By Kathy Labriola
Posted on March 26, 2013 by the Communications Committee
I joined Peace and Freedom Party in 1974 because of the “Peace” part. I have been a war tax resister for over 30 years.
Any nation needs three things in order to wage war: young men and women who are willing to join the military and risk their lives fighting a war (or who can be coerced into military service through a draft or poverty), billions of dollars in federal income taxes to finance a war, and a compliant and complicit public that is not rioting in the streets against war or dis-electing every member of Congress for funding the war. Refusing to pay taxes for war can be an important part of an overall strategy to end war.
There are many ways to be a war tax resister. The consequences are primarily financial, including penalties and fines. The good news is that they are not going to arrest you or throw you in jail for war tax resistance. The IRS just wants their money, just like any other creditor, and you can’t pay them if you’re in jail.
There are two distinct approaches to doing tax resistance - filing and not filing. Filing involves an overt public refusal to pay. You file your taxes every year and include a letter to the IRS stating you are refusing to pay taxes because you refuse to pay for war. Not filing means not informing the IRS that you owe any taxes, and not filing any tax forms.
Some people file their taxes but deduct 7 % of the taxes they owe, since 7% of every federal tax dollar goes directly to fund the war in Iraq. Deducting 7% or even 10% of your taxes is relatively low risk because the amount of money you owe is probably not worth the money and staff time it costs the IRS to take action to collect it.
Some people deduct 50% of their total federal taxes, refusing to pay that amount because the Pentagon gets over 50% of all federal tax dollars. Others, like me, refuse to pay any federal income tax because we know that 50% of every dollar we send them will go to the military. Each year I do my taxes, and send my completed tax forms to the IRS with a letter explaining why I refuse to pay for war.
I have chosen to file and not pay any taxes and for many years the IRS was slow to collect on me. About every 6 or 7 years the IRS would put a levy on my bank account and take some money. Sometimes whole wars would go by before they would collect on me.
The other approach to war tax resistance is not to file your taxes at all. Many war tax resisters choose this path and it seems to work surprisingly well for them. The IRS is apparently too busy to notice if some people don’t file their taxes. This strategy works best for people who are self-employed, make a lot of their income in cash, have low incomes, or have few assets. Some tax resisters donate the amount to a peace organization. People’s Life Fund, was set up expressly for war tax resisters to donate the money they refuse to pay in taxes each year. This is known as “redirecting taxes.”
Many people have noted the apparent futility of doing war tax resistance since the IRS often gets their money in the end. However, I am psychologically incapable of writing a check to the IRS when I know it will be spent to kill, maim, and torture people around the world. I can’t bring myself to do it. I won’t give it to them willingly. If more people refused to pay taxes, my miniscule act of resistance might have more impact. As activists we take many actions which may seem futile and we never can be sure of the efficacy, if any, of our work. Tax resistance is one more way of registering our opposition to war and militarism, and educating people about where their tax dollars really go: to fight imperialist wars to support capitalism and undermine revolution in the Third World.
For more information contact:
Northern California War Tax Resisters
They have a very cool web site here
National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
They have a great newsletter and web site here
Kathy Labriola is a therapist and community activist. She lives in Berkeley.