- THE POWER TO DESTROY
- IRS Special Agent challenges
system: Agency illegitimate,
tax law non-existent, he says
- Joe Bannister, on his job with IRS: "The
Internal Revenue Service is everything the so-called tax protesters said
it was; non-responsive, unable to withstand scrutiny, tyrannical, and oblivious
to the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution."
- That's how Joseph Banister -- a certified
public accountant who, until last month, was an investigator and gunslinger
for the <http://www.treas.gov/irs/ci/recruit/training.htm Criminal Investigation
Division of the IRS -- now regards his former employer. His conclusion
is based in part on a personal two-year investigation into the agency's
history and purpose -- an investigation he began somewhat reluctantly,
never expecting he'd reach the conclusion he did.
- His research led him to question its
very legality and constitutionality. Deeply disturbed by his discoveries,
he summarized these in a report which, in February, he sent to his supervisors,
and asked them to respond to three allegations:
- 1. That the filing of federal income
tax returns is voluntary and the filing of federal income tax returns is
- 2. That the 16th Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution was never ratified;
- 3. That income taxes are not used to
pay for daily government operations, but to pay the interest on the national
- "All the time I was doing my research,
I looked for snags -- looked for things that would prove that everything
I was reading and finding out was wrong," Banister told WorldNetDaily.
"I had taken this job thinking I'd be wearing the white hat, and I
slowly found out I was not wearing the white hat. So something had to change."
- The change came quickly last month, when
the IRS accepted Banister's offer of resignation rather than respond to
the questions raised. He is believed to be the first IRS-CID special agent
who -- having determined to his satisfaction that certain allegations about
the income tax were true -- confronted the hierarchy at the IRS about his
- He has paid dearly for this.
- "It's the end of my dream of a career
in law enforcement," he said, recalling in a telephone interview the
series of events that propelled him from the ranks of armed federal agents
to the camp of those reviled by the government as tax protesters. The action
also cost him his $80,000 a year job.
- Banister, 36, had dreamed that dream
for a long time. In 1986, he graduated with a degree in business administration
from San Jose State University in the San Francisco Bay area, and for the
next three years worked for KPMG Peat Marwick as a senior tax specialist
and staff auditor.
- A gentle, soft-spoken man -- who chooses
his words carefully -- he would seem ideally suited to a job dealing with
numbers and accounting. Just the kind of job he had, but it wasn't enough.
- "I wanted to get into law enforcement,
but had recently (in 1990) gotten my certified public accountant certificate,"
he explained. "I wondered if there wasn't some way a CPA could wear
a uniform, gun and a badge."
- A skilled marksman -- Banister has been
a member of the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America since
1991 and 1992, respectively -- he began exploring the federal law enforcement
agencies for employment opportunities.
- In 1991 he applied for a position at
both the FBI and IRS-CID, "in case the FBI job didn't work out."
Due to a hiring freeze, the FBI kept him at "in a holding pattern"
for two years. So when in August 1993, the IRS-CID phoned and asked if
he were still interested in working for them, Banister said yes. Although
his heart was set on the FBI, working for the IRS as a special agent had
definite advantages. He could work in his hometown of San Jose, and not
have to move around the country -- as working for the FBI might have
required. This was something his wife and sons greatly appreciated. "We'll
treat you just as we do every taxpayer -- no special favors," he was
- And the IRS was as good as its word.
- As part of his background check, Banister's
financial affairs were closely audited. Told he owed $4,000, he fought
the charge and won -- and even received a $1,000 refund. Despite this small
skirmish with the auditors, he was hired anyway, and in December 1993 embarked
on his new career as "an accountant with a badge and a gun,"
as IRS-CID special agents are called.
- "The most important day of my career
was probably the first day, when I swore an oath to God to support and
defend the Constitution of the United States," Banister recalled.
"I have always taken that oath very seriously."
- The newly sworn-in agent enjoyed the
changes of pace his work demanded. As one of the 3,000 IRS-CID officers
nationwide, Banister was authorized to execute and serve search and arrest
warrants, to make arrests without warrant, to carry firearms, and seize
property subject to forfeiture. He was eventually advanced to the position
of asset forfeiture coordinator and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task
Force coordinator for the Central California District.
- He was a firearms instructor for his
- "I loved my job," he said.
"I was able to do very complicated financial analyses, yet every three
months I'd go out and do my shotgun and handgun qualification. I had to
do a variety of things and handle a number of situations from helping serve
the most scary search warrant to sitting in court and testifying about
a 10-year, $10 million financial analysis."
- Banister knew the reputation the IRS
had earned; that the very name, IRS, inspired fear in people. But, he was
not troubled by that and hoped to change public perception.
- "I wasn't personally responsible
for the IRS reputation," he explained. "I thought in my small
way I'd make a difference. I knew it was an unpopular tax, but what tax
isn't unpopular? I figured that if it had to be administered it should
be administered by people who didn't let the power go to their heads and
behave like idiots. If that happened, if the officers knew they were to
serve the people, then everything would be OK.
- "As corny as it sounds, that's what
I believed," he said.
- If it hadn't been for a particular talk
radio host, Banister might still be a special agent. He liked the work,
which included opportunities to listen to talk radio. One of his favorite
talk show hosts is Geoff Metcalf, a popular conservative West Coast talk
show host and WorldNetDaily columnist.
- As he tells it: "In December 1996,
I was driving around in my government car and listening to Geoff Metcalf,
whom I really like. He had a woman named Devvy Kidd as a guest, and I'd
never heard of her -- but she was saying all this stuff about how the income
tax was voluntary and the 16th Amendment was never ratified. If she hadn't
been on Metcalf's show, I'd have dismissed her as one of those kooky tax
protesters we'd been warned about. But being on Metcalf's show lent real
credibility. I figured he wouldn't have someone on unless she had something
valuable to say."
