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Michael Stephens hates the Internal Revenue Service. He believes it steals his money, and he won’t stand for it. “That’s all we are, is slaves,” says the 49-year-old truck driver from Georgia, who sued the agency. He claims he is entitled to damages through the Taxpayer Bill of Rights for alleged misconduct in tax collection by the IRS. Stephen’s complaint-which Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed in June-might simply be a footnote in the flood of pro se cases that pour into the courthouse each year, except that Stephens isn’t alone. His complaint is one of 108 nearly identical cases filed since last fall by plaintiffs from Oregon to Florida. The effort hasn’t seen much success; so far, 40 have been dismissed because of the plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust their administrative remedies. But the cases managed to pique curiosity in judges’ chambers. So who’s behind this effort? Stephens won’t say. Nor would more than two dozen other plaintiffs, who either did not return calls or declined to answer questions. Seattle’s Heidi Broward, whose husband Paul had his claim dismissed in July, says the suits are a coordinated effort by people who met through “various things over the Web and from years and years of networking.” The complaints are the brainchild of Chicago-based anti-tax activist George Pragovich, Broward says: “He’s one of the major coordinators of what we’re doing. I just fill out the forms and send them in.” But Pragovich wouldn’t talk. “Let me put it like this: Like they say on TV, I can’t discuss pending litigation,” Pragovich said before hanging up the phone.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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