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Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (a NWTRCC affiliate) spoke Saturday night at the University of Oregon Cultural Forum. Kathy is a long time war tax resister who has traveled frequently to conflict zones and been jailed for numerous nonviolent actions. Her stories put a human face on people affected by U.S. policy from the Middle East to the Midwest. Earlier in the day Kathy led us in a series of role plays with many of us taking the role of Iraqi family members who are presented with impossible choices every day. "Should we go hungry or risk working for U.S. occupation forces?" Kathy finds these role-play workshops to be a powerful way to help people understand the repercussions of U.S. foreign policy.
Susan Quinlan of Northern California War Tax Resistance also led the whole group in activities that she finds work well in high schools when talking about budget priorities and militarism. Her "Military Spending Cookie Toss" is modeled on True Majority's cookie video at http://www.truemajority.org/oreos
"New President, Same Strategies? Resistance to War and Oppression After Election Day" was the weekend theme. Our discussion and strategizing on the topic included many expressions of relief at the end of the Bush era and excitement at the election of the first African-American president. Many wonder if the newly activated grassroots movement behind much of Obama's success will stay involved and whether the door has cracked open for the peace movement to have more influence in Washington. Most expect it to be a harder time to organize, especially during the first months of 2009 as the public waits to see what an Obama presidency has to offer.
A brainstorming session highlighted some issue-areas to emphasize: supporting Camp Hope in Chicago, January 1-19 (see http://camphope2009.org/); promoting nonviolence and pacifism; focusing on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan; redirecting taxes to alternatives to military jobs/funding for education; linking military spending to economic priorities/woes; stopping the Afghanistan War; economic justice; and including war tax resistance in the agenda of more peace groups.
It wasn't all work in Eugene. We were entertained by Urgent Carnival's street theatre piece about corporate fat cats getting special treatment and songs from the Raging Grannies songbook by the Free Radicals.
Bill Ramsey and Mike Butler will represent NWTRCC at the United for Peace and Justice Assembly in Chicago in December where much of the discussion will be about peace and justice activism in the Obama era. We committed to arranging strategy sessions with peace groups who have shown some interest in war tax resistance to help guide our work.
NWTRCC's fall meeting sets the budget and work objectives for the coming year. Our fiscal year starts December 1, and in this uncertain economic time we tried to be conservative in our projections. Still our new budget will be a challenge. In order to balance it we committed to adding a special event or new items to sell that will bring in about $4,800 of the $40,000 budget.
New England war tax resisters have been holding regional gatherings for more than 20 years, and NWTRCC would like to encourage other regions to try to establish similar events. About $700 seed money was budgeted to help launch at least one gathering in the coming year, and network groups will receive a request for proposals soon.
Outreach to young people continues to be a priority, and Mike Butler volunteered to get NWTRCC into a social networking website. Steev Hise continues to work on the new film, and some short pieces from it were shown during the weekend. Although it is a bit later than hoped, we expect it to be available at the beginning of 2009 for tax season. The next NWTRCC gathering and business meeting will be the first weekend in May in Washington, DC, or Virginia. A request for renewal of endorsements by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund brought up a lively discussion about the pros and cons of the legislation, and that will be a major focus of our next meeting. Please plan to join us if you can!
Thanks so much to everyone with Taxes for Peace Not War! who helped organize the weekend and housed out-of-towners; to Janine and Ben Martin-Horst who secured plenty of donated food and provided us with low cost, excellent meals; and to Eugene Friends Meeting and the Community Alliance of Lane County for meeting space.
Since August, the NWTRCC office has heard from about six people who have received an IRS warning letter that they may be subject to a $5,000 frivolous penalty because of "the position you have taken" when filing a 2007 tax return. All had filed an honest return, and some paid part of the taxes shown due. All enclosed a letter with their return stating reasons of conscience for refusing to pay the total shown.
