Click here to download an
Acrobat PDF of the December/January issue
This is the slightly edited text of a presentation at the War Tax Resistance Gathering in Kansas City, Kansas, November 4, 2011.
The first time I remember hearing that phrase, "unilateral disarmament," I was a young, devout Catholic and developing peace activist living in Wichita, Kansas, in 1982. The phrase came from an unsuspecting source.
I didn't hear it from Kathy Kelly or Karl Meyer, although they had a huge influence on me when I used to go to meetings at their home on West Carmen Street in Chicago. I didn't hear it from a peace activist or a college professor or a member of the socialist party. I heard it from a church leader.
I still remember clearly the day when I read about a Catholic Archbishop named Raymond Hunthausen. He spoke out publicly and courageously. He said, as Catholics, our faith impels us to be the ones to disarm first. But this wasn't just some irrelevant encyclical that is often put out by the church, never reaches the pews, and then gathers dust in some archive. Because what Hunthausen did after he called for unilateral disarmament was truly memorable. He put his money where his body was. As Archbishop of the state of Washington, he then said that he hoped 500, 5000, a half a million Catholics would refuse to pay all or part of their war taxes as a way of ending nuclear proliferation. He also courageously stated that he himself was going to refuse to pay half of his taxes in the coming years.
That was the day, really, when I knew that I must find a way to withhold my taxes from the military-industrial complex. As a person of deep faith, I could do no other. Later, I saw a quote from Alexander Haig that read, "They can march all they want, as long as they pay their taxes." I found this quote very disturbing.
I was working as a janitor at the time at Century 2, a large con-vention center in downtown Wichita. I remember that I had seen one of the administrators of the convention center watching the movie Gandhi, so the day after the movie, I naively went to that administrator and told him what I wanted to do. He was very helpful. He said, "Charles, you just go right down to the Human Resources office and tell them that you want to change the number of allowances on your W-4 form from 1 to 9."
That allowed me to stop federal income tax withholding from my paychecks. From then on, with the exception of four years, I have managed to pay zero dollars to the military-industrial complex, either by living a very simple lifestyle, taking jobs off the radar, or stopping withholding. Perhaps even more importantly, I have been able to divert over $100,000 away from the Boeings and the Halliburtons of the world to the Oxfams and Amnesty Internationals and Physicians for Social Responsibility and Harvesters of the world.
It all started for me with that very liberating idea of unilateral disarmament. What a freeing thing to be able to lay down my sword and shield. What a freeing thing to tell the government, to tell the military-industrial complex, to tell Wall Street: "No you can't have my money. All my checks will be written out to the people. All my checks will be written out to the 99 percent; no more checks written out to the 1 percent."
As a Catholic, I got tired of praying for peace, and yet paying for war. I still pray all right, it's just that sometimes I pray in more public places, like at the Kansas City Plant here, where they make 95 percent of all nonnuclear parts for nuclear weapons.
People say to me sometimes, "You know, Charles, my war tax resistance isn't personal. I don't have anything against the lawmakers who give the okay to make the bombs, or the IRS agents [who collect the money]." I beg to differ. It is personal for me, but it is personal for a different reason than you might think.
I'd like to end with a story about when I lived in Chicago in 1992. At that time the IRS said I owed them over $35,000 in penalties and back taxes. Because there was so much at stake, I actually started going to the office of Mr. Sanders, my personally assigned tax collector. I got to know Mr. Sanders well enough to know that he had a 9-year-old daughter named Kaitlin. I saw her picture on his desk. I complimented him about how vivacious and alive she was in the picture. And then it hit me. This is very personal. I thought to myself, Kaitlin is why I don't pay taxes for war. I don't want to pay for weapons that will blow this lovely, dear little girl off the earth. Just as I don't pay taxes because I don't want 9-year-old Omar from Afghanistan, son of a goat herder, who runs in the wind and plays with great energy, to be killed by an errant drone missile.
Yes, it's personal, but not for reasons of hate or disdain. It's personal for reasons of love. It's very personal!
Sharp reader Greg Reagle caught something in the previous issue's "Counseling Notes" that requires clarification. In the item on "pre-tax deductions," we said, "A levy applies to the net amount after pre-tax deductions; the payee is left with a minimum amount based on their withholding allowances." By this we meant exemptions that the IRS would accept, as opposed to how many allowances a resister might decide to put on a W-4. With a salary levy, the IRS form asks about specific exemptions like those claimed on a 1040 form: the standard deduction, named dependents, filing status (as in married, single, head of household), blind, and over 65. There is not much wiggle room when it comes to salary levies.
