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The IRS requires taxpayers to swear under "penalties of perjury" to their statements and figures given concerning their income. Since obviously this constitutes a potential incrimination, it would appear to violate the 7th Article of the Bill of Rights which provides that noone "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself". Since perjury is a criminal offense and tax fraud is also a criminal offense, it would seem the IRS is requiring taxpayers to act as witnesses against themselves. Has this been tested in court?

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    This is normally called the 5th Amendment.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 14 at 22:10
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    @ohwilleke that's probably because articles of the bill of rights that haven't been adopted as amendments have no force of law. Well, for the last 30 years there's only been one such article, but still....
    – phoog
    Jan 15 at 8:03

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The IRS requires taxpayers to swear under "penalties of perjury" to their statements and figures given concerning their income. Since obviously this constitutes a potential incrimination

The privilege against self-incrimination applies to giving testimony that reveals that you have committed a crime, not to doing something prospectively in a way that does not violate criminal laws.

The solution is that you may truthfully report the amount of income that you have on your tax return.

Ordinarily, the information that you had a certain amount of income, without a specific description of its source, would not in and of itself be incriminating. So, it is not "obvious that this constitutes potential incrimination[.]", at least in the general case.

There might be some circumstance in which merely filling out the information on a tax return required by law and signing it under penalty of perjury would be incriminating, although this is far more narrow that your question suggests. In those circumstances, the solution would be to file an unsigned tax return accompanied by a disclaimer stating that you are not signing it under penalty of perjury as it would be potentially incriminating for you to do so would on a signed and attached explanation that explicitly claims the 5th Amendment privilege.

There is actually an IRS form for doing that or similar things on: IRS Form 8275.

This would result in serious civil tax penalties, but would probably protect you from a criminal tax law violation (at least for the failure to file offense, not necessarily from the failure to pay offense).

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  • More specifically, I am wondering what the statutory authority is for the IRS to demand sworn statements, if any.
    – Cicero
    Jan 15 at 2:08
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    @Cicero: 26 USC 6065 Jan 15 at 4:28
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    @Cicero a false statement of income (or any false statement under penalty of perjury) isn't incriminating testimony; it's a crime. Should a witness in a criminal trial have the right to refuse to testify because there is a possibility that the testimony will be false?
    – phoog
    Jan 15 at 7:55
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    @grovkin it is compulsion. But they're not compelling you to lie. You have the option of telling the truth.
    – phoog
    Jan 15 at 7:57
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    @phoog the question is what happens when a true statement amounts to a confession of a past crime. BTW, I assume you were using "you" rhetorically there, instead of "one."
    – grovkin
    Jan 15 at 8:13

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