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Tax Court warns against arguing wages aren't taxable

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In rejecting a man’s argument that his employment wages shouldn’t be subject to Indiana’s adjusted gross income tax, the Indiana Tax Court warned that those who present a similar argument in the future may be subject to paying the attorney fees of the other party.

Lyle Lacey, a verification engineer at Adecco, attached a federal Form 4852 to his state and federal income tax returns indicating his wages were zero. He didn’t attach his W-2 form. Lacey actually was paid quite a bit from the company for the 2007 tax year, although the amount was not specified. Lacey also claimed a refund in state and county income taxes.

The Indiana Department of State Revenue determined that Lacey actually owed more than $1,000 in state income tax and denied his protest.

On appeal in Lyle Lacey v. Indiana Dept. of State Revenue, No. 49T10-0906-TA-25, Lacey argued his income from Adecco for the 2007 tax year isn’t income within the meaning of the 16th Amendment of the United States Constitution or the Internal Revenue Code. He also argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the 16th Amendment’s provision “exempting a tax from apportionment [is in] irreconcilable conflict with the general [constitutional] requirement that all direct taxes be apportioned.”

Senior Tax Judge Thomas Fisher rejected his arguments, finding them to be without merit. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the argument that income is limited to gain or profit, as Lacey argued. Also, congressional power to tax is articulated in Article 1, Section 8, and "'embraces every conceivable power of taxation’ including the power to lay and collect income taxes,” wrote the judge.

Lacey’s employment compensation is income subject to Indiana’s adjusted gross income tax. Judge Fisher also pointed out this is the third time the Tax Court has rejected the argument that one’s employment wages don’t constitute income subject to Indiana’s adjusted gross income tax.

“Consequently, the Court now provides the following warning: in the future, when a taxpayer advances the same (or a substantially similar) argument, the Court will not hesitate to consider whether an award of attorney fees is appropriate,” he wrote.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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