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Who says this must be so?
Who cares that this is so?
I shudder that the raids and bombs
have made us less than human.
I wish to go to our deserted schools
to understand why we are like this.
I used to dream of space,
blue skies and gentler people.
I heard mother through her burqa
pleading “Please stop!
Stop the money. Stop the killing.
Another local explosion,
more international lies.
Our global problem is that
guns impose greater force
than common sense
or vision, which tells me
that my mother’s world is crashing.
Kathy Kelly quoted these lines from Hakim of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers in the December 2011 Catholic Worker. Could we express any stronger argument to protest war taxes by resisting and/or getting out on tax day?
This year Tuesday, April 17, is Tax Day, the final day to file IRS returns. It happens that April 17 is also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS), which NWTRCC has endorsed. See the action list at nwtrcc.org/taxday2012.php.
Call or email the office with your events right up to April 17. After that send in your photos and report for the next newsletter.
Paying taxes that are used for war has long been a vexing problem for those whose conscience forbids direct participation in war. If it would be wrong to take up arms and kill, then isn’t it equally wrong to provide the means for another to commit the same act? The conventional escape from this dilemma is found in the legal obligation to pay taxes. Payment is compelled, not voluntary, and thus one’s conscience remains clear.
“Conscience and Taxes in a Culture of War,” a March 11 forum in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, sponsored by 1040 for Peace and Every Church A Peace Church, asked a different question about the upcoming April 17 tax deadline: how can we use the filing of our annual federal tax return to witness for peace and against the wars that have become a permanent feature of U.S. foreign policy?
For Shane Claiborne, the activist who co-founded The Simple Way in Philadelphia, commitment to Jesus the Nazarene has prompted him to adopt a posture of “revolutionary subordination” vis-à-vis the federal government. “I respect the law and those who administer it but I also have been called to be prophetic, to expose injustice.” Thus, when he filed his federal tax return for 2010, he paid only 70% of what was due. In a letter sent along with his return, Claiborne described his reasons for not paying the other 30%. When asked if he also would support the practice of sending a letter of protest while overpaying federal taxes, Claiborne said, “Yes. I support provoking our imaginations to witness, to raising the right questions, stimulating more conversation and not more polarization.”
For Pat Hostetter Martin, a Harrisonburg, Virginia resident who has engaged in tax witness for nearly 40 years, it all began with the friends, neighbors and colleagues victimized by war during the ’60s when she was working in Vietnam. “I expect the federal government eventually will get the money I withhold. That’s not the point. The point is that I speak on behalf of those victimized by my government’s wars.”
Jack Payden-Travers also began witnessing via nonpayment of taxes during the Vietnam War. These days he works on Capitol Hill where he leads the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund. Citing the witness of the Berrigan brothers and their acts of protest during the ’60s, Payden-Travers urged the audience not to de-value symbolic acts, such as withholding $10.40 from one’s tax payment. “There is great power in symbolic acts, in refusing to offer the pinch of incense.”
Moravian College professor Kelly Denton-Borhaug, shifted the focus from government to the need for witness to the church and broader society. “The necessity of war as sacrifice has incredible resonance within American culture,” combining the potent image of Jesus on the cross with the warmaking of U.S. military personnel. “This use of religious imagery to talk about war is so powerful that continuous war is now seen as normal, and dissent has been largely suppressed. Meanwhile, the peace movement hasn’t measured up to the power of this message.”
Although “the sacralization of war” has long been a device political leaders of all stripes have employed to win popular support, Denton-Borhaug insisted the stakes are higher now. “The U.S. military is so dominant, and the U.S. war culture so pervasive, that we dare not ignore it. The threat to the world is too great.” Besides, she said, it is our faith that is being hijacked for military purposes.
When it comes to taxes, what does conscience require? Purity may be a pipe-dream, beyond our reach. Witness is something each of us can achieve. And it is what conscience requires.
Berry Friesen is active with 1040 for Peace. For more information see 1040forpeace.org or call (717) 471-9691 or (717) 859-3529.
