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A former IRS agent who believes citizens are not required to pay federal income taxes was acquitted today on charges he attempted to defraud the government.
Joseph Banister, a certified public accountant in San Jose, Calif., had been telling his clients they don't need to file federal income tax returns because the 16th Amendment, which gives Congress "power to lay and collect taxes on incomes," was never properly ratified.
A leading figure in the "tax honesty" movement, Banister was taken into custody Nov. 19 by IRS agents and released on $25,000 bond after pleading not guilty.
A jury in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento found him not guilty on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the government and on all three counts of aiding and assisting the filing of false tax returns for a client.
Banister's attorney, Robert Bernhoft, told WorldNetDaily the result has no direct bearing on the legitimacy of the 16th Amendment, but he insisted the implications are bigger than the issue of taxes.
"The outcome shows that average, law-abiding, hard-working citizens are not going to criminalize speech -- they're not going to send a man to prison for asking the federal government serious questions about a serious subject," he said.