by Tom Wilson
“I am sorry to announce that The Commonwealth has taken action that forces me to close my dental office for non-compliance with licensure and newer infection control protocols. I am deeply saddened that I must abandon patients or face arrest. Your records and x-rays may be picked up at the office.”
Thomas A. Wilson D.D.S.
So reads the public notice that Tom Wilson, dentist of 47 years and war tax resister since 1977, had to place in his local paper, The Greenfield (Mass.) Recorder. For 21 years Tom had been practicing his profession safely, but without a license — an act of civil disobedience each time he walked into his office. The state suspended his license in 1987 because of his noncooperation with state tax laws after the state cooperated with IRS collection efforts. This put him in conflict with the Massachusetts law that requires compliance to all state tax laws before relicensure for any profession requiring a state license.
Tom appeared before his colleagues in 1987 to tell his story and state his reasons for conscientious objection to paying for war, an experience he found inspiring. He explained that he would continue to practice dentistry despite the outcome of their vote (5-2 to suspend), and he did, offering affordable dental services and keeping his practice going.*
“Now I’ve come full circle after 21 years of practicing without a license,” Tom said in a phone interview on September 23. It takes a complaint for the Board of Registration in Dentistry to act, and it may be political reasons that finally brought a complaint from a nearby oral surgeon, who apparently just noticed that Tom was practicing without a license. “I’ve always known it was just a question of when this might happen,” he said, but he didn’t know anything was up until two inspectors arrived at his office to look for his license, take pictures, and inspect his equipment. A local police officer was in tow, but his presence was unnecessary.
At 75 Tom is philosophical about closing the door on his professional life and has no regrets about his choices. “In this present economy we’re getting a payback for what the government has been doing and what I haven’t been paying for and resisting all this time. People ask if war tax resistance changes anything. I can’t say that, but it’s helped me put up with what we have to put up with in this country.”
Tom’s journey into war tax resistance began when he met longtime resister Wally Nelson in 1977 and learned about people who conscientiously refuse to pay taxes because of war. He joined the anti-nuclear movement and found that he could not in good conscience support a government that threatened the world with such weapons. With Wally and others he helped found Pioneer Valley War Tax Resistance and can often be found at vigils and demonstrations holding a “Don’t Pay War Taxes” sign.
* This and other background notes are from Tom’s story in War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, available from NWTRCC.
To support Tom, send Letters to the Editor to The Greenfield Recorder, 14 Hope Street, Greenfield,MA 01302, and/or personal messages to Tom Wilson, 25 Elm St., Shelbourne Falls, MA 01302
From the October/November 2008 issue of More Than a Paycheck.