A couple months after receiving the warning letter and after complying with the IRS demand to refile and pay the tax in full, one couple received notice that they were each being slapped with a $5,000 fine. This was quite a shock for first-time resisters. Clearly the IRS was out of bounds in imposing the penalty (especially $5,000 each since they had filed jointly and the penalty is supposed to be "per return"). The couple immediately called the IRS to complain, filed a complaint with the Taxpayer Advocate office, and contacted their Congressperson's office. They have since heard that the fine has been lifted, and that the Taxpayer Advocate office was helpful in that process, but the stress that resulted is hard to get over.
The IRS still maintains that the couple's return was "unprocessable." IRS regulations describe a "frivolous tax return" as one that "does not contain information on which the substantial correctness of the self-assessment may be judged, or contains information that on its face indicates that the self-assessment is substantially incorrect." The penalty should only apply if the return meets that criteria and the taxpayer indicates a position that the IRS has identified as frivolous. The IRS has a list of about 44 frivolous arguments, including some related to conscience, religion, and protests of military spending.
At our recent meeting in Eugene two other resisters reported receiving the IRS warning letter in recent years but did not reply and did not hear from the IRS again. Another couple said that for a number of years they have sent in a blank return with a message written on it about their refusal to pay for war. Despite the fact that this is the sort of return that the IRS could call frivolous, this couple has never heard from the IRS.
It seems reasonable to deduce that the IRS carries out their "frivolous" policy in random and inconsistent way. Some IRS employees who process returns may have limited understanding of the regulation, or perhaps they just don't like seeing a letter sent with a return. It appears that the IRS's "frivolous office" in Ogden, Utah, is improperly sending warnings to resisters who have filed an honest return.
We are reminded that in 1984 after the IRS instituted the "frivolous" return penalty, Karl Meyer called for a "cabbage patch" response, filing a form every day for a year to defy this new policy. He was assessed $140,000 in penalties during 1984, and in February 1985 the IRS seized his station wagon in an attempt to collect on the fines. It was sold for $1,020. Karl continues staunchly to refuse to pay for war.
Please contact the NWTRCC office if you have been threatened with or received the fine. We attempt to keep updated information at http://www.nwtrcc.org/frivolous.htm
-RIA Payroll Guide Newsletter, 10/24/2008, Volume 67, No. 22
Thanks to Dave Gross for some submissions. Check out his blog for continuous musings and news related to war tax resistance: http://www.sniggle.net/Experiment
Conscience, Militarism and War Tax Concerns, Philadelphia
Ithaca War Tax Resisters (NY)
Quaker City Meeting (NH)
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
War Resisters League
and to each of you who made (or are going make) a contribution in response to our fall fund appeal-and for all the special notes enclosed too! Your support strengthens the NWTRCC support network.
Siân is a member of the Peace Tax Seven, who are taking their arguments against paying for war to the European Court on Human Rights. They are also trying to figure out why Siân was called to court and what's going on in a couple other cases. HMRC claims that they received Siân's payment in August, so why did they send a summons in September? And why was she not told her debt was settled until she reached court in October? And then, in November, HMRC informed Siân that she owes £7,000, and if she does not pay she will be summonsed again to Caernarvon County Court! Siân says; "This is all very mysterious. I hope that one day I will be taken to court and be able to explain that I am not able to voluntarily hand over money to the Government that I know will be used for killing, because I don't believe in killing. I am a Buddhist and have taken a vow not to."
Two other members of the Peace Tax Seven have strange tales about the way HMRC is handling (or not) their cases. Simon Heywood is convinced that his tax code has been deliberately inflated to take into account the likely tax due on his freelance work. The net result is that instead of receiving demands for payment, he is given a rebate. Robin Brookes reports that he is still waiting for the bailiffs but all has gone singularly quiet. They believe that the government does not want to create publicity over this. "What would happen if British citizens en masse, start to question whether they should pay for the illegal, futile and destructive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?"