A counseling session at NWTRCC's Kansas City gathering got into stories of responding to salary levies and employers. In a current case, the resister found his employer to be most accommodating and is planning to lower his salary and barter for some benefits that will help keep money from the IRS. The resister was surprised that his employer was so willing to help—as long as the risks to the business were minimized. As a group we talked about devel-oping some kind of database of how employers have worked with WTRs to avoid or respond to salary levies. NWTRCC's Practical #6, "Organizational War Tax Resistance, Employers, Contractors, and Financial Institutions," offers many of these ideas and lists some organizations that have official statements on war tax resistance, but some of that information is getting old, and there may be new groups to add to our list. If you have a real-life story about an employer who has a policy about war tax resistance or been supportive when a levy arrived, please send it to the NWTRCC office. It's good to be able to name groups, but if the story can only be told as "anonymous," send it along anyway. (Practical #6 is out of print at the moment, but you can read it online at nwtrcc.org/publications.php.)
Banking and questions of "is there responsible investment?" often arise in our circles. At a gathering some years back we had an excellent, open discussion about money, how much we have, what we do with it, how we feel about it, etc. That inspired us to put together a collection of articles, which is posted on our website at nwtrcc.org/readings_on_money.php. Recently, Occupy Wall Street and the Move Your Money campaign have brought new attention to options and getting away from the "too big to fail banks." Community banks and credit unions invest more directly in small businesses and local economic development. The Move Your Money website, moveyourmoneyproject.org, has a zip search to find the best options in your area.
This is not to say that war tax resisters will find institutions that refuse IRS levies, but you might have a more personal banking experience where you can sit down with the staff and tell them about your resistance if a levy arrives. Perhaps readers have experiences with credit unions and smaller banks that would be helpful to share?
We often tell people that letters from the IRS are the agency's best collection method. People hate hearing from the IRS and often one letter scares them into settling up. A recent report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) backs that up. "The IRS balance due notice stream appears to be the most cost-effective component of the agency's three-phase approach to collecting unpaid taxes. ...IRS is permitted to send three reminder notices and these are scheduled 35 days apart." By reducing the time between notices by seven days the auditors predict an additional $363 million could be collected each year. (TIGTA Audit Report No. 2011- 30-112) In counseling potential war tax resisters, it's important to help them be clear on their goals and to think a bit ahead on how they want to respond if and when the letters arrive. "Questions for Thinking About War Tax Resistance" appears in our "War Tax Resistance at a Glance" booklet or can be requested from the NWTRCC office. Written by Clark Hanjian, it is a useful exercise for potential resisters and long-timers who are facing a new stage in their resistance.
Thanks to the affiliate groups below for recent grants and dues payments:
Birmingham War Tax Objectors
Madison (WI) Area WTR
War Resisters League
And to each of you who has given in response to our November appeal! If you made a donation and asked for scarves to be delivered to an Occupation, you can be sure we will do this. If you have a location that can use scarves, give us a call and we'll get some to you. 800-269-7464
Updates for NWTRCC's Networ List of Affiliates, Area Contacts, Counselors, and Alternative Funds appear on the "Contacts and Counselors" page at nwtrcc.org, or request a list from the NWTRCC office.
Please let the office know if you are interested in being a contact on our network list: email@example.com or 1-800-269-7464.
Advertising rates for this newsletter can be found at nwtrcc.org/ads.php or contact the editor at 1-800-269-7464.
A British Quaker is to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after being convicted of withholding income tax. Roy Prockter, of Clacton-on-Sea Meeting, has refused to hand over money that could be used for war. A judge last week refused him leave to appeal within English courts, but said he could appeal to the ECHR.
Roy told the court that the law grants all subjects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. He explained that he is a Quaker and quoted Advices and Queries 31: "Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ?"
The ECHR has previously thrown out a case brought by the Peace Tax Seven, but Roy maintains that the court's understanding has since shifted. In July, the ECHR ruled for the first time that all people have the right to conscientious objection to membership of the armed forces.
From The Friend, The Quaker Magazine, published in Britain, thefriend.org. The film, Contempt of Conscience, about the Peace Tax Seven, can now be viewed online at conscienceonline.org.uk/2011/10/watch-contempt-of-conscience.
