Paul L. Caron

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the IRS

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:  Tallahassee Democrat, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the IRS:

This past year, much ado was made about the so-called “IRS-Gate” and concerns that the Obama administration may have used the agency to target Tea Party and other right wing groups. ... [W]hat often is not stated during the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend is that King, early in his leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was routinely subjected to IRS audits of his individual accounts, SCLC accounts as well as accounts of his lawyers, first starting during the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower and continuing through the Kennedy administration. ...

[B]y 1962, King had settled with the IRS for a mere $500 dollars for a deduction that he could not explain to auditors. Two years earlier, in February of 1960, a Montgomery, Alabama Grand Jury made King the first person ever charged in that state with criminal tax fraud charges, alleging that in 1956 and 1958, that King through the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization that had led the successful bus boycotts in that city and was the precursor to the SCLC, had failed to pay the state approximately $45,000 that it was owed in taxes. ...

Looking back, that King was even indicted proved and proves that when necessary, there were and remain many other Americans who were and are more than willing to use the IRS and other tax authorities to harrass individuals and organizations with which they disagree.

Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink


Yes, the IRS did but at the behest of J Edgar Hoover, not of the President. That's a distinction with enough difference to remember.

Posted by: Bob Condon | Jan 20, 2014 7:01:42 PM

As a gift, I received an original copy of the Washington Post published the day I was born (May 29, 1960). To my surprise, the paper carried a story about Rev. King being acquitted of tax charges in Alabama. I went on the internet and saw that after the state charges failed, the federal taxing authorities went after him.

Posted by: John Steele | Jan 20, 2014 8:45:48 PM

Or did J. Edgar do it on behest of Atty General Robert Kennedy, who doubled as JFK's enforcer?

Posted by: Schmuck281 | Jan 20, 2014 10:31:26 PM

Keep in mind that some of MLK's troubles were with the IRS, but those at the time of the bus boycott were over Alabama state income taxes.

He'd processed the money given to the bus boycott though his own bank account. Fortunately, his father had taught him to keep meticulous records, so he could show where every penny was spent.

That said, you've made an very important point. What's happening today isn't the first time the IRS has been used to harass critics and troublemakers.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Jan 21, 2014 7:14:05 AM

Also keep in mind that MLK was a Republican!

Posted by: Howard Towt | Jan 21, 2014 3:06:52 PM