As April 15 approaches, make no mistake: The tax money that many of us will be sending to the U.S. government pays for drones that are killing innocent civilians, for “better” nuclear weapons that could put an end of human life on our planet, for building and operating more than 760 military bases in over 130 countries all over the world. We are asked by our government to give moral and financial support to cutting federal spending for our children’s schools, Head Start programs, job training, environmental protection and cleanup, programs for the elderly, and medical care for all so that this same government can spend 50 percent of all our tax dollars on wars and other military expenditures.
My wife Jan and I have been war tax resisters since the war in Vietnam. We cannot in good conscience pay for killing people in other parts of the world.
Does it make sense to work every day for peace and justice and then contribute one day’s pay each week for war and war-making? In order to wage wars, governments need young men and women willing to fight and kill, and they need the rest of us to pay our taxes to cover the cost of soldiers, bombs, guns, ammunition, planes and aircraft carriers. The cost of just the wars being fought now is in the trillions of dollars.
Increasingly, we are able to recognize that most wars are based on lies — weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam, and now al-Qaeda behind every bush and in every country our government wants to attack.
As our government uses drones that kill thousands of innocent people, we create ever more enemies, thus assuring that we will have wars to fight in perpetuity. The war against communism used to be the rationale for all our military expenditures. Now it is the war on terror. But the problem is that all war is terrorism. It just depends which end of the gun or bomb you are on. One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist.
At what point do we the people refuse to cooperate with these immoral, illegal and senseless wars? The government cannot fight these wars without our tax dollars and our moral support. And I bet that if the Pentagon sent people out door to door to ask us to contribute to its wars, aircraft carriers, drones and new fighter jets, most of us would not contribute.
Some people argue that the Internal Revenue Service is so powerful that it will get the money anyway from our paychecks or bank accounts, so what good does it do to refuse to pay the 50 percent of our taxes that go for war? My response is that if the Pentagon has to take the money we were planning to contribute to schools and organizations working for peace and justice, at least we aren’t paying for the wars voluntarily. And if millions of us refused to pay our war taxes, the government would have a real crisis on its hands. It would be forced to listen.
As President Nixon’s chief of staff Alexander Haig looked out the White House window and saw more than 200,000 anti-war demonstrators marching by, he said, “Let them march all they want to as long as they pay their taxes.”
If our country put even 10 percent of the money we presently spend on wars and military expenditures into building a world where every person has shelter, enough to eat, an opportunity for education and access to medical care, we could be the most loved country in the world — and the most secure. But perhaps even more pressing is the question of whether we can in conscience continue to pay for the killing of other human beings and perpetuate the war system for all the world’s children.
The choice is ours. Hopefully many of us will join the increasing number of people who are refusing to pay the portion of taxes that pay for war and are redirecting their refused taxes to funding human and environmental needs.
My wife and I engage in war tax resistance by simply deducting 50 percent of the taxes we owe and depositing it in the People’s Life Fund. The fund keeps the money in case the IRS seizes our bank account or paycheck and will return it to us so we have the funds to replenish what the IRS has taken. Interest on the money in the People’s Life Fund is contributed to peace and justice organizations and programs addressing the needs of people in our communities. That way, as long as the IRS leaves us alone, the funds we refuse to pay go to the places we would like to see it go. The IRS may add penalties and interest on what we owe, but for me that is a small price to pay for refusing to voluntarily pay for wars and the American empire.
Someday, we hope to see a special fund set up by the government itself for those who cannot in good conscience allow their money to be used for war, such as the one that the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund has outlined. In the meantime, there are more resources about tax resistance available through the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.
If your conscience so directs you, refuse to pay $1, $10, $100 or 50 percent of the taxes you owe, and send letters to your elected representatives and your local newspaper explaining why you are doing so. For the 50 percent of our taxes that my wife and I do pay, we make out a check to the Department of Health and Human Services instead of to the IRS and send it along with our 1040 form. We ask the IRS to allocate all the funds we pay to programs for health, education and human services.
For acts like this to become truly powerful, however, we need to make war tax resistance a mass movement. We need to reach out to all people who want to help build a more peaceful and just world, people who don’t believe in killing other people, people who are hurting because of the massive cuts in programs aimed at meeting human needs while the military gets the lion’s share, and people who are tired of living in the center of an empire that inflicts death and destruction on those who stand in the way. If all or even many of the people who feel this way were to refuse to pay the war and military portion of their taxes, we would have a mass movement that couldn’t be stopped.
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A few years ago, my husband and I deducted roughly the same amount you do from our taxes and did not pay the portion that goes to fund past and present wars. We only sent in the amount that supposedly goes for other things. Anyway, we got letter after letter from the IRS, and we wrote back explaining why we did not pay that portion of our taxes. They wrote back and said our reason was frivolous. My husband is a retired educator, and we live on a pension which means we are paid once a month every month. He also collects a minute amount of Social Security since in Texas he is penalized for being a retired teacher and 80% of his Social Security is seized as a “windfall profit”. But I digress.
