My War Tax Resistance Journey

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by Carol Moore

In 1975, while living in New York City, I was involved in radical feminism and political comedy, song-writing and play writing. I started supporting myself working off the books. Come April 15, 1976, I found that I owed the IRS more than $1000. I worked double shifts for two months to raise the money. As I sent the $1,000 off — still the largest check I’ve ever written — all I could think was that the money would pay for one big mortar shell that might kill a child or a family. Vietnam might be over, but who knew where the U.S. military would go next?

The next three years I refused to work overtime to pay taxes that might be used for such purposes. To assuage my fear of the IRS, I promised myself I’d pay them “when I got rich” off my artistic endeavors.

I had one instructive “psychotic episode” after two people in a row warned me the IRS was going to put me in prison. I snapped and became convinced the IRS was about to grab my meager possessions. I moved my valuables into a spare room fixed up as my “roommate’s” room to “fool” the IRS! Luckily, I soon ran into someone who had had many tangles with the IRS. He reassured me the IRS first had to put a lien on my assets and that for a $2,000 debt they don’t take your stereo and second hand coat or put you in prison. His assurances broke my paranoid spell and helped bolster me for what was to come.

A few months later I was awakened from a dream about playing cards with the girls in prison by the sound of the doorbell. You guessed it, the IRS! I begged poverty and foolishly gave him my bank account number. A few days later they seized the account. Soon after I met with agents in their offices and arranged for a $30-dollar-a-Month payment schedule. After a few months I got angry at something the government did and stopped paying. I didn’t hear from them again for a few more years.

In 1979, after the Three Mile Island incident, I finally hooked up with anti-nuclear and peace activists and soon converted from confused Democrat to Gandhian decentralist libertarian. After a few years of procrastination, I went to my first New York City war tax resisters meeting, followed quickly by the 1982 organizing meeting of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee in Washington, D.C.

Moving to Los Angeles soon after, I found great comradery and support in its group of long time resisters, including Joe Maizlish. That was just the beginning of my long career of handing out Don’t pay war taxes!! leaflets and writing the IRS every year telling them why I sent no money with my return.

In Los Angeles I started working temporary or short-term jobs and claiming the maximum number of deductions so I would pay no taxes. I learned through a couple pay garnishes that it takes a year to eighteen months for the IRS to catchup with you at your temporary agency or permanent job.

They caught me at one permanent job after just a year. I immediately gave my two weeks notice. The bookkeeper gave me forms to fill out so the IRS could calculate how much to garnish. Noticing the forms permitted one to claim dependents, I wrote down the full number allowed, claiming Mohandas G. Moore, Gandhi Moore, Martin K. Moore, Corretta S.K. Moore, etc. The bookkeeper looked at me strangely, but filed the paperwork. Miraculously I kept most of my paycheck!

In 1987, just before I left Los Angeles, I received written notification to show at their offices. Their typist had erred and transposed the notification date and the appointment date. By this time I’d grown quite cocky, explaining I’d come to their meeting even though the document was not valid because of the date error — and telling them I refused to pay to boot! Reading the agent’s notes on me as he scribbled, I noticed he’d previously written “Tax Party Protester.” Knowing that the IRSroutinely gave “right wing” tax resisters jail time, while going so much easier on War Tax Resisters, I demanded that he scratch that out and write “War Tax Resister.” He did so.

I’d been in Washington, D.C., only a few months when I got an urgent letter from the IRS claiming I had not appeared for my Los Angeles meeting. However, the meeting was uneventful as I showed them the evidence I had met with the IRS and again refused to pay. I then hooked up with the D.C. War Tax Resisters who informed me I could bring friends to such meetings for support. Unfortunately I haven’t been called in since! The fact that I never pick up certified letters at the post office unless I am expecting them and never respond to their requests to call an agent may have something to do with that.

Frankly, I have not been as pro-active a resister as I might be. However, in July 2000 I did join six other war tax resisters from around the nation in attempting to enter the Washington IRS headquarters to “invite prosecution for failure to comply with tax regulations.” So hopefully they still have my letter, complete with social security number! Over the years I have continued doing temporary secretarial work, supplemented that with selling peace buttons and continued to get only four or five letters and notices a year from the IRS. Of course, after the September 11 attacks, and with the passage of the Patriot Act, it has been just a matter of time before the IRS starts to ask a lot more questions of us resisters.

The main thing I have noticed is the IRS will no longer just accept my claim of having made a certain amount of money. They now want evidence. Long ago I stopped sending in my W-2 forms because it helped them find my employer and garnish me more quickly. This year was the first theIRS demanded W-2s or 1099s and refused to accept my 2001 tax return until they got them.

In the year 2002 I made and declared under $3,000 in income, well below the taxable level However, they still refused to accept my return unless I sent in W-2s or 1099s. Also, for the first time in 15 odd years, they ruled my writing “peace activist” as my occupation on my return was “frivolous.” I wrote back explaining I made only cash selling peace buttons and that I’d changed my occupation to “peace button sales.” evidently that satisfied them.

Now that Patriot Act II has passed and the government effectively can snoop into any account held by any American for any reason, we may all start getting a lot more queries. So don’t forget when you are meeting with the IRS, bring war tax resistance supporters and wear peace and Gandhi t-shirts and buttons. Let them know which side we are on — the side of nonviolence and peace.

From the February/March 2004 issue of More Than a Paycheck.