Remember Ed and Elaine Brown? The federal government cut power, internet, phone, television and mail service to the couple’s 110-acre compound after they failed to pay taxes on $2 million of income. Well folks, the Brown’s four-month standoff is over. U.S. Marshalls seized the Browns last week without incident. Please remember, pay your taxes before federal agents seize you and your compound. [WMUR]


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  1. Scuba Steve says:

    I’m not a fan of the use of “Compound” unless their are 10ft walls with sentries posted every 20 feet. Also, spotlights.

  2. homerjay says:

    @Scuba Steve: You obviously haven’t seen this place. Its as close to a ‘compound’ as any average Joe’s gonna get.

  3. n/a says:

    they were only caught because they got undercover agents to pose as supporters to their cause and then bam caught.

  4. vex says:

    I have no problem with the govt cutting all their taxpayer-supplied infrastructure, but it makes me kind of sick that the Feds can take your property, that you paid for, because you refuse to pay a tax on it every single year.

  5. mantari says:

    @Scuba Steve: Exactly. “Compound” is one of those prejudicial words you see used when they’re trying to paint someone in a bad light. It immediately brings people to their side. “Who would have a compound? These people must be bad / evil / crazy!”

  6. Landru says:

    @Scuba Steve: Right. It wouldn’t read the same if you said “farm” or “estate” or “dude ranch”. However, the Browns do sound like kooks.

  7. -J- says:

    They really aren’t. Taxing is unconstitutional in that it’s not a part of it. So it was an added invention later. That is not to say funding of the government isn’t necessary, but enforcement of collecting, and the amount of taxes and what is taxed in the first place is very wrong. Then accountability of where our taxes go are also very wrong.

    The mistake they made was being extreme in thinking that just because it doesn’t specifically say we will have a tax and be taxed on particular things in the constitution must mean that it is against some law to tax and that somehow the government can run on it’s own without funding. Thats when they went to far and jumped the kooky shark.

  8. nequam says:

    @Landru: The place was fortified, complete with a tower. The grounds were booby-trapped. I think it qualifies as a compound.

  9. swalve says:

    @vex: Tax is what you pay for the privilege of owning property in the US/State/County that you do. If you think the government is wasting tax dollars, run for office (etc.) and try to change it.

    There is a municipality near me that has very low tax bills because it is run properly and has a high proportion of commercial property to residential property, so sales tax pays for the roads and water and sewer. So it can be done, it’s just a matter of the citizens being willing to demand good public administration.

  10. Keter says:

    Actually, they tried to force the government into showing that there was a law requiring them to pay taxes on the income they had. They set the money aside to be paid WHEN the law was explained. As I understand it, it is every citizen’s right to require the government to “show cause” and that no such cause was shown in this case and many others like it.

    According to what I’ve been able to determine, they are right: taxes are collected on specifically excluded income (wages from labor, which has very legitimate deductions) and usually NOT collected on the taxable income (such as capital gains, which can be written down so many ways that tax is almost never owed). Corporations can afford to buy loopholes while the average citizen pays taxes on “gains” from having had a catastrophe and lost everything…resulting in write-offs that are taxed as income despite the fact that they didn’t get penny and don’t have one left…who says we don’t have debtor prisons? What is life but one huge debtor prison when the IRS is making sure you can never recover from a disaster and get out of poverty again?

    The crux of the problem the Browns were trying to force the government to admit is that the law can’t be explained without revealing that it was never properly ratified (i.e., it isn’t a real law — judicial opinion and precedent do not make laws, only the legislative branch has that power), and even if it was, that it is being enforced selectively and incorrectly. The result of such a revelation would be an accounting nightmare that could not be sorted out, so it needs to be wiped out, legislated correctly, and started over from scratch.

    The government doesn’t want to do this because the IRS has so often been used as a selective enforcement arm…when the government doesn’t like something a citizen is doing, but what they are doing isn’t illegal or they can’t prove a case against them (such as happened with Al Capone), they send the IRS after that person to get them to back down or to put them in jail.

    That’s another reason why it is in the government’s inteest to keep the tax code incredibly complex and contradictory…it puts every single citizen in noncompliant status at all times, so if the government wants us or what we own, it always has a way to get what it wants. That kind of behavior has no place in a government that is supposed to be “of the people and by the people.”

    In summary: the fat lady has not yet sung.

  11. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    @Keter: excellent summary (which filled in the blanks on some parts of the situation that I would’ve never been able to explain), but are you sure that the legislative side of the government hasn’t already thoroughly covered the confiscation side of taxes? I mean, there are committees, full congressional votes and a “tax code” that’d sink a battleship if those books were dropped on deck. When the Browns go to court and, once again, try to force the government to explain their position, they’ll lose because taxation was indeed ratified and signed into law in some “appropriations” bill somewhere along the way.