The 14th International Conference of War Tax Resisters and Peace Tax Campaigns is being planned for Bogota, Colombia, in early 2013. Originally the conference was to be held in Argentina in November 2012, but the planning did not work out. Conscientious objectors in Colombia will host the conference. For updates watch the website of Conscience and Peace Tax International, cpti.ws, or call the NWTRCC office, 800-269-7464.
The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund hired a new, part-time Executive Director a few month ago. Jack Payden-Travers brings extensive nonprofit experience and a life-long history of resisting militarism to the Campaign. Jack refused induction after the Selective Service System denied his request for conscientious objection status during the Vietnam War. He worked on the national staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Advisory Board of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and the Lynchburg Peace Education Center. Jack is married to the Rev. Christine Payden-Travers, and together they have opposed paying for war while praying for peace for the past 39 years.
We look forward to working with Jack. To see what else is going on with the Campaign see their website peacetaxfund.org or call 888-PEACETAX.
By Aaron Falbel
The 26th Annual New England Regional Gathering of War Tax Resisters was held on Nov. 4–6 at Pioneer Valley Cohousing in Amherst, Massachusetts. In this congenial setting, some 36 or so resisters (and a few testing the waters) gathered to address this year's theme, "On Being a War Tax Resister: Public or Private?"
Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was Ed Hedemann's keynote presentation, "The Many Faces of War Tax Resistance." Ed, a leading authority on the topic and author of the definitive guidebook, War Tax Resistance, gave a comprehensive overview of the movement, touching on different strategies and approaches, different levels of being public, and the various reasons people cite for not refusing war taxes.
Regarding outreach and attracting new resisters, Ed somewhat surprisingly stated that he would not spend much time trying to convince longtime peace activists to join our ranks. "They are too set in their ways and already have various excuses why WTR is not for them," he said. Rather, he advised reaching out to young people in other ancillary movements, such as the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, the animal rights movement, and the movement to address climate change, among others. The people in these movements, by and large, are new to the world of employment and the tax system, and they don't have hardened opinions about WTR. (Not everyone agreed. One participant, a college professor, felt there was a "generational difference" between his students and himself when it came to speaking about and conceptualizing WTR.)
Ed concluded his remarks by stating his intention to keep on refusing to pay war taxes even after his own death. He has prepared tax forms far into the future and has arranged for friends (equipped with a stash of "Forever" stamps) to mail them in after his own demise—a tactic he has named "Zombie War Tax Resistance" (see below). Talk about death and taxes!
Ed's presentation was framed by spirited songs by Karen Brandow and Charlie King, including their song "Don't Pay Taxes," which has become something of an anthem for our movement.
In small group discussions on the following day, attendees addressed both the issues of public vs. private WTR, as well as what the WTR movement can offer the people in the various "Occupy" encampments springing up around the country. In the former discussion, it was acknowledged that life's circumstances can influence one's willingness to be public, and, of course, the role that fear plays in all of this. A gradualist approach (from private to public) was considered, as well as what types of support from the WTR community might enable a resister to be more public. The tension between public vs. private is mirrored in other juxtapositions: effectiveness vs. conscience, or publicity vs. amount of money resisted, for example.
In the latter discussions, it was suggested that WTR might provide a model for the "Occupy" movement as a way of combining conscience and direct action. War tax redirection, specifically, could provide a fruitful example for redirecting one's assets away from the big banks (which, as was noted, also heavily fund the military industry) and toward causes that the "Occupy" protesters can endorse with a full heart.
The Weekend concluded with the usual – and creative – self-made entertainment, reports from regional WTR groups, and circle dancing led by Rowan. On a more somber note, it was mentioned at the outset of the Gathering that, for the first time, Juanita Nelson was not in attendance. She was recuperating from a fall she endured a few weeks earlier. We all missed her presence, her inimitable wit and wisdom, and wished her well as she tries to regain her strength and equilibrium.
Aaron Falbel is a member of Pioneer Valley War Tax Resistance.
Why concede the "death" part in that old saying about certainty? Why give the government a break from having to deal with your resistance when you die? What if there were a way to continue war tax resistance from the grave?
One possibility is to fill out IRS 1040 forms for several years into the future. You can create your own returns by modifying the latest IRS form or download samples of future forms from the NWTRCC web site (click here for the "faux future 1040 forms," which will, obviously, have different figures and will look somewhat different, and should not be mistaken for the real thing). Then fill them out however you'd like, sign, and future-date them. Put them into separate "forever"-stamped envelopes addressed to your local IRS, each with its own future-dated letter explaining your opposition to paying for war, then place a Post-It note on the outside indicating what year they are for. Have a confederate mail these sealed envelopes year after year on every Tax Day.