A resister dealing with a frivolous penalty had contacted the Tax Advocate’s office for some help with her situation. In the course of the conversation the Advocate suggested the resister try to get help from the law school clinic at a local university. After a meeting with the clinic, the resister received a letter saying they would take the case. The school’s clinic has a low income requirement, which the resister had met. While much of what we do in war tax resistance does not require a lawyer or legal help, contacting such a clinic in your area could be an option in some of these sticky situations.
Richard Cebula and Edgar L. Feige (of Jacksonville University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison) have attempted to estimate the size of the underground economy in the U.S. They estimate that 18–19% of legally reportable income stays under-the-table, which translates to about half a trillion dollars in taxes each year that the IRS fails to collect. The IRS itself hasn’t attempted to measure this underground economy since 1988, but they have worked hard in recent years to find nonfilers. In particular the IRS takes a dim view of independent contractors and makes it a priority to shift people to salaries when possible. They’d love to institute withholding for everyone who receives pay-for-work, but so far the opposition is too strong.
Adding to the federal revenue crunch, more than 40% of American households that filed tax returns last year did not pay or owe any federal income tax. This is the second year in a row that the percentage of non-income-tax-paying households has topped 40%. The “Other Taxes” page on our website includes information about other taxes to resist if you don’t owe income taxes. Find the link at the end of the text on our home page.
If you are a nonfiler with reported income (1099s, W-2s, etc.) the IRS computers are pretty good, eventually it seems, at matching that information with the lack of a return for that person/social security number. We’ve heard from some longtime nonfilers who have had the IRS go after them for as far back as 9 or 10 years, but usually that’s related to some special, large amount of income reported for that year. If the IRS gets after you for, say, 2009, they won’t necessarily demand that you file for years previous to that (as far as we’ve heard). If you do not respond to their collection letters, they will file for you, and we’ve seen that called a “ghost return.” The IRS only calculates the tax due based on the reported income and a single standard deduction, so collection efforts are usually based on a principal higher than you really owed. You always have the option to file yourself, but of course that can mean getting into dealing with the agency you chose to avoid in the first place. If you are not very collectible (no salary, regular clients, or large bank accounts) or don’t worry about potential collection, this may not be of concern. We recommend nonfilers with reported income fill out the forms each year in case their circumstances change after some years, or they need to argue numbers with the IRS.
A couple of weeks ago, the phone rang at 8 o’clock in the morning.
A cheery voice explained, after ascertaining my identity, that she was calling about my tax liability. This was not the IRS, but an outfit called Clear-something. Flabbergasted by their chutzpah, I said, “How dare you call me!” and hung up.
Then I began to wonder what records they were working from. Is IRS cooking up something new against me? I wished I had stayed on the phone longer and gotten more information.
Then they called again. Cool! I asked what this was in reference to and was given the name of another tenant in my building, who runs a business. I said that I knew him, but had no financial connection with him. The nice lady asked if I could tell her how to reach him. I refused.
She huffed, “Well, you don’t have to be so…” I guess she’s not used to dealing with New Yorkers. In answer to another question, I reiterated that it was not my job to supply her with information, and hung up.
(Editor’s Note: This story remains a mystery. Anyone have a similar call? In 2006 the IRS subcontracted to private collection agencies, but those contracts were dropped in 2009 when the IRS realized it was more cost effective to just hire more staff.)
Thanks to all of you for your continued support and to these groups for recent dues payments and donations:
NWTRCC’s Network List of Affiliates, Area Contacts, Counselors, and Alternative Funds appears on the “Contacts and Counselors” page at nwtrcc.org, or request a list from the NWTRCC office.
Please let us know if you are interested in being a contact on our network list: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 269-7464.
Advertising rates for this newsletter can be found at nwtrcc.org/ads.php or contact the editor at (800) 269-7464.
I am a Canadian war tax resister. For the past five years I have been a member and supporter of the national peace tax organization Conscience Canada, consciencecanada.ca. Our members are a diverse group separated by vast distances. What we have in common is the belief that as long as we pay taxes we are complicit in war. Conscience Canada works on various levels to promote freedom of conscience and to advocate for changes in law. Each year we ask Canadian taxpayers to consider completing a Peace Tax Return. The return provides two options. Option A is simply a statement of conscience against military spending. Option B provides the opportunity to redirect a portion of one’s tax dollars. We see this as interim measure until a recognized legal option is available.
