by Becky Pierce
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 IRSany 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.
The good news:
- The agent mentioned in a phone conversation with Mike that the 10-year statute of limitations on IRS collections for my case has a couple of years left. (He was hoping to convince me to cooperate and pay, rather than have him pursue me for two more years.) I think this means that this is probably not a political prosecution of me for being in the media talking about my (successful) tax resistance, but rather an attempt by the IRS to collect a large liability before the statute of limitations expires.
- 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.
- 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.
Other lessons learned:
- Talking to your IRS agent can be useful and allay your fears; mine was willing to give us information about what he was doing and why. But be prepared not to answer the agent’s questions seeking more information from you.
- 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 (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.
- 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!
When the IRS blasted out levy notices far and wide, Becky sent a letter to her customers:
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 theIRS 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.
From the December 2008 issue of More Than a Paycheck.