Will I Get Audited?

In meeting with a new war tax resister recently, his first questions were about what will happen when he refuses to pay. “I expect an agent will come to my door, and I’ll be audited,” he said.

There was a time some decades ago when many war tax resisters (WTRs) were audited, but that is no longer the case. Back in those days the IRS tended toward “field audits,” which did involve meeting in person with an IRS auditor. These days if the IRS audits, the vast majority are “correspondence audits,” meaning they are carried out by mail. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University keeps data on IRS enforcement, which shows this trend.

Tax experts note the odds of being audited at 1-in-104 chances, especially if your return includes income from a business, rental real estate or a farm, or employee business expense write-offs. Otherwise your chances drop to 1-in-250.

The returns for WTRs who file and refuse to pay some or all of their taxes to the IRS tend to get sent straight to collection. At this point interest (compounded daily) and penalties (up to 25% of the tax) begin to add up.

letter-seriesNew WTRs can expect to receive a series of collection letters from the IRS that get more demanding if payment is not made. These letters are computer generated and usually marked “ACS” for automated collection system. An IRS return address tends to inspire fear — letters are seen as the IRS’s best collection tool. Some WTRs ask to open the letters while meeting with a support group or WTR counselor, which helps to overcome  fear and strengthen one’s resolve.

After the IRS sends a letter with “Intent to Levy” in the headline they are empowered to seize assets. (Generally the IRS just has to show they sent the letter; they do not necessarily have to prove you received it.) The most common forms of collection at this point are seizure of bank accounts, salaries, state tax refunds, and federal payments like Social Security. There is no indication of when this might happen: could be weeks, months, or years, depending on how easily they can find your assets.

Employers and banks get the notice before the resister. A bank account levy is only for the money that is in the account at the time. If the IRS wants $1,000 and you have $100 in your account that is all they can get (after bank fees). They must issue another levy before seizing the account again.

A salary levy is a standing levy until the IRS gets what they want, and it can be difficult to deal with. Here are some options.

  • Allow the levy to happen; at least you aren’t paying voluntarily.
  • Quit the job, or quit and work as a volunteer until the IRS gives up and withdraws the levy.
  • Reduce your hours or ask to have your salary lowered to the level that is exempt from levy (sometimes part-time employees find their salary is below the levy amount).
  • Ask your employer to write a letter to the IRS requesting release of the levy because they do not want to force collection from a conscientious objector on behalf of the government.
  • Use the levy as an opportunity to let coworkers, friends, and family know that you are being levied because you refuse to pay for war voluntarily.
  • A sympathetic employer can risk the penalties and choose to not respond to a levy.
  • Join the War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund now to support others and offer a little protection for yourself in the event of a seizure.
  • Read through some WTR profiles to get some ideas about how to face a collection.

When faced with an intractable collection it is a good time to reflect on why you started resisting in the first place. This article about the cost to U.S. taxpayers for the government’s torture program is one — among many — reminders hitting us on a daily basis.

— Post by Ruth Benn

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On Strategy and the Reduction of the Military Budget

One brief discussion I had at our November conference was about what we ought to do to reduce or eliminate military spending. One person argued that we should set some sort of goal for what we wanted military spending to be reduced to, as a starting point for discussion. For example, campaigning to reduce military spending to $400 billion, or some percentage of the federal budget.

I recognize the utility of this move, especially for talking to people who are not even all the way there yet with us on opposing war. Getting people to agree that the military budget is too large is one possible first step. Even the WRL pie chart is aimed at getting people to come to that conclusion, showing people that much more money than they probably think goes to the military budget. (See Ed Hedemann’s discussion on this point.)

NWTRCC isn’t positioned to take a stance on what amount of the military budget we’d want to aim for. It’s my impression that the vast majority of our network would resist the government putting any tax money toward war.

Is it better to say, “Reduce the military budget to 50% of its current amount!” and then work to accomplish that goal? The idea would be that it is strategically more effective to set what others would consider is as a reasonable goal. Or is it better to say, “Eliminate the military and eliminate war!” and reason with folks toward that goal?

Arguably, getting people to reject militarism altogether is a big step. At least at the beginning of my anti-war reasoning, I wouldn’t have agreed with the statement that we needed to abolish militaries entirely. I would have argued that the Afghanistan and then Iraq wars weren’t based on actual threats to the United States, and that it was poorly argued that military force could achieve the ends the US government was looking for. Seeing calls for reducing the military budget led me to further evaluation of the evidence for wars, and over time, I came to believe that ALL wars start in similar ways, with similar justifications, and they start with promises that peace will reign but only after we wage THIS war. In my case, eventual complete opposition to war was a foregone conclusion.

But who are we trying to convince: those who are ready to contemplate reduced military spending, if not abolition? Or people who are already entirely anti-war and ready to take a stand? I believe that any movement needs a variety of approaches and arguments to meet people wherever they’re at and help them get started. I also wonder which approaches are most effective at getting people to take radical action, like war tax resistance. Do we focus on budget numbers? Do we focus on ethics? Do we go for pragmatism or principle?

What do you think?

P.S. Here’s an end-of-year war tax resistance reminder graphic that you can share with people on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or via e-mail.

will you pay taxes for war rectangle

Post by Erica

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David Zarembka on US Militarization of East Africa

Listen to an audio recording (opens a new tab) of a workshop presented by David Zarembka, Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams in East Africa. David spoke at the war tax resistance gathering at Earlham College School of Religion, November 8, 2014.

David Zarembka at NWTRCC conference, November 8, 2014.

While you are listening to his talk, these links may be helpful in locating some of the areas David refers to.

Where David and Gladys live in Africa

Map of Africa; click on countries to enlarge the region

The Kakuma Refugee Camp with map

We’ll post more recordings of our November conference workshops as they are finalized!

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