The past few months have been busy and exciting ones for Conscience Canada. In November, 2011 Alex Atamanenko, Member of Parliament for British Columbia Southern Interior, introduced Bill C-363 in Parliament. If passed into law this piece of legislation would make it possible for conscientious objectors to war to direct the military portion of their taxes into a separate peace fund. This bill is a long way from becoming law, but its introduction has sparked meaningful debate and dialogue. Search on “Bill C-363 Canada” to read the bill and find updates online.
Conscience Canada members here in British Columbia are using NWTRCC’s excellent film Death and Taxes at a Peace Cafe event. It is comforting and inspiring to know that so many others are committed to the same cause.
In your recent mailing, you included the Huffington Post article entitled “Catholic Bishops’ Contraception Coverage Argument Ridiculed by Pacifist Activists,” which supports paying taxes on items that people object to based upon religious and moral grounds. Some people don’t want their taxes used for war based upon religious/moral grounds. Likewise, other people (Catholics/other religious) don’t want their taxes used for contraception/abortifacents based upon religious/moral grounds. Different belief on religious/moral grounds, but same principle of objection based upon religious and moral grounds. Please consider teaming up with the Catholics on the simple principle if you have a religious/moral objection, then USA citizens should have the right to exemption. Contact these people religiously/morally objecting to tax paid contraception/abortifacents and say we, NWTRCC, have been protesting too that we have religious/moral objections to tax-paid war and people want exemptions. Teaming up with the Catholics will definitely create great syngery and help the NWTRCC cause! Please no more support by pacifist activists ridiculing the Catholics. Team up with the Catholics instead, they may be paving the way for religious/moral objection to tax-paid war exemptions.
Dear Senator Ayotte:
Thank you for your 3/9/12 email. First, I find it interesting that there is such concern about contraception and abortion when no one is talking about conscientious objection to the military. For over 30 years, Peace Tax Fund legislation has been introduced in Congress without passage. With regard to killing people, there is some doubt about this re: contraception and abortion; there is no doubt about it when it comes to war. People with religious and moral beliefs against killing do not have the same choice to stop paying for war as a military conscript who claims conscientious objector status. If you are so concerned about life, I suggest you support the Peace Tax Fund bill.
Second, my understanding is that religious organizations are not required to pay the cost of contraception and abortion. The insurance companies are. Please explain to me how this violates the separation of church and state.
Thank you for your support of the above and any assistance you provide with passing the Peace Tax Fund.
The Maine War Tax Funds for Life will spend $200 of its redirected tax money for a year-long underwriting of a radio program on WERU Community Radio in Maine. The tag line will be, “This program is brought to you by listeners like you, and by the Maine War Tax Resisters’ Resource Center, supporting redirection of and resistance to war taxes since 1982. 525-7776 or wartaxboycott.org.” Readers might consider this idea in their community.
British war resisters organized as “Count Me Out” are boycotting the census. In tax resistance campaigns of yore, census resistance has usually come because the census was seen as a prelude to a tax. In this case, the boycott has a different cause: the resisters are protesting against the government’s awarding of the contract to run the census to the arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
“When I was 18 I refused to fire a rifle on military service,” John Marjoram told a reporter. “I couldn’t live with myself if I collaborated with a military company.” The government is responding to the boycott with criminal prosecutions, and has thus far won over 100 convictions. One resister, Derek Shields, said at his sentencing: “I’ve only got one thing to say and that is I’m a Christian and I wouldn’t get into bed with an arms dealer.” He was fined by the court and quickly responded that he would not pay: “I’m not going to pay. If I pay that’s admitting I’ve done something wrong and I don’t believe I have done anything wrong.”
War tax resister John Woolman was the featured guest at a recent celebratory luncheon in Davis, California. Woolman, as portrayed by aspiring young actor Jeffrey Viguie, shared the famous “Epistle of Tender Love and Caution” of 1755, in which he and 20 others described their concern about paying the new taxes “intended for purposes inconsistent with our peaceable testimony.” Having met together several times to season their concern, the 21 Friends concluded that, “though some part of the money…is said to be for such benevolent purposes as supporting our friendship with our Indian neighbors and relieving the distresses of our fellows,” these purposes are “so mixed” with others that we cannot heartily concur in one “without at the same time assenting to… practices which we apprehend contrary to the testimony which the Lord has given us.”