Do you remember when the so called stimulus checks were being mailed out to every American citizen? The IRS decided to get its pound of flesh from us by taking our entire stimulus check along with interest and penalties to pay for the portion of our taxes that we owed to Empire. We have never held out any percentage of taxes since that time since we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the IRS would either garnish my husband’s retirement check or his little Social Security check. They don’t want to put people in jail. They only want the money.
I don’t see how one can resist war taxes if one has an income of any kind because the government will simply garnish your wages. Why has the IRS not does this to you and your wife? How is it that you have been able to resist paying these taxes for all these years without any repercussions? Do you have a significant income or are you and your wife below the poverty level?
Please explain as I am very interested to hear how you both are avoiding being garnished. As it is now, my husband does not have any taxes taken out of his retirement monies during the year so the government can’t use any money to pay for anything. However, we always end up owing roughly four or five thousand dollars to the IRS at the end of the year as we do this year. We scramble every year to figure out where the money is going to come from to give them their pound of flesh. There has to be a better way, but we do not want them garnishing our wages because we have to have that retirement income and meager Social Security check to live on each month. It’s a conundrum.
Please get back to me on my prior question and thanks for doing what you do. I wish millions or even thousands of Americans would refuse to pay their taxes. The IRS couldn’t possibly garnish everybody, and they sure don’t want to put thousands or millions of people in jail. They wouldn’t have room for everybody, unless of course, they just put people into detention camps and make them work off the debt. Nothing the government does or would do surprises me at this point.
Dear Kris – This is a question that is often asked. I will not pretend to have an answer that works for you, but I will tell you my own feelings around having redirected (refused) money seized.
First, we redirect our withheld taxes to organizations we do support. We do this because we do believe in contributing to the Common Welfare. As members of a pool, we try to agree on what the pool will redirect to, but we are free to act as individuals also.
Second, it is important to me that I do not willingly hand over federal taxes to Congress (via the IRS), as I believe that military expenditures are irresponsible and immoral. I do have a problem with reconciling this with the “good” things that federal taxes may support.
This is the only way I can live with myself, while actively working on and/or being supportive of the world I want to see – the world that works for everyone, the world that makes oppression, environmental degradation and injustice very difficult to thrive…
As I say, the only “answer” I have is the one that works for me. They can levy my account and imprison people of conscience, but they cannot imprison or kill an idea. You know this! Thank you.
IF you are in the New York City area April 15, join us at our annual Anti War Tax protest outside the Midtown Manhattan headquarters of the IRS and help us promote War Tax Resistance. We members of the War Resisters League, and supporters, will hand our leaflets, including our famous pie-charts, and then march to the General Post Office across town, and further protest the war budget. War tax resisters will participate and encourage other taxpayers and passersby to refuse to pay war taxes and give the $$$ instead to peace projects and human needs. Contact the War Resisters League and NWTRCC.
Dear Friends, This is a wonderful article. I agree with the author that things won’t change until the “people” ie: you & me, lead the way by refusing to pay for war. I would suggest that one way to do so is for people to join the $10.40 for Peace campaign at http://www.1040forpeace.org. The beauty of this campaign is that it asks folks to begin with a small amount of tax resisted funds, $10.40. All the IRS can do for that small amount is send one threatening letters but unless one is owed a refund in the following tax year, it is unlikely the IRS would every move to collect it by going to a bank account or seizing assets. It could be the Salt March symbol that the peace movement in the US has been lacking. Think what that $10.40 could mean to any number of peace organizations! If each member of a peace group gave that amount lots of peacebuilding could occur. I would suggest that folks could donate it to the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund that was mentioned in David’s epistle so we could actually move the Peace Tax Fund bill in the 113th Congress. It won’t happen overnight but I think the 1040 FOR PEACE is a good place to start. Have a blessed Easter and Passover and Holi season to all my Christian, Jewish and Hindu sisters and brothers. Join me in withholding $10.40 from the death machine. Let us pray for peace not pay for war!
Dear Kris and friends,
The IRS has often attached our bank account and taken what they say we owe them, but the key thing is that we refuse to voluntarily pay them to drop bombs on people. SOme years we seem to have fallen through the tracks and the IRS has never come to get the money so those funds have gone to peace and justice organizations and groups meeting the needs of people in our community.
I agree with Jack that refusing even a token $10.40 or $104 is important and perhaps MANY MORE people would do this and it would cost the IRS much more than this to go after this money.
LEts all do what our conscience tells us to do.
In my research online I came across World Citizenship and Garry Davis. As a world citizen they don’t have to pay war tax. Apparently they do it through the UN by filing some paper work. It’s been awhile since I read about it but I recommend if you want to know more that you go to the World Service Authority (WSA) website and read more. I am thinking of joining the WSA and opting out of paying war taxes this way.