A court has ruled in favor of an Oregon resident who refuses to pay federal taxes because he opposes taxpayer-funded abortions.
Michael Bowman, who identifies as a Christian, had refused to file a tax return or pay taxes since 1999, saying the government must provide accommodations for his sincerely held religious beliefs.
"I'm not a tax protester. I love my country. I have a duty to my country. I have a duty to my conscience," Bowman said, according to Oregon Live.
His refusal has resulted in a federal indictment, claiming he owes back taxes on at least $800,000 of income and that he had falsely claimed that the IRS still owed him several refunds.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman dismissed the felony tax evasion case against Bowman, noting that the government had failed to provide evidence that he tried to conceal or mislead the IRS by cashing his checks instead of depositing them.
Bowman, a self-employed software developer from Columbus City, began making changes to his financial transactions after the government withdrew cash from his account in 2012 to make up for unpaid taxes. He began cashing his work checks, leaving only a minimum balance in his bank account through 2014 in order to keep the government from taking money from his account.
"Defendant's altered bank behavior removed his income from the reach of taxing authorities and allowed him to avoid payment of assessed taxes," Assistant U.S Attorneys Donna Brecker Maddux and Rachel K. Sowray stated in the original complaint against Bowman, as reported by the Daily Mail.
The IRS also contended that Bowman only started citing his religious beliefs after his "'Claim of Right' tax avoidance scheme failed."
The indictment claims that Bowman owed $356,857 in taxes he owed from 2012 to 2014 as well as penalties that accumulated in 2000, 2001, 2008 and 2009.
Bowman's lawyer argued that there is no crime against cashing work checks, particularly when the checks were disclosed to the IRS.
"Cashing a check at your own bank, made out to you, representing income contemporaneously disclosed by employers through 1099 and W-2 forms to the IRS is not 'handling one's affairs to avoid making records," attorney Matthew Schindler stated in the motion to dismiss the charge, according to the Daily Mail.
Mosman agreed, saying, "[j]ust cashing checks is not evasion." The case was dismissed by Mosman without prejudice, allowing the prosecutors to seek a new indictment to replace it. Bowman still faces four misdemeanor charges over his willful failure to file tax returns.