The modern-day occasion for the lunchtime celebration was delivery to U.S. District Court of Elizabeth Board-man’s Claim for Injunctive Relief against the Commissioner of Internal Revenue for standing in the way of her religious practice of refusing voluntarily to support war with her income tax payments.
The IRS has declared that a person’s refusal to pay war taxes on grounds of religion or conscience is “frivolous.” IRS responses to Elizabeth’s protests are inconsistent at best, threatening at worst. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin actions that punish and prohibit Elizabeth’s free exercise of religion, which is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Moreover, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 requires government to accommodate such religious practices in ways similar to accommodation of conscientious objection to conscription. The lawsuit seeks to compel the IRS to establish similar “alternative procedures” for religious war tax resisters.
For five years now, Elizabeth has felt led to pay only half of her income tax bill, putting the rest into escrow pending the day that it is no longer budgeted for the Department of Defense. She is under the care of a Davis Monthly Meeting support committee. Bob Kovsky, an attorney who is representing Elizabeth, feels called to support her in her witness and to add a voice to the Quaker principles she embodies and expresses in action. He has a support committee in the San Francisco Monthly Meeting, to which he belongs.
The recent luncheon was generously hosted by Jim and Marilee Eusebio. Just before the food was served, “John Woolman” reported that, at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1757, despite two years of seasoning the moral challenge of the war tax “among Friends everywhere,” the committee found that there was no unity on making this a Yearly Meeting platform. “When the tax was gathered, many paid it and others scrupled the payment.”
As Friends agreed in 1757, “it is highly necessary… that Friends everywhere endeavor earnestly to have their minds covered with fervent charity towards one another” on this issue.
For more information about the case or the Pay Under Protest campaign that Elizabeth and other California Quakers are working on, email email@example.com or call (530) 759-1980.
NWTRCC’s website is packed with information, so we hope you check it often. The “What You Can Do” page has a whole section on action ideas for tax day (or anytime). Find that page under the “Programs” button. It includes a link to the illustrated “how to do a penny poll” page.
David Gross in California just posted a trove of newspaper articles about war tax resistance going back to 1901! He collected them from a big Google scanning project that has been discontinued. If you go to nwtrcc.org/articles.php, you will find a great collection of links to stories such as, “Widow Refuses to Pay War Tax,” from 1948; “12 Refuse to Pay War Tax in Philadelphia,” from 1953, and “Nay Saying Taxpayers Reject Arms Expenditures,” from 1964.
Other websites that have important information, especially in preparation for tax day include:
NWTRCC continues to stock printed publications, buttons, bumperstickers, books, and pamphlets. See the list at nwtrcc.org/publications.php or call the office if you’d like a copy in the mail at (800) 269-7464.
We’re meeting in Chicago to participate with thousands of activists in the protests against NATO and G8. Plans are in flux with the demonstration shifting from Saturday to Sunday. Stay late on Sunday if you can. We’ll be flexible with our agenda, but take time to report on tax day, local actions, and the War Tax Boycott campaign and strategize our continuing work. NWTRCC’s business meeting is Sunday, and all are welcome. Find registration information at nwtrcc.org/meetings.php or call the office for details. Please register by April 30 or sooner if you need housing. If you live in Chicago and can offer housing, please let us know. The Windy City is going to busy that weekend!
Juanita Nelson, “war tax resister,” was honored with a Clara Lemlich Award for Social Activism at a ceremony on March 20, 2012, in New York City. The award is named for the 23-year-old garment worker who stood up during a crowded meeting, interrupted union leader Samuel Gompers, and shouted, “I’ve Got Something to Say.” Her speech inspired a vote to strike that led to the Uprising of 20,000. The award honors women who have been working for the larger good all their lives, in the tradition of those who sparked so many reforms in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire one hundred years ago.
