Tax Honesty Advocate Gwendolyn Kestin lost a hard fought battle with cancer a few days ago. She and her husband Marty brought a CDP collections case to the Tax Court based on IRC Sec. 6702(a) penalties for filing “frivolous” returns. Ironically, Gwen passed just a few days after she received notice from the Service that her account was clear of penalties.
A Rare Win
Gwen attained a level of relative legal immortality by winning a precedent setting case in the U.S. Tax Court. She won a “Tax Court Opinion” as opposed to a much more common, and non-binding except on the parties to it, “Tax Court Memorandum” decision.
The court agreed with her that the IRS could not penalize copies of returns sent with correspondence as if they were themselves returns. The IRS hit Gwen and her husband Marty with six of those and one on the actual return. The government even went so far as to file an appeal in the case, but wisely gave it up before briefing. Citations to the Kestin case will ring in the echo chamber of Tax Court jurisprudence for a very long time. They will save Americans thousands in unlawful penalties.
Protesters None the Less
Because they spoke truth to power, the Courts call the Kestins “tax protesters.” They never saw themselves as protesting the law. They were following it. They didn’t know they were in a rigged game. It always comes as a surprise. And even when she discovered that the game was rigged, Gwen insisted on doing the right thing, when giving up would have been the easy thing.
Gwen had the rare reward of a real victory in a rigged fight.
More than Mere Protest
Her fight reminded me, as do so many “tax protest” cases, of the words of Kentucky’s farmer poet, Wendell Berry:
“History simply affords too little evidence that anyone’s individual protest is of any use. Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.”
Gwen preserved those qualities in her heart that would have been destroyed by acquiescence, and at the same time achieved a public success of real use to her brothers and sisters in the tax honest movement. I’m honored to have known Gwendolyn Kestin. I mourn her passing and celebrate her victory.
Gwen’s husband Marty informed me that there will be a short Jewish Memorial Service this Wednesday, October 21, 2020 from 5-6 PM at their home, 1208 Worcaster Place, CHarlotte, 28211.
David de Groot is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.