Lots of people are looking for the basics of tax resistance — whether against war and violence, the border wall, closing the door on refugees, racism, a mass deportation force, getting Trump to release his tax forms, the Trump agenda in general, having a president that many see as unqualified, or some new executive order we might hear about next week.
Tax day is April 18, 2017, the last day to file 2016 taxes. Whether you owe or not, whether you are resisting or not, here are some considerations and ideas for those newly interested in tax resistance as a protest strategy:
- File on paper and mail in your form. It’s one way to slow the system. The IRS has been driving people to e-file, but you don’t need to help with their efficiency. Snail mail filing is perfectly legal.
- Send a protest letter when you file: “I’m paying under protest because….” Or “I’m refusing this amount because….” You can enclose it with your form, or send it separately to the office of the president, elected officials, and/or the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20224-0002.
- Writing messages on or altering the tax form itself brings extra risk to the filer. The IRS can charge a frivolous penalty of up to $5,000 if they decide they can’t trust the numbers on the form. It is best to enclose a letter of protest and fill out the form normally (unless you don’t mind risking additional penalties).
- If your federal income taxes were withheld or you overpaid in estimated taxes, think ahead for next year. A refund means you overpaid taxes and have given the government an interest-free loan. Adjust your W-4 at your employer’s — change your allowances to avoid getting a refund; this is legal if you are just bringing the withholding more in balance with the amount you actually owe. Or, read about W-4 resistance here to have a tax due balance for resistance next year. Self-employed people can adjust their estimated payments so as not to over-pay.
- The IRS has a lot of power to collect taxes from bank accounts and salaries. If you are concerned about the economic risk of resistance but want to protest the use of your tax dollars with your money, consider refusing a small amount. 1,000 people resisting $10 may well have more impact than 1 person resisting $10,000. One active campaign is based on refusing $10.40.
A few random thoughts on ideas we’ve heard:
- File for an extension — with a specific demand, such as “I don’t want to pay until Trump releases his tax forms.” Know that when you file for an extension you are supposed to pay an estimated amount to cover taxes you may owe. Interest and penalties will be added on to the tax due amount. This may be a slow-down strategy; just be aware of the economic consequences.
- Put tax due in escrow — with a specific demand. “I’ll turn over the money when…” Escrow is a legal option for certain conditions, perhaps a rent strike, but it’s not a legal option with the IRS. Whatever tax due is not paid will go to IRS collection. You can expect letters demanding payment, and eventually an “intent to levy” letter that warns you the IRS can now seize assets that they find. This might include the escrow account. Many war tax resisters do set the money aside in a bank account knowing that at some point the IRS may take the amount due plus interest and penalties. Not paying voluntarily can feel powerful, even if the IRS gets more money than they think you owed in the first place.
- Pay taxes due to an organization you support or a government department that you find acceptable. The IRS does not accept redirection of taxes to organizations and causes as taxes paid; your tax bill will go into the collection department. Checks to other agencies of the federal government find their way into the general fund, same as if written to the IRS. However, war tax resisters do promote redirection of taxes to causes we believe in; this can mean you will end up paying twice if you give the money away and the IRS is successful at collection. The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund promotes legislation that would allow a conscientious objector status for taxpayers.
- We’ve been asked for a template “Dear IRS” letter. Watch our website for new resources like that (ideas welcome), or look at letters that war tax resisters have sent over the years. or watch a short video on this topic.
— Post by Ruth Benn