-Excerpted and paraphrased from news at "http://peacetaxseven.com/"
Joe Jenkins has completed the full length version of "Contempt of Conscience," a documentary about the Peace Tax Seven. The 50-minute film can be viewed online for a £1 fee at: http://booserver.com/projects.php?ProjectID=3167
The field organizer for a Brooklyn middle school contacted NWTRCC about making a presentation as part of the school's series on resistance and speaking out against injustice. When I visited their classroom in November, they had been learning about the Salem witch trials.
I began the two consecutive 7th grade classes with the basics of my war tax resistance history. While several of the kids were fidgety or inattentive, others were interested and curious, some seeking to relate tax resistances to discussions they had obviously had about Martin Luther King and Barack Obama, nonviolent struggle and voting.
After my initial remarks, the teachers (there were up to four at any one time during the 45-minute classes) asked the kids whether what I was doing was "legal resistance," "passive resistance," or "violent resistance." Though none suggested "violent," several were split between "passive" and "legal." I explained that there were many things I did that were legal, but my war tax resistance was illegal. However, I clarified that my actions could be more accurately described as active nonviolence, rather than passive, which implied to me not challenging wrongs, going along with government or societal pressures, and generally avoiding making waves.
But what got them the most engaged was a question about whether
I had ever been in a demonstration with chains and lockboxes
(something that certainly never would have occurred to me when
I was their age). I admitted to having once been padlocked on
a chain with other demonstrators, and that I had been in demonstrations
where cops dragged me, kicked me, walked on me, pulled my hair,
twisted my hands and arms in unnatural ways, etc. Taxes? Hmm.
However, this they could relate to, sort of like the pacifist
version of "Mortal Kombat" or "Tomb Raider."
Tax resistance may be emerging as a tactic in the campaign to protest government discrimination against same-sex marriages. The tactic was pioneered by Charles Merrill and has more recently been championed by John Bisceglia on his website at http://gaytaxprotest.blogspot.com In November, Academy and Grammy Award-winning musician Melissa Etheridge added some star power to the campaign. After California voters passed Proposition 8 revoking legal recognition for same-sex marriages, Etheridge wrote:
Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books.
Okay, cool I don't mean to get too personal here but there is a lot I can do with the extra half a million dollars that I will be keeping instead of handing it over to the state of California.
-David Gross, from http://melissaetheridge.com/home/meNews#ff808081181982ab011d786331f1002a
The world would be better off
if people tried to become better.
And people would become better
if they stopped trying to become better off.
For when everybody tries to become better off,
nobody is better off.
But when everybody tries to become better,
everybody is better off.
everybody would be rich
if nobody tried to become richer.
And nobody would be poor
if everybody tried to be the poorest
and everybody would be what he ought to be
if everybody tried to be
what he wants the other fellow to be.
Christianity has nothing to do
with either modern capitalism
or modern Communism,
for Christianity has
a capitalism of its own
and a communism of its own.
is based on property without responsibility,
while Christian capitalism
is based on property with responsibility.
is based on poverty through force
while Christian Communism
is based on poverty through choice.
For a Christian,
voluntary poverty is the ideal
as exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi,
while private property
is not an absolute right, but a gift
which as such cannot be wasted,
but must be administered
for the benefit of God's children.
Read more poems by Peter Maurin, 1877-1949, on various Catholic Worker websites including at http://cjd.org/paper/essays.html
If you have NWTRCC literature for tabling, please check the
publication dates on the Practical Series to make sure you have
the latest editions:
#1 - Controlling Federal Tax Withholding - 1/2006
#2 - To File or Not to File - 1/2008
#3 - Resisting Collection - 1/2008
#4 - Self-Employment - 1/2008
#5 - Low Income/Simple Living - 3/2007
#6 - Organizational Resistance - 7/2008
#7 - Aging and War Tax Resistance - 6/2006
All "practicals" are $1 each or .50 for bulk orders and are available to read or download on the NWTRCC website.
