Partnership in a Community Property State

| Profiles

By Matt Niznik; Oakland, California

Editor’s note: This is one essay in the newest booklet in our “Practical War Tax Resistance” series. “Relationships and War Tax Resistance” is #8 in the series and is due to be published by January 6, 2016. Copies will be $1.50 each or contact the office for bulk orders. The text will be posted at

My partner Rose and I have been together for 32 years, since we met during senior year of college. Although Rose does not define herself as an activist, the movements I was involved in around that time — anti-apartheid, solidarity with Central America liberation, opposing militarism, support for political prisoners in the U.S. — have been and continue to be an important part of our relationship and consciousness, especially as we have raised two politically aware children.

Since 1987, I have refused to pay any federal taxes and have not filed returns. Both Rose and I have been at our current jobs at nonprofit organizations for the past 21 years and, since I work at a place where I’m fairly easy to find, I feel lucky that I never heard from the IRS until 2007. They garnished my wages at that time, but only collected on me for the three years prior to that. I’m even more fortunate that the WTR Penalty Fund was able to assist with most of the penalties and interest from that collection.

Although we are not married, since we live in a community property state we have always kept our finances separate. When we bought a car, it was in Rose’s name. When we purchased property along with four other cohousing families, the title for our home has her name on it, and I’m not mentioned in the Tenancy in Common agreement at all. When we created our wills, mine gives everything to Rose, whereas hers gives everything to our kids. As you can see, there is a lot riding on my trust in my partner, and in my two children should Rose pass away before me! Luckily, the four of us have strong bonds, built over many years of open communication about my war tax resistance and our (mostly) shared worldviews.

There have been interesting challenges. Our son decided not to register for the draft, so we helped him through public college without any financial aid. Our daughter attended a private college that was more expensive and, though she received a scholarship paying half the cost, she needed assistance for the rest. For four years, Rose filled out all the financial aid paperwork — a very arduous task! — based solely on her income.

The most challenging time for our family was 2008. To celebrate 20 years of WTR, I sent out a letter to over 100 friends and family members, updating them on my resistance. Unfortunately, a brother-in-law of Rose, who used to work for NATO and the GAO, and did not previously know about my WTR, got hold of the letter and caused a huge uproar on that side of the family. He wrote nasty letters and emails, reported me to the government, and contacted the directors of the agency I work for, demanding I be fired. There were lots of difficult moments for Rose and me.

Thankfully, one of her sisters was very supportive of us, and we have managed to slowly patch things up with the extended family through the years. Once people found out what the brother-in-law had done, he became very unpopular. Throughout this experience, support from the WTR community has been crucial to our family’s peace of mind and to my continued resistance.