Lots of people are looking for the basics of tax resistance — whether against war and violence, the border wall, closing the door on refugees, racism, a mass deportation force, getting Trump to release his tax forms, the Trump agenda in general, having a president that many see as unqualified, or some new executive order we might hear about next week.
Tax day is April 18, 2017, the last day to file 2016 taxes. Whether you owe or not, whether you are resisting or not, here are some considerations and ideas for those newly interested in tax resistance as a protest strategy:
- File on paper and mail in your form. It’s one way to slow the system. The IRS has been driving people to e-file, but you don’t need to help with their efficiency. Snail mail filing is perfectly legal.
- Send a protest letter when you file: “I’m paying under protest because….” Or “I’m refusing this amount because….” You can enclose it with your form, or send it separately to the office of the president, elected officials, and/or the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20224-0002.
- Writing messages on or altering the tax form itself brings extra risk to the filer. The IRS can charge a frivolous penalty of up to $5,000 if they decide they can’t trust the numbers on the form. It is best to enclose a letter of protest and fill out the form normally (unless you don’t mind risking additional penalties).
- If your federal income taxes were withheld or you overpaid in estimated taxes, think ahead for next year. A refund means you overpaid taxes and have given the government an interest-free loan. Adjust your W-4 at your employer’s — change your allowances to avoid getting a refund; this is legal if you are just bringing the withholding more in balance with the amount you actually owe. Or, read about W-4 resistance here to have a tax due balance for resistance next year. Self-employed people can adjust their estimated payments so as not to over-pay.
- The IRS has a lot of power to collect taxes from bank accounts and salaries. If you are concerned about the economic risk of resistance but want to protest the use of your tax dollars with your money, consider refusing a small amount. 1,000 people resisting $10 may well have more impact than 1 person resisting $10,000. One active campaign is based on refusing $10.40.
A few random thoughts on ideas we’ve heard:
- File for an extension — with a specific demand, such as “I don’t want to pay until Trump releases his tax forms.” Know that when you file for an extension you are supposed to pay an estimated amount to cover taxes you may owe. Interest and penalties will be added on to the tax due amount. This may be a slow-down strategy; just be aware of the economic consequences.
- Put tax due in escrow — with a specific demand. “I’ll turn over the money when…” Escrow is a legal option for certain conditions, perhaps a rent strike, but it’s not a legal option with the IRS. Whatever tax due is not paid will go to IRS collection. You can expect letters demanding payment, and eventually an “intent to levy” letter that warns you the IRS can now seize assets that they find. This might include the escrow account. Many war tax resisters do set the money aside in a bank account knowing that at some point the IRS may take the amount due plus interest and penalties. Not paying voluntarily can feel powerful, even if the IRS gets more money than they think you owed in the first place.
- Pay taxes due to an organization you support or a government department that you find acceptable. The IRS does not accept redirection of taxes to organizations and causes as taxes paid; your tax bill will go into the collection department. Checks to other agencies of the federal government find their way into the general fund, same as if written to the IRS. However, war tax resisters do promote redirection of taxes to causes we believe in; this can mean you will end up paying twice if you give the money away and the IRS is successful at collection. The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund promotes legislation that would allow a conscientious objector status for taxpayers.
- We’ve been asked for a template “Dear IRS” letter. Watch our website for new resources like that (ideas welcome), or look at letters that war tax resisters have sent over the years. or watch a short video on this topic.
More webinars are coming up, watch Introduction to War Tax Resistance from Feb. 18 here, or see this page for postings of workshops around the country.
— Post by Ruth Benn
8 thoughts on “What to think about for tax resistance in 2017, 2018, and beyond”
How about a low-risk resistance of $19.84, or multiples of that number?
Taxes I refused last year were about $3000. I got the usual three or four letters from the IRS followed by a certified Lien letter saying they were as of then able to seize funds from me. Now about a month later I have just received a letter saying they intend to seize 15% of my Social Security. That will apparently happen about a year from the time I filed. But this is the first time the IRS has ever seized from my Social Security. I am 70 so have been receiving Social Security about eight years.
Those of us who can write well can submit pieces to on-line publications. I recently met jeffry St Claire, co-editor of Countercurrents (2 million readers) – he said “Go ahead, send me something, I promise to read it.” This was in reply to my suggestion that WTR is a very good way to resist Trump, which is something that has become something of a watchword these days.
Per our discussion on wtr-s, this is actually Jeffrey St. Clair, from Counterpunch! I hope someone does submit there, it’s a powerful publication!
My sense is that scattered, individual tax resistance may feel good to the resistor, but will have no larger impact.
Would NWTRCC be willing to spearhead a blitz movement to mobilize a critical mass of resistors by April 18?
I’ll be the first to sign on! (and then help spread the word)
I think that linking the tax resistance with a very specific action on the part of the Trump administration would be the most effective – ie the wall, or the cost of additional immigration agents. Although this may vary from the traditional mission of this organization (anti-war), it seems evident to me that Trumps agenda will pave the way to war.
Thanks for your comments, Bill! We are definitely interested in organizing large groups of people, and we’re working on it with webinars and media contacts and the work of our field organizer. Our experience is that trying to get a large number of people to sign on for resistance before the entire group resists doesn’t lead to action – if that’s what you’re suggesting. Our consensus decision-making process is centered around our May and November gatherings, and that means that we aren’t going to be able to pull together a new campaign for Tax Day this year.
In the next couple of days I’ll be posting a guide to border militarization tax resistance that might help with the urgent issues on that front, and we urge folks to mobilize around that in their own communities and online!
This is going to be a long-term effort – we’re exploring larger efforts for 2018! Stay tuned and stay in touch.
I am so glad that there is a discussion on this. I am prepared to resist my taxes this year, but my husband may not. I have thought that a critical mass is what we need to slow down the IRS and to show that militarization of immigration and private prisons for detaining undocumented folks may be what is needed. I abhor the fact that my taxes are paying for the above. Is there a brochure that I can hand to people from my church on Earth Day? I know that it will be after the fact, but something to think about for next year. Thank you for all you are doing.
Hi Annie, Thanks for writing! We’re definitely looking ahead to 2018 even as we prepare for Tax Day this year. We have some literature around environmental issues and the military (see http://nwtrcc.org/war-tax-resistance-resources/flyers/) and we also have a brochure aimed at a Christian audience, Are you praying for peace but paying for war?, which you can print yourself from the link on this page (http://nwtrcc.org/war-tax-resistance-resources/pamphlets/) or order from our store (http://nwtrcc.org/store/).
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