Also newly updated is War Tax Resisters and the IRS, a 48-page booklet in outline form packed with resources. "WTRs and the IRS" gives a flow-chart style version of the risks of refusing to pay for war if the IRS notices. The booklet is $2.50; contact the office for bulk rates.
Please make sure that you have the latest materials from NWTRCC, especially if you are setting up literature tables. And please feel free to let us know when our materials are getting stale or out of date!
NWTRCC, PO Box 150553, Brooklyn, NY 11215, 1-800-269-7464.
Website orders can be paid through Paypal with a credit card or bank account debit. See http://www.NWTRCC.org/publications.htm
As this newsletter goes to press the order is in progress, and we hope that many of you will be interested in both purchasing scarves for yourself and for gifts-and helping sell them at events in your area during the winter months. We expect to have them available at the United for Peace and Justice assembly in Chicago in mid-December, and we'd like them to be sold at other gatherings where people will be looking to purchase meaningful gifts or during the many events that take place around the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Do you know some vigilers who could use a little extra warmth this winter?
Three colors will be available: off-white, cherry, and a blue-green with the message in bright embroidery. The cost per scarf will probably be about $15, but please contact Ruth Benn at the NWTRCC office for details and bulk orders. Call the toll free number, 1-800-269-7464 or email NWTRCC@NWTRCC.org
Current members are Robert Randall (GA)*, Pam Allee (OR)*, Donald Kaufman (KS), Mike Butler (NM), Melissa Jameson, (NY), and David Gross (CA). Self nominations are fine, and affiliate groups should make a special effort to offer nominations. Contact NWTRCC for a full job description, or send in nominations and we will follow up with further details. Deadline for nominations is March 13, 2009.
* Terms ending in May
During the budget report at the Eugene Coordinating Committee meeting we were made aware of the likelihood of a $4,800 shortfall in our next budget. I would like to add that in 2006 NWTRCC decided to make a new film to promote war tax resistance, and we raised a sum of money to pay for the production costs. The new budget has a small amount for promotion, but it is apparent that we will need to raise an appreciable amount of money in order to promote our film well.
Portland WRL accepted the call to help raise some funds for the production costs of the film at the May 2008 NWTRCC meeting. At our July meeting in Portland, we were fortunate to have a professional fundraiser in attendance who said the most economical and effective way to raise money is to ask personal friends to contribute to a cause in a face-to-face meeting. To this end a couple of us worked on some talking points for face-to-face asks. We ended up with a solicitation letter, which we sent out to friends asking them to donate a small sum of money to our film project. We managed to raise a few hundred dollars in small contributions.
We raised money by just sitting down, going through our address books, putting contact information on paper, and asking them for donations. We did not ask for large amounts of money. We just informed them of our project and asked them to donate what they could. That way we kept it simple. We decided on an easily attainable goal and surpassed it.
Few of us know people with deep pockets, and we are uncomfortable asking them for large sums of money. However, most of us do have a surprising number of friends who we can ask for a small amount of money. Another surprising aspect of fundraising is that those who can afford it the least are almost always more generous when it comes to contributing to a good cause. Everybody knows people who will contribute $5, $10, $25, or $50 when they are asked. It is when we bundle these donations together that they become a potent force.
March 19, 2009 will see a large mobilization around the sixth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. With a good promotional budget our film can be hitting its stride in the distribution matrix at that time. If we begin fundraising now, two or three months from now we will have money to promote our film at the time that thousands of people are mobilizing to end the war.
The film that Steev Hise is making for us is going to be good and has the potential to be an effective tool in our quest to end war. It would be a shame to hide its light under a bushel basket. Working together, biting off small digestible chunks, we can raise the money to put this effective tool in our toolbox. If we could come up with $10,000 by March 1, we'd balance the budget and have plenty of funds to get the film going, empowering our organization with the resources to continue carrying our message.
