrote in a statement.

Schiff’s other books include “How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes” and “The Great Income Tax Hoax.”

(United States v. Irwin Schiff; Media counsel: Noel W. Spaid, Del Mar, Calif.) JL

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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