Answers to Common Concerns About War Tax Resistance
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- Taxes are good; we shouldn’t refuse to pay them (I support some of the things taxes pay for, like education and human services).
- While many taxes are neutral, those that contribute to killing are not, and that’s 50% of the federal budget! Nevertheless, most war tax resisters don’t simply refuse taxes, thus putting the burden of society’s expenses on the shoulders of others. Rather than keep resisted taxes, they reroute those taxes to society’s programs most in need of attention. Also, most war tax resisters do pay many taxes not related to military spending.
- It’s wrong to break the (tax) law.
- Openly withdrawing consent is essential in a free society to resist oppression and tyranny. Nonviolently breaking laws has had a long and honorable tradition in the U.S. If Thoreau hadn’t refused to pay his taxes as a protest to slavery and the Mexican-American War, he would never have written his essay on Civil Disobedience. If protesters for women’s suffrage, labor, civil rights, Vietnam War, and gay rights, among other movements hadn’t committed civil disobedience, those movements might well have had very different results.
- If everyone were to pick and choose, that would be unfair.
- If people are willing to nonviolently resist taxes for whatever cause and deal with the consequences, that’s their decision. War tax resisters are not shirking their civic duty by refusing to pay the I.R.S. Most reroute their taxes into programs hurt by the military spending and misplaced priorities of the U.S. government.
- I would rather work within the system so we can have some influence. War tax resistance is alienating and marginal and will cut me off from the circles of influence that affect real change.
- In trying to make fundamental changes, it is sometimes necessary to do things that others feel is alienating or extreme in order to get the attention of an establishment that chooses to ignore injustice. In a movement for social change, there are many complementary roles to play. Among them is the role of agitator, which aids in getting attention and raising issues. As Martin Luther King, Jr., once noted, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
- War tax resistance is too complicated.
- It can be complicated depending on how you resist the taxes and what your personal situation is. But it can also be as simple as doing what you do now except to refuse a token amount of money and include a letter of explanation with your return. In any case, there are counselors who are willing to help explain the techniques and issues.
- I never owe anything; the I.R.S. always sends me money.
- Chances are you are being overwithheld with each paycheck. This can be corrected by claiming at least another allowance on the W-4 form that you file with your employer. This will mean that less income tax will be withheld. You may owe money to the I.R.S. at the end of the year, putting you in a position to refuse payment.
- I’ll go to jail.
- It’s unlikely to happen… at least not for refusing to pay war taxes. Of the couple dozen war tax resisters jailed in the last 60 years — out of tens of thousands of resisters — the reason has not been for refusal to pay taxes, but rather because they persistently refused to give information to the I.R.S. (or “falsified” the tax forms). Only one person was actually jailed for war tax resistance and that was in the 1940s. Three war tax refusers sentenced to prison in 2005 got I.R.S. attention at their small business for not withholding the taxes of other resisters.
- With interest and penalties, they’ll end up collecting more.
- If the I.R.S. collects, it probably will add interest at the prevailing rate and penalties. However, the penalties and interest usually do not offset the I.R.S.’s costs of collection. Though some war tax resisters just accept this as one of the burdens of war tax resistance, others have joined the War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund to help recover money seized as interest and penalties.
- The I.R.S. might take my house or car.
- The I.R.S. can seize property whose titles are held by war tax resisters. This, however, is very rare (from 1992 to 2002, the I.R.S. seized only one house and two cars from war tax resisters), and the resister will be given opportunities to pay up and stop the seizure, or redeem the property from the buyer after it is sold. There are many ways to protect your property. For example, some war tax resisters have put their property in the name of close friends or relatives. Also, if your resisted taxes are in an alternative fund, that money could be pulled out to help pay for the recovery of your property.
- It’ll hurt my credit rating.
- This is the intention of the I.R.S. Despite I.R.S. liens and levies, war tax resisters have been able to get credit cards, loans, as well as make purchases on credit.
- I would have to change my lifestyle.
- Some war tax resisters go out of their way to be uncollectible and consequently might change their lifestyle, including changing to one of more simple living. As mentioned earlier, however, many war tax resisters find they can fit this resistance into their current lifestyle.
- It’ll call attention to me, and the I.R.S. may invalidate my deductions and credits.
- War tax resisters are rarely audited, because the I.R.S. usually chooses to send resisters’ returns directly to the collection division. However, many war tax resisters welcome the attention of the government so officials know why the taxes are being refused.
“The U.S. government expects taxpayers to behave themselves and keep bankrolling this illegal, immoral, wrongful war. What does the U.S. government want from us in order to fight this war? For most of us, the government doesn't want our bodies, and it doesn't even want our consent. What the government wants from us, is our money. We can each resist $100 for one year. The consequences would not be so cataclysmic if the IRS caught up with you, and we can pool all of the refused war tax money and give it to survivors of Katrina and people who have fled from violence in Iraq.