Paul Maresh is active with the Oregon Community of War Tax Resisters in Portland.
I have been a war tax resister for the past 43 years, all of my adult working life. Since 1989, when I stopped filing tax returns, I've gotten very little attention from the IRS. Because I am self-employed, my income is not normally reported to the IRS. But a little over a year ago (July 2007), a local agent started a series of collection actions for 1996, the one year for which a one-time, large chunk of income was reported.
The IRS found and seized the joint account I had with my partner Mike. It seems that they now have, perhaps under new systems put in place since 9/11/2001, an easier way to find taxpayers' accounts than their old way of asking one bank at a time to give them a list of all their depositors.
The agent then sent out dozens of letters to my former customers demanding that they pay the IRS any money owed to me, which yielded nothing because my customers had long since paid me what I'd earned.
A few months later the agent found and seized a new account I'd opened that had a check deposited in it signed by Mike, which led him to an account in Mike's name into which I'd deposited a lot of my paychecks. Since I had deposited my paychecks into Mike's account, that gave the agent grounds to declare Mike my "nominee" and seize from that account as much money as I had deposited into it, even though there was none of my money in it and hadn't been any for months. (We finally got smart and separated our finances.) I'm not clear why the agent had the authority to demand the bank records for Mike's account, but, as we know, the IRS sometimes does things it isn't authorized to do.
2. The agent said to Mike, "If I were you, I'd close that account," after explaining what the amount he was authorized to seize was (2 or 3 times as much as what he got this time). He had started the conversation by explaining to Mike why he had levied Mike's account. And he also told Mike he could file a "wrongful levy" lawsuit if he wished, something confirmed by our legal advisor also.
3. Mike is continuing his Taxpayer Advocate appeal process to get the levied money returned, based on the account's being in his name only and containing none of my money. He got assigned an advocate who called him promptly to ask him to send the information she needed to pursue his case, and has recently asked the IRS's lawyer to determine whether the levied money should be returned to him.
2. The Taxpayer Advocate Service seems to work. (This internal IRS system to process taxpayer appeals against erroneous or unjustified collection action and other disputes was set up in the late 1990s after congressional hearings about IRS abusive treatment of taxpayers.) Call 1-877-777-4778, or look on the IRS website, irs.gov, to find the address and phone number of the Taxpayer Advocate office in your area.
3. It's much easier living without a bank account than I had thought.
The IRS did get a few thousand dollars, but that is under a third of the total they're looking for from my 1996 liability with interest and penalties added. So I am not discouraged, and given the determination and resourcefulness of this agent, I think I'm doing pretty well. I don't expect he'll be able to get much if any more. (Though I've thought that before ...) `
I think that now that I have no bank accounts and won't be using anybody else's, and am living in a cash economy like the poor people I see in my neighborhood Western Union store (cheaper money orders and better service than the post office), chances are pretty good that I'll be able to continue resisting without further risk to Mike or his money and with minimal losses to the U.S. military machine via the IRS. Life and struggle and war tax resistance goes on!
As I may have told you, I have been a conscientious objector to paying for war for all of my adult life, and thus refuse to pay federal taxes. (I figure out the tax due each April, then donate that amount of money to organizations doing socially useful work.) The IRS recently found my bank account, took the money that was in it, and also took copies of checks (from you and others) that I had deposited in it.
Since you don't owe me anything, your only obligation is to send back the form the IRS sent you, saying that you don't owe me anything. It's better to do that than not, so that the IRS will not ask you again. This demand only covers money you owed me at the time you received the letter; anything you might owe me in the future is not affected. (And I don't have any more accounts for them to find!)
I'm very sorry for this hassle to you; I hope you weren't frightened by the IRS letter-they always try to make their notices as scary as possible, to scare people into compliance. (I've gotten used to it by now.)
Call me if you have any questions, or would like to know more about war tax resistance and the national and local organizations supporting those of us who are doing it.
Thanks for your understanding.