Daniel Taylor JENKINS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE Service, Respondent-Appellee., United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit., 483 F.3d 90, Docket No. 05-4756-ag., Decided: March 6, 2007
Daniel Taylor JENKINS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE Service, Respondent-Appellee.
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
483 F.3d 90
Docket No. 05-4756-ag.
Decided: March 6, 2007.
Argued: Feb. 22, 2007.
Decided: March 6, 2007.
Frederick R. Dettmer, Pelham, NY, for Petitioner-Appellant.
Marion E.M. Erickson, (Eileen J. O'Connor, Assistant Attorney General, and Jonathan S. Cohen, Attorney, on the brief), Tax Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent-Appellee.
Thomas Whyatt, Oxman Tulis Kirkpatrick Whyatt and Geiger LLP, White Plains, NY, for Amicus Curiae New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.
Before KEARSE, CABRANES, and KATZMANN, Circuit Judges.
JOSR A. CABRANES, Circuit Judge.
We consider here the claim that religious objections to military activities or spending may form the basis for avoiding the payment of federal taxes. The claim is not new, 1 although it is presented in some╜what unusual garb.
1. ═ See, e.g., United States v. Lee , 455 U.S. 252, 102 S.Ct. 1051, 71 L.Ed.2d 127 (1982) (hold╜ing that the First Amendment does not afford members of the Amish sect a right to avoid payment of social security taxes); Browne v. United States , 1 76 F.3d 25 (2d Cir.1999) (holding that taxpayers cannot withhold the portion of their taxes which they calculate will be allocated for military purposes); Adams v. Comm'r , 170 F.3d 173 (3d Cir.1999) (holding that the government need not ac╜commodate taxpayers whose religious beliefs lead them to oppose military funding); United States v. Ramsey , 992 F.2d 831, 833 (8th Cir. 1993) (holding that the First Amendment does not afford a right to avoid federal income taxes on religious grounds); Jenney v. United States , 755 F.2d 1384 (9th Cir.1985) (holding that taxpayers cannot withhold taxes based on conscientious objection to war); Lull v. Comm'r , 602 F.2d 1166, 1169 (4th Cir.1979) (same).
Petitioner Daniel Taylor Jenkins, a reli╜gious objector to military spending, ap╜peals a decision of the United States Tax Court granting respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue's motion for summary judgment under Rule 121 of the United States Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure. 2 The Tax Court dismissed pe╜titioner's amended petition, in which he claimed that the First and Ninth Amend╜ments of the United States Constitution 3 afford him a right to retain the unpaid portion of his taxes on the basis of reli╜gious objections to military spending until such taxes can be directed to nonmilitary expenditures. The Tax Court also im╜posed a penalty of $5,000 pursuant to 26 U.S.C. ╖ 6673(a)(1) based on its conclusion that petitioner's arguments were frivolous within the meaning of the statute. 4
2. ═ Tax Court Rule 121 provides in pertinent part,
A decision shall . . . be rendered [upon mo╜tion for summary judgment] if the plead╜ings, answers to interrogatories, deposi╜tions, admissions, and any other acceptable materials . . . show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that a decision may be rendered as a matter of law.
TAX CT. R. 121(b).
3. ═ The First Amendment states, in relevant part, that "Congress shall make no law re╜specting an establishment of religion, or pro╜hibiting the free exercise thereof." U.S. CONST. amend. I. The Ninth Amendment states that "[t]he enumeration in the Constitu╜tion, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." U.S. CONST. amend. IX.
4. ═ 26 U.S.C. ╖ 6673(a)(1) provides,
Whenever it appears to the Tax Court that╜-
(A) proceeding before it have been instituted or maintained by the taxpayer primarily for delay,
(B) the taxpayer's position in such proceed╜ing is frivolous or groundless, or
(C) the taxpayer unreasonably failed to pur╜sue available administrative remedies,
the Tax Court, in its decision, may require the taxpayer to pay to the United States a penalty not in excess of $25,000.
On appeal, petitioner argues that the Tax Court erred in (1) dismissing his claim that the First and Ninth Amendments af╜ford him a right to withhold a portion of his taxes on account of his religious objec╜tions to military expenditures; (2) failing to determine whether accommodating his religious objections would be unduly bur╜densome under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. ╖╖ 2000bb et seq. ; and (3) assessing a penalty for raising frivolous claims pur╜suant to 26 U.S.C. ╖ 6673.
Although we do not doubt the sinc╜erity of petitioner's religious convictions, we conclude that his legal arguments are without merit. It is well settled that the collection of tax revenues for expenditures that offend the religious beliefs of individu╜al taxpayers does not violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. See United States v. Lee , 4 55 U.S. 252, 102 S.Ct. 1051, 71 L.Ed.2d 127 (1982) (holding that Amish taxpayers cannot avoid pay╜ment of social security taxes under the First Amendment based on religious objec╜tions to participation in the social security system); Browne v. United States , 1 76 F.3d 25 (2d Cir.1999) (holding that the First Amendment does not afford a right to withhold the portion of an individual's tax liability that would be allocated to the Department of Defense).
