Image of IRS memo authorizing refunds for all taxes since 1913 is forgery | Fact check

The claim: Image shows an IRS memo stating that all tax collections since 1913 were illegal

A Feb. 12 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows what appears to be a 1985 IRS memo from then-IRS Commissioner Roscoe Egger Jr.

The text of the supposed memo claims that in a 1985 lawsuit, a defense lawyer presented "irrefutable evidence" that the 16th Amendment, which granted Congress the power to collect income tax, was "never properly ratified." The memo concludes that because of this, "every tax paid into the Treasury since 1913, is due and refundable to every citizen and business."

The post was liked more than 1,000 times in three days.

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Our rating: False

There is no evidence such a memo existed. The IRS has no record of it, and the text of the memo contains factual errors about the lawsuit it references.

Purported memo has circulated for decades in anti-tax circles

IRS spokesperson Anthony Burke told USA TODAY via email that no such IRS document exists.

He said the document has circulated in anti-tax circles for decades and pointed to a federal court ruling stating the agency made a reasonable effort to find the supposed letter in response to a 2005 Freedom of Information Act request. The court ruling explains that IRS staff reviewed Egger's reading files and other locations where the letter may have been if it were real but found nothing.

IRS spokesperson Johnell Hunter called the document a “forgery” in a 1993 news article about it from the Daily Herald, a newspaper in Provo, Utah.

Larry Becraft, the attorney in the case referenced in the memo who is mistakenly identified in it as "Lowell Bercraft," also told the Daily Herald the document was a forgery, stating that he tried to argue that the 16th Amendment was not valid but lost the case. He also pointed out that the "memo" gave the wrong first name for the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case, Roger Duncan.

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Tax protesters frequently try to poke holes in the ratification process and language of the 16th Amendment to advocate for the abolition of the federal income tax. USA TODAY previously debunked a claim that the tax system created under the amendment was never intended to be permanent.

The IRS has a webpage dedicated to debunking “frivolous tax arguments,” including the claim that the 16th Amendment was not properly ratified. The agency points to multiple court rulings that held that the ratification was legitimate.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the image for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Lead Stories also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: IRS memo forged to say 16th Amendment makes taxes illegal | Fact check