    Oh, another thing I’ve been thinking about: wasn’t this country founded on the idea of freedom from excessive taxation?

  12. XTC46 says:

    @Scuba Steve: My friends and I referred to my friends house as “the compound” because it was typically where we would all me before going out, crash at after going out, throw our bigger parties at, etc. and because it sounds way cooler to say “meet me at the compound” than it does “meet me at xyz’s house.” especially since he had a common name and we new several of them.

  13. JustAGuy2 says:


    They were shown the law. They refused to accept it. Their arguments as to why they don’t have to pay taxes have a ZERO percent success rate in every court in America. Given that the law, at the end of the day, is what the courts say it is, they’ve been breaking the law, and now they’re going to suffer the consequences.

  14. skittlbrau says:

    @MalcoveMagnesia: Comparatively, the US has a very low tax rate as a proportion of nominal income. I lived in Denmark for awhile, where above a certain income level your nominal tax rate is OVER 100% on additional income.

    As much I love to bitch about my taxes, it could be way worse.

  15. sketchyjustin says:

    @JustAGuy2: No, they weren’t shown the law. Show me the law.

    That’s what I thought.

    And you’re also wrong about tax protesters “never” winning in court. Consumerist says so: []

    There are other examples out there, if you feel like looking around you’ll find them. You know what they say about assumptions…

    I find the “the law is what the courts say it is” attitude downright un-american and frightening. It’s a shame so many people think like you nowadays.

    I pay my taxes because the odds of me winning in court are slim–but non-zero.

  16. Raziya says:

    Whatever, the Browns in my book have less of a right to complain about taxes than anyone else…they lived in NH! They lived about 10 minutes from where I work…I didn’t personally know they but some people I work with did. I’m glad they got caught. I hate paying my taxes as much as the next person but at least I do. *shrug*

  17. JustAGuy2 says:


    Cryer (the guy you cite) was acquitted of willfully not paying taxes – in other words, the jury decided that he genuinely believes he doesn’t have to pay taxes – that’s a requirement for the criminal charges to stick. This does happen occasionally, but the IRS always wins on the civil side – he’s going to have to pay the taxes, plus penalties, he just won’t have to spend time in jail. Tax fraud criminal prosecution is a pretty high standard, you need to prove that the defendent not only evaded taxes, but also knew that he was evading taxes. It’s designed to keep the IRS from filing criminal cases against people who get their math wrong, or are just delusional, like Cryer.

    As for the law, it’s title 26 of the US Code. You can believe that this somehow isn’t a law, based on some magical definitions you use, but the courts universally disagree with you.

    The idea that the “law is what the courts say it is” is _fundamentally_ American, it’s what the rule of law MEANS. If you think the courts have misinterpreted the law (as is your right), you’re welcome to have the legislature pass a law, and the executive sign a law, saying that “no, we meant X,” and then the courts are overruled. If it’s a constitutional issue, amend the Constitution to clarify that the courts were wrong. The fact that the legislature hasn’t done so indicates that our elected representatives believe that the courts are in fact correctly interpreting the law.

    The very JOB of the courts is to interpret the laws. To deny this, and to say that you get to determine what the law is, would put you in very good stead with the Bush administration, which believes itself not to be bound by the law. THAT is un-American.

  18. Gopher bond says:

    last time I checked, government was of, by and for the people so it IS the people who determine the laws.

    The average citizen has not the time to spend the years it takes to get such an redress of grievances, purposefully complicated to stifle opposition.

    Apparently, I have a right to petition the Government for redress of grievances. But guess what? The government has “ruled” that they don’t have to answer. So I guess under some people interpretation, the government makes the law and that’s that.

    You have a right to free speech, unless the government doesn’t like it. Hey, that’s the law, accept it.

  19. JustAGuy2 says:


    The people absolutely determine the laws. They elect representatives who write the laws, an executive who enforces them, and (through the executive, who appoints them, and the legislature, which confirms them) selects the judges who interpret those laws.

    You really need to understand what these terms mean. Right to petition for redress of grievances means that, if you write your congressman (or pass around a petition) saying “I think this policy sucks, and should be changed,” you won’t get sent to jail for it. It doesn’t mean that all laws should be changed to fit what you want them to be.

  20. Gopher bond says:

    yes it does.

  21. gregero says:

    Excellent counter argument, why be bothered with presenting facts when being simply contrary is so much more succinct.

  22. JustAGuy2 says:


    “yes it does”

    I assume you were responding to the last line in my post (It doesn’t mean that all laws should be changed to fit what you want them to be).

    There’s a term for that belief (that you have a right to have all laws changed to what you want). Actually, there are two. If you have the power to carry that out, it’s called dictatorship. If you don’t, it’s called delusion.