It is similarly well settled that RFRA does not afford a right to avoid payment of taxes for religious reasons. Browne , 176 F.3d at 26 (rejecting RFRA claim on the ground that "voluntary com╜pliance is the least restrictive means by which the IRS furthers the compelling governmental interest in uniform, manda╜tory participation in the federal income tax system"); see also Adams v. Comm'r , 1 70 F.3d 173, 176 (3d Cir.1999) (same). There╜fore, we need not discuss in detail the arguments to the contrary that are raised in petitioner's brief. 5
5. ═ We merely note our disagreement with peti╜tioner's assertion that the Supreme Court's recent decision in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal , 546 U.S. 418, 126 S.Ct. 1211, 163 L.Ed.2d 1017 (2006) breathes new life into his otherwise unsuc╜cessful argument under the Religious Free╜dom Restoration Act of 1993. In O Centro Espirita the Court held that the government had not demonstrated a compelling interest in the uniform application of the Controlled Substances Act to prohibit religious uses of an otherwise illegal drug. 126 S.Ct. at 1225. Although the Court in O Centro Espirita rejected the government's "categorical ap╜proach" to assessing the relevant religious burdens, it explicitly contrasted the claims at issue in O Centro Espirita with unsuccessful constitutional claims brought by taxpayers seeking to withhold taxes on religious grounds. See id . at 1223 (noting that Lee and other cases rejecting efforts to withhold pay╜ment of taxes "show that the Government can demonstrate a compelling interest in uni╜form application of a particular program by offering evidence that granting the requested religious accommodations would seriously compromise its ability to administer the pro╜gram") (emphasis added).
We conclude that petitioner's Ninth Amendment claim is also without merit. The Ninth Amendment provides that "[t]he enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." U.S. CONST. amend. IX. The Ninth Amendment is not an independent source of individual rights; rather, it pro╜vides a "rule of construction" that we ap╜ply in certain cases. See United States v. Bifield , 70 2 F.2d 342, 349 (2d Cir.1983). The rule dictates that the "[t]he full scope of the specific guarantees [in the Constitution] is not limited by the text, but em╜braces their purpose." Id.
Petitioner argues that the Ninth Amendment supports his asserted right to withhold payment of taxes that would be used for military spending. He relies on, inter alia , v arious eighteenth and nine╜teenth century provisions in the laws and the Constitution of the State of New York, 6 and several acts of the United States Congress, 7 which accommodated re╜ligious observers who objected to military service, or exempted religious objectors from paying taxes that would be used for military expenditures. See Petitioner's Br. 16-22. Petitioner argues on the basis of these provisions that "the right of con╜science not to be compelled to participate in war making" was "an element of reli╜gious freedom at the time of the adoption of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights." Id. at 14-15. He there╜fore argues that the Tax Court erred when it failed to consider whether a right to withhold the portion of his taxes allocable for military spending "could be discerned in the First Amendment's prohibition of abridging the free exercise of one's faith as elucidated by the Ninth Amendment's ▒ rule of construction ,' " id. at 14 (emphasis added).
6. ═ See, e.g. Act of Apr. 15, 1814, ch. 200, Art. XXIII, 1814 N.Y. Laws 251, 253 (providing that money received from Quakers would not be used to support the state militia but would instead be allocated for educational and char╜itable purposes).
7. ═ See, e.g. , Act of May 8, 1792, ch. 33, ╖ 2, 1 Stat. 271, 272 (requiring enrollment in federal militia but exempting all persons subject to exemptions under state law).
Petitioner's Ninth Amendment argu╜ment fails because it amounts to a mere recasting of his unsuccessful First Amend╜ment claim. His argument that the right to withhold the payment of taxes was an element of "religious freedom at the time of the adoption of the United States Con╜stitution" is rooted in petitioner's historical interpretation of the principles embodied by the Free Exercise Clause. The argu╜ment is squarely foreclosed, however, by the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Lee. In Lee , the Court considered claims by a member of the Amish faith that the assessment of social security taxes interfered with the right to practice his religion as guaranteed by the Free Exer╜cise Clause. 455 U.S. at 255-57, 102 S.Ct. 1051. The Court rejected the petitioner's arguments, concluding that "[b]ecause the broad public interest in maintaining a sound tax system is of such a high order, religious belief in conflict with the pay╜ment of taxes affords no basis for resisting the tax." Id. at 260, 102 S.Ct. 1051 (em╜phasis added). Indeed, the Court in Lee noted, albeit in dicta, that the Constitution similarly would not afford a right for reli╜gious adherents to withhold the portion of their taxes corresponding to the percent╜age of the federal budget allocated for "war-related activities." Id.
