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If the Law Is This Complicated, Why Shouldnt Ignorance Be an Excuse?

I’m having a bit of an issue with the IRS. It seems that the social security administration reported to the IRS the wrong information regarding wages I’ve paid. So, the IRS took the reasonable step of threatening to seize my bank accounts. When they finally figure it out, they can get away with calling it ignorance.

11 Responses to “Endorse”

  1. HL Says:

    Yep. You may think you are law-abiding, but you don’t know. The article points out that you may have brought your lobster home in the wrong kind of bag.

    As Dr Ferris stated, “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.”

  2. Flight-ER-Doc Says:

    And why is it that when the government (at any level) breaks the law, it’s just an oopsie?

  3. Deaf Smith Says:

    Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment can possibly be used to argue:

    1) Equal Protection means equal ENFORCEMENT of the laws. All laws should be enforced (no pick and chose which to enforce as this nullifies the effectiveness and fairness of the laws.
    2) Equal Protection means laws should be understandable by all citizens, not just those who are cognitively above average (yes, dumb down the laws for laypersons to understand.)

  4. JTC Says:

    When it comes to dealing with gov and especially IRS, mis-feasance is much more dangerous than mal-feasance.

    My libertarian side keeps hoping for non-feasance.

  5. Ron W Says:

    “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”
    –Cornelius Tacitus, Roman historian

  6. JK Brown Says:

    Geez, what do you expect, the law is only their profession.

    How many of us have ever formulated in our minds what law means? I am inclined to think that the most would give a meaning that was never the meaning of the word law, at least until a very few years ago; that is, the meaning which alone is the subject of this book, statute law. The notion of law as a statute, a thing passed by a legislature, a thing enacted, made new by representative assembly, is perfectly modem, and yet it has so thoroughly taken possession of our minds, and particularly of the American mind (owing to the forty-eight legislatures that we have at work, besides the National Congress, every year, and to the fact that they try to do a great deal to deserve their pay in the way of enacting laws), that statutes have assumed in our minds the main bulk of the concept of law as we formulate it to ourselves. I guess that the ordinary newspaper reader, when he talks about ‘laws” or reads about “law,” thinks of statutes; but that is a perfectly modem concept; and the thing itself, even as we now understand it, is perfectly modem. There were no statutes within the present meaning of the word more than a very few centuries ago

    Popular Law-making: A Study of the Origin, History, and Present Tendencies of Law-making by Statute
    by Frederic Jesup Stimson (1910)

  7. Phenicks Says:

    My wife and I had a received letters that we owed some unpaid tax from years ago. The demanded we pay and said the documents provided weren’t good enough. My wife wrote the check, but refused to sign the “at fault” documentation. They hounded us for years to sign, but we refused. Fours later someone in the IRS looked into the issue and found they had made a mistake and sent our money back with interest. We received a 1099 that year mailed in an envelope w/ four sheets of paper to pay the 29 cents tax on the interest.

  8. Paul Koning Says:

    There’s an even better argument why ignorance is an excuse. The Federal Register, which is where laws (including regulations, which “have the force of law” they say) are published, runs about 200 pages PER DAY on average.
    Who has time to read all that garbage? Who could remember if even if they read it?
    The answer is obvious: no one. Not a single human being on the planet. So not only is ignorance an excuse, ignorance of the law is universal.
    “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?” — James Madison (in Federalist #62).

  9. Lyle Says:

    All taxes, and all so-called “regulations” rely on threats. It just comes down to how horrifying the threat needs to be to ensure compliance.

    That of course is the definition of coercion. If you or I were to do it, we’d be criminals. When government does it, it’s called “public service”.

  10. wildbill Says:

    As a great man once said: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.

  11. JTC Says:


    I’m no fan of esq’s in general either, but that quote in the Bard’s “Henry VI” was in that context conveying exactly the opposite intent of yours here. Common misperception.