- Kidd, a writer and activist, had recently
moved with her husband to California from Colorado. She and constitutional
attorney Larry Becraft of Huntsville, Alabama, have founded the <http://www.networkusa.org/index.shtml
Wallace Institute, named after Scottish freedom fighter, William "Braveheart"
- Curious, but skeptical, Banister sent
for Kidd's two booklets -- "Why a Bankrupt America" and "Blind
Loyalty" -- and began studying. Looking back, he describes himself
as "so uninformed. I didn't know the underlying issues."
- "There was so much. There was information
about the Federal Reserve System and quotes from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx.).
It was overwhelming," he said.
- Despite a heavy workload and family commitments,
- "I'm not only a criminal investigator,
I'm basically curious. I don't take anybody's word for things. And this
research took me a long time. I was working 50 hours a week to support
a wife and kids. It took a while to find the time to do it, but I kept
- Banister contacted Kidd and the other
writers she listed in her books. There was William Benson, who with Red
Beckman had co-authored "The Law that Never Was," which convinced
Banister that the 16th Amendment had never been ratified.
- He phoned Bill Conklin. "He's the
guy that says filing income tax returns is voluntary," Banister explained,
impressed particularly by fact that Conklin has offered a $50,000 reward
to anyone who can prove him wrong -- "and it's still waiting for someone
to collect it."
- For background on the Federal Reserve
System Banister turned to "TheCreature from Jekyll Island," by
D. Griffith, published by the < http://www.jbs.orgJohn Birch Society.
- In addition, he turned to the statute
books themselves and examined the court cases, to see if all these claims
and charges he was hearing about for the first time were true. His conclusions:
- "The court cases checked out, just
as I had been told they would," he said. "The cases can be read
in any law library, they haven't been overruled. To this day I haven't
been able to find any untruths about what Devvy Kidd has said about the
Federal Reserve and the income tax. Everything she said has checked out."
- Small wonder Banister found himself asking
himself more and more -- "My gosh, what am I part of?"
- In early February, Banister submitted
his findings -- which he had compiled in a report -- to his superiors at
the IRS, asking that they pass along his allegations to those high in the
IRS so that they could respond to the three allegations. This was done.
Banister learned his report and the allegations were circulated at the
highest levels -- including the legal department.
- As promised at the beginning of his career,
the IRS responded to the once-eager special agent as they do to any taxpayer
who asks embarrassing questions about the constitutionality of the income
tax and the 16th Amendment. On Feb. 17, Banister was called into his supervisor's
office, and assured his report had been reviewed "by the highest levels
of the IRS." Then he was handed a memo dated that day, presenting
the typical non-response:
- "The Internal Revenue Service will
not be responding to your request and will provide you with the necessary
paperwork to tender your resignation," his supervisor wrote. "You
will be placed on administrative leave effective upon receipt of this memorandum
for a period of seven calendar days to consider what actions you wish to
- Banister says he was "astonished"
and "confused," at the response -- or rather "the lack
of it." After all, he had worked for the agency five years. He believed
his allegations were serious enough to warrant a response. Even a personal
plea to Commissioner Charles Rossotti himself, wasn't enough. His career
as a special agent was so much dust.
- Banister reports no retaliatory actions
have been taken. He has not been followed; his phone appears to be untapped.
- He is working to have his CPA license
reinstated so he can return to the private sector, but he hopes his action
will inspire both members of the public and his fellow agents to take some
kind of action -- perhaps to demand a thorough review and examination by
Congress; something that's never been done.
- Says Banister: "I never intended
to write a report, but I needed to tell more than one person what I had
found. I can't tell people not to file, but I figure if people learn that
their tax dollars are going simply to pay interest on a debt and doesn't
go to run the government, if they know they have certain rights -- they'll
- "So I'm not advocating anything.
I'm just trying to tell people the truth. People get mad if their auto
mechanic overcharges them by 50 bucks. If they find out the whole darn
income tax system is a big fraud, I'm hoping they'll get mad enough to
do something about it."
- There has been speculation circulated
on the Internet that Banister is a "plant" -- an agent provocateur
-- sent by the IRS to infiltrate the ranks of the tax protest movement.
- Those questioned by WorldNetDaily dispute
- "No way," says Kidd. "I've
talked to him, and he didn't just jump in -- I had to really work to convince
him. Besides, he's not advocating anything. He's not saying not to file,
he's not saying not to pay taxes. He's not doing any of that. He's a really
decent guy who loves his family and his country."
- Bill Benson, co-author of the "Law
that Never Was," agrees.
- "I've spent hours and hours talking
to Joe," Benson says. "We talked many times on the phone over
the course of a year; it wasn't just one casual conversation. If he were
a fraud, somewhere in the course of a year I'd have detected something.
- "As Joe has discovered -- and will
come forward to testify -- there is no law in the Internal Revenue Code
that requires anyone to file a 1040 form or pay an income tax. He's done
a great service for the people in this country."
- Steve Hempfling, director of the Free
Enterprise Society, a citizens group based in Fresno, California, also
vouches for Banister's authenticity.
- "This (Banister's defection from
the IRS) could be the most important event to hit the tax-protest movement
in years, he says. "Because of his credibility this could start a
major tidal wave for the IRS to deal with, if he hangs in there.
- "I like him; I think he's sincere,"
Hempfling continued. "He's done what we've always asked the government
officials to do: read our material and show us where we're wrong. He did
what we asked. He actually looked it over and couldn't find anything wrong
-- so he came over to our side."
- Joe Banister will be speaking in person
at the http://www.freeenterprisesociety.com Free Enterprise Society convention in San Jose,
California, April 10-11.