The sincere religious beliefs of the peti╜tioner in the case before us similarly "af╜ford[ ] no basis for resisting" payment of his taxes where, as here, the "broad public interest in maintaining a sound tax sys╜tem" is not meaningfully disputed, id. , and where Congress's constitutional authority to impose the taxes in question is beyond doubt. See United Public Workers v. Mitchell , 330 U.S. 75, 96, 67 S.Ct. 556, 91 L.Ed. 754 (1947) ("[W]hen objection is made that the exercise of a federal power infringes upon rights reserved by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, the inquiry must be directed toward the granted pow╜er under which the action of the Union was taken. If granted power is found, neces╜sarily the objection of invasion of those rights, reserved by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, must fail."); see also Barton v. Comm'r , 737 F.2d 822, 823 (9th Cir. 1984) (rejecting taxpayer's claim that the Ninth Amendment afforded him the right to withhold taxes allocable for military purposes because, inter alia , " Article I, section eight of the Constitution specifical╜ly grants Congress the power to collect taxes . . . for the national defense").
We agree with the Ninth Circuit's deci╜sion in Barton , which held, in a case sub╜stantially similar to the one at bar, that the Ninth Amendment did not support an indi╜vidual's efforts to avoid payment of taxes based on his genuinely held religious ob╜jections to military expenditures. See id. at 823-24 ("If the specific protections of the first amendment do not afford a basis for refusing to pay tax, then neither can the more novel claims raised by appellant under the ninth amendment."). We hold that petitioner cannot bolster or enhance an unavailing First Amendment argument merely by presenting it in the dress of a Ninth Amendment claim.
Finally, we address petitioner's ar╜gument that the Tax Court abused its discretion by assessing a penalty of $5,000 pursuant to 26 U.S.C. ╖ 6673(a)(1), see note 4, ante. We conclude that no abuse of discretion occurred here. For the rea╜sons stated in our discussion above, any reasonable possibility of petitioner's suc╜cess on the merits was squarely foreclosed by long-settled case law. Accordingly, the Tax Court properly concluded that peti╜tioner's claims were "frivolous" or "groundless" within the meaning of the statute. 26 U.S.C. ╖ 6673(a)(1); see Burke v. Comm'r , 9 29 F.2d 110, 116 (2d Cir.1991) (affirming imposition of penalties on tax╜payer who argued, inter alia , that the Tax Court was unconstitutional).
Even assuming that petitioner's one ar╜guably novel claim-namely, his Ninth Amendment argument-was not explicitly and unambiguously foreclosed by existing Second Circuit precedent, we nevertheless find that the Tax Court did not abuse its discretion in assessing the penalty. First, we agree with the Tax Court's conclusion that, despite taking a slightly new form, petitioner's argument was "representative of a class of arguments that have univer╜sally been rejected by [the Tax Court] and other courts." Jenkins v. Comm'r , No. 20217-03L (Tax Ct. March 3, 2005). Sec╜ond, the Tax Court's decision to assess a penalty is supported by the fact that peti╜tioner previously raised a similar unsuc╜cessful challenge in Tax Court, in which he argued that the First Amendment afforded him a right to avoid paying taxes allocable for military expenditures. In rejecting his arguments on this previous occasion, the Tax Court explicitly noted that "[i]t is a fundamental principle of tax law that a taxpayer has no right to reduce his Feder╜al tax liability on the ground that govern╜mental policies or expenditures conflict with his religious or moral convictions, no matter how sincerely those convictions may be held." Jenkins v. Comm'r , No. 4 251-87S (Tax Ct. Dec. 28, 1987). Peti╜tioner therefore received full and adequate notice during the prior action that any future efforts to resist payment of taxes would almost certainly fail. Cf. Maduakolam v. Columbia Univ. , 866 F.2d 53, 56 (2d Cir.1989) (reversing the District Court's imposition of sanctions under FED.R.CIV.P. 11 because there was " nothing in the rec╜ord to indicate that [the appellant] knew or should have known that his motion to reopen case was time-barred" (emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omit╜ted)). Accordingly, the Tax Court did not abuse its discretion when imposing a pen╜alty in the instant case. Cf . Burke , 929 F.2d at 116 (affirming imposition of a pen╜alty by the Tax Court and noting that "we have recently ruled that sanctions can be imposed pursuant to FED.R.APP.P. 38 where, even if one issue is deemed valid, the bulk of [appellant's] claims are com╜pletely devoid of merit" (internal quotation marks omitted)).
* * * *
For the reasons stated above, the deci╜sion of the Tax Court is AFFIRMED .