LaborArts and the Triangle Fire Coalition sponsor the Clara Lemlich Award, and Juanita was among seven honorees this year. The others were Judy West, jazz singer/tenant organizer; Jackie Steiner, musician/anti-fascist activist; Betty Reardon, feminist peace educator; Connie Ling, garment worker organizer; and Connie Hogarth, agitator for civil rights and the environment. NWTRCCC Coordinator Ruth Benn accepted the award on behalf of Juanita, who was not able to make the trip to New York.
For more about the award and the March 20 event see laborarts.org/lemlichawards.
My 88-year-old mom, Ruth Kirk, was visiting me in South Carolina when we were asked to write a profile for this newsletter after we asked for some Zombie war tax resistance forms mentioned in the December 2011 issue.
Ruth: I sent every senator and representative a copy of the book Addicted to War. I sent them a questionnaire to answer about the book. Not one of them answered it. I followed up with a letter a year later saying you were not courteous enough to thank me for the book I sent. I received one reply. That senator said he never got the book. It seems to me that all our representatives benefit from war profiteering, therefore they want to continue having wars. I financially support many peace organizations.
Carol: It’s easy to see how I got involved in the peace movement. My mother has always been a woman of peace and an inspiration to me, as well as many others. Add to this the fact that both of us are birthright Quakers, a faith that subscribes and practices the testimony of peace, and you can see why our lives have taken this direction. Both of us grew up in Philadelphia, the “hotbed” of Quakerism as well as the home of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. We both like the quote they use: “It’ll be a great day when the Air Force has to have a bake sale to build a bomber!”
Ruth: We had a serendipitous moment when we met at a peace rally in Florida because neither of us knew we would be there. I came to the peace rally with a group of people from St. Petersburg where I was living at that time. My daughter was there with a group from Koinonia—an intended peace and justice community—in Americus, Georgia. Now I am active in the Granny Peace Brigade in Philadelphia. We give out flyers with phone numbers of senators and representatives in Washington and have petitions for people to sign to bring our troops home. Every week I call Washington to reduce our military budget and bring our troops home.
Carol: Currently in Charleston a small group of us, Charleston Peace, are planning on visiting our representatives when they’re on recess and asking them to cut the military budget. We’re also planning on doing a counter recruitment at a local high school’s career fair where, as in the past, we’ll hand out flyers, brochures, peace buttons giving students alternatives to joining the military and letting them know the facts and their rights. In the spring, we hope to continue our bi-monthly vigils for peace, handing out flyers here too on the cost of war. We are also planning on hosting the American Friends Service Committee’s exhibit of artwork from students in Afghanistan called “Windows and Mirrors.”
Ruth: One year I did not pay income tax. It only took them three months to contact me. I wrote back that I was not paying for war, and I know more than half my tax goes to the military. Naturally they did not accept my reason for not paying so they added penalties and interest to my tax, and they deducted it from my paycheck. When I realized they would get much more money this way, I paid the tax. For several years they have audited my taxes trying to get more, but I paid them in full so they could not penalize me.
Carol: About 5 years ago here in Charleston, we had a group of activists trying to get a Department of Peace established in Washing-ton, DC. The national group was the Peace Alliance and the bill they sponsored called for establishing nonviolence as an organizing principal of American society—a novel idea indeed! The bill would provide the U.S. President with an array of peace-building policy options for domestic and international use. We had a few fundraisers and some events to raise awareness, but unfortunately it was hard to gain much interest and support so it kind of fizzled out.
Ruth: When will we have a peace college comparable to West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy? If we are the number one country of the world, we should set an example and lead the world to peace. We must have people in United States who know how to work for peace if they were given the time and a good salary. We need a Department of Peace that has as much power as the other departments have. The Pentagon could become our Department of Peace so the government does not even have to build a new building.
Carol: Finally, since money talks, my mother and I have supported the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, which for the past 40+ years has been trying to get a bill allowing conscientious objector status for taxpayers passed in Congress. This bill would establish a fund in the federal treasury to receive the taxes of conscientious objectors, which would be allocated annually to any nonmilitary appropriation within the federal budget. Kudos go to Representative John Lewis from Georgia and Dennis Kucinich, who have been steadfast supporters of this. Needless to say, this bill still hasn’t passed!
Carol and Ruth: We realize that this is an uphill task; however with organizations like National War Tax Resistance, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Occupy, there is hope that we will have a peaceful world for our children and grandchildren.