Obviously, it would be helpful if no one informed the IRS that you died. Clearly, it would be good to make sure your estate and assets have been dispersed before this process of final resistance begins. Let the IRS fine, penalize, "frivolousize" you all they want because you will be forever uncollectible but your resistance will live on.
Carlos Steward was released from the Federal Prison Camp in Montgomery, Alabama, to a halfway house near his home in Asheville, NC, on December 1. Hurray! Carlos was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to filing false income tax returns for 2002 and 2003 and failing to file returns for 2000 and 2001. He entered the FPC August 7, 2010, and is very happy to be getting an early release to a halfway house. Carlos did not know about the war tax resistance network at the time he ran into trouble with the IRS, but he's been grateful for the supportive letters he's received during his incarceration. He found us by becoming the editor who completed our film, Death and Taxes. We look forward to hearing more from Carlos once he's settled back in Asheville.
The business of NWTRCC was conducted during the gathering weekend in Kansas City, but the Sunday session started off with a breakfast served by our host Beth Seberger. She opened her home to our meeting, and welcomed us with homemade muffins and a banquet table set for the group. We felt like a Board of Directors for the 1%!
We attended to business though, hearing reports from Coordinator Ruth Benn, the Rapid Outreach Working Group, Fundraising Committee, and about the international conference. In reaction to two proposals that related to potential campaigns or strategic WTR organizing, we decided to try to meld them into the War Tax Boycott. Because it has been maintained as an online campaign and grew out of a lengthy process of meetings and surveys, we felt that we should try to update what we have rather than start from scratch. If you are online please look at wartaxboycott.org and send in your ideas for updating and enhancing this campaign. A third proposal to endorse Move to Amend was tabled for further research on how such a connection would fit with our mission.
The November meeting comes just before the end of NWTRCC's fiscal year of November 30, so it is a time for approving a new budget and outlining objectives for the coming year. Besides the central tasks of producing this newsletter, keeping up counseling information, responding to calls and emails, maintaining and growing our network, managing finances, and such, we talked about the Occupy movement and possibly producing some special outreach materials to reach those activists. We'll make an effort to sell the rest of our scarves this year, especially by collecting donations to give them to occupiers. We plan to produce a "cheat sheet" for talking to the media about war tax resistance and to push along work on a resource about relationships/couples and war tax resistance. We'll create new outreach cards for the War Tax Boycott effort, and designer Rick Bickhart will draw up some ideas for a redesign of this newsletter "to make it fly off our literature tables." Glenda Rae Hernandez of South Bend, IN, volunteered to join the board of the War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund, which is based in North Manchester, IN.
We do not have a location for the May gathering as yet, but we are going to look at meeting in Chicago at the time of the protests when NATO and G8 meet there. If all works out, we'd like to meet the weekend of May 18-20 (later than usual for us) and have a significant war tax resistance presence in the demonstration planned for May 19. If this does not work out, we are also looking to meet in New Orleans or the Southeast. Your help will be welcome!
A budget of $35,361 for the next fiscal year, December 1, 2011 – November 30, 2012 was passed after much adding and subtracting. While we'd love to grow NWTRCC – especially finding more money for outreach, including to send our activists to conferences and meetings to speak or staff literature tables – this economy is too uncertain to expect higher revenue.
The full minutes of the meeting are posted at nwtrcc.org/ccmeeting_Nov2011.php. Please join us in May for the next gathering, and thanks again to our Kansas City hosts!
By Susan Miller
Our November NWTRCC gathering, "Plant Peace – Resist War Taxes!" was hosted by Kansas City war tax resisters, members of Catholic Worker, and the Church of the Brethren, November 4-6, 2011. We began with dinner and a welcome by First Central Church Pastor Sonia Griffith, who led us in singing, "Put peace into each other's hands," which happened to be Hymn1099!
Charles Carney (see page 1) and Beth Seberger testified about their war tax resistance. (Beth's talk is on YouTube; search on her name.) Ann Suellentrop, a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) spoke about the history of the Kansas City nuclear weapons parts plant and covered some of the chilling facts about nuclear weapons. Workshops on Saturday included Helen Yeomans, a local tax consultant, giving very practical information about legal ways to lower taxable income and increase deductions to keep one's money from paying for war. Ron Faust, a poet and member of the Kansas City Area War Tax Resisters, told his story of going to tax court in his "Fright and Fight" workshop. Bill Ramsey spoke on "War Tax Resistance as a Form of Protest.
NWTRCC's Administrative Committee (Adcomm) seeks three new members to give oversight to day-to-day business operations and to plan for the two meetings held each May and November. New members weill be selected from nominees at the May 2012 Coordinating Committee meeting.m Full members have travel pqaid to the meetings. Qualifications include an interest in being part of NWTRCC's decision-making structure and a desire to help promote war tax resistance. Diversity considerations (geographic, gender, ethnic, etc.) are involved in selecting new members. Self nominations are welcome, and affiliate groups should make a special effort to offer nominations.
Contact NWTRCC for more information. Nominees will receive a letter with further details. Deadline for nominations is March 1, 2012.
By Cindy Sheehan and Christy (Dede) Miller
This is an edited version of a longer letter, which is online at: cindysheehanssoapbox.blogspot.com/2011/11/we-will-never-pay-so-stop-harassing-us.html.
"How does it become a [wo]man to behave towards the American government today? I answer, that [s]he cannot without disgrace be associated with it."
–Henry David Thoreau
To: Whom it may concern in the Internal Revenue Service (hereafter known as IRS).
We recently have received your "Notice of Levy," and "SUMMONS." Let us be clear why we are not paying your bill.
On April 4, 2004, three of your co-workers in the Military branch of the U.S. government came to Cindy's home to inform us that her oldest son, Casey, had been "killed in combat in Iraq." After Cindy somehow pulled herself from the floor after falling there screaming, "NO, NO, NO!" the Grim Reapers in Army costumes didn't have much more to tell Casey's shocked and devastated family, except they asked Cindy for her Social Security number.
Let us go back a little farther than 04/04/04 – let us go back to September 11, 2001 when the U.S. was attacked and over 3,000 Americans were killed. ...Whatever happened that day, the tragedy was used to justify the illegal and supremely immoral invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan – and today, the current regime is still using the, "we were attacked on 9/11," meme to justify its crimes of aggression against, not only the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, but Pakistan, Somalia, Uganda, Yemen and Palestine (via the billions the U.S. gives to Israel every year). Not to mention the outrageous attack on the people of Libya and recent assassination of Moammar Gaddaffi for the purpose of regime change to a more pro-U.S. corporate government.
...Casey was only in the Army anyway because one of your colleagues in the Military branch lied to him and I think it's been pretty well proven that these wars embarked upon by the U.S. were based on lies – but the confessed liars such as: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and George Tenet, among others, are still roaming free and profiting off of the wars through unethical connections to the war machine, books and speaking engagements.
...For almost five decades of our lives, we sisters were taxpaying, law-abiding citizens. Sure, we got the occasional traffic or parking tickets, but we dutifully paid them or went to traffic school. IRS Agent, can you imagine in your Revenuer's heart the agony we felt when we realized that we had funded the murder of our own dear Casey? As our awareness grew, so did our disgust with our complicity in this system as the body count for totally innocent civilians rose. We now feel that for at least 30 years of taxpayings perfidy, we funded the murders and torture of millions! The only way we could live with ourselves was to stop being accessories to our government's war crimes and crimes against humanity.
...To honor Casey's needless sacrifice and to protect others, we will not pay these bills. You do what you have to do, but our membership in the human race demands that we withhold money from such a homicidal, nay genocidal cabal as the U.S. government. Scores of people in this nation have taken the principled stand that we take, and we feel that our moral compasses trump your "laws." We could have taken the strategy of only paying a portion of our taxes like some do, but we feel we have no control over where our money is spent.
If Citizens United (Citizens United v. The Federal Elections Commission) can claim that money is Free Speech and it can spend freely on its political causes, then we feel we have the same right to withhold our money in an act of moral courage and loyalty to not only our brothers, sisters and children being murdered, displaced or tortured, but to our own First Amendment Rights. We have sacrificed much and invested not only our own money, but also our very lives in our campaigns for peace and justice. We will never again co-operate with the USA in its crimes against peace.
You can try and make an example of us, but we will fight you tooth and nail and we will put the wars of your government on trial. If it comes to that, peace will get its day in court, finally. Let's put the real criminals on trial, huh?
November 8, 2011
Check out the "Resistance" show at www.cindysheehanssoapbox.com/archivesPage.html. It includes her interview with Ruth Benn and Ed Hedemann on November 27, 2011.