portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article

actions & protests | economic justice | imperialism & war

REFUSE THE WAR TAX

IF you are opposed to Bush's plans for war on Iraq,
AND you owe taxes for 2002 that you have not yet paid,
THEN you might want to consider tax resistance as an act of civil disobedience.
"Let them march all they want, as long as they continue to pay their taxes."
-Gen. Alexander Haig, U.S. Secretary of State, June 12, 1982 (in reference to millions of protestors demanding nuclear disarmament)


IF you are opposed to Bush's plans for war on Iraq,
AND you owe taxes for 2002 that you have not yet paid,
THEN you might want to consider tax resistance as an act of civil disobedience.


HOW DOES IT WORK?

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), based in Ithaca NY, has put together a list of "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) about war tax resistance. You can download it here (PDF file, requires Adobe Acrobat reader):

War Tax Resistance At a Glance
 ftp://lightlink.com/pub/nwtrcc/WTRataG.pdf

The basic idea is simple: Fill out your federal tax form(s) as usual, and see if you owe taxes. If the government owes you a refund, go ahead and file to collect it. But if you do owe taxes, you have two options: Either you file the forms but leave out the check (possibly replacing it with a brief letter that explains your reasons for withholding payment), or you simply don't file. The second option may be somewhat less risky than the first-- see the next question.

(You can also short-pay your taxes by a token amount, say $10.40, and send out the return with an explanatory note.)


WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

My understanding is that, if the IRS detects your failure to pay, then there's a fairly good chance that they will attempt to assess a $500 civil penalty, i.e. a fine. They may also demand that you pay interest accrued on the missed payment. The chance of being threatened with CRIMINAL penalties, on the other hand, is extremely small. For details, see the FAQ document cited above and the NWTRCC website ( http://www.nwtrcc.org).

Presumably, the IRS is less likely to (immediately) detect your failure to pay if you don't file at all, than if you do file your tax forms but leave out the payment.


WHAT IF I'VE ALREADY PAID MY FEDERAL TAXES FOR 2002?

If you have taxes withdrawn from your paycheck each week/month/etc., then you may want to re-file your W-4 form to reduce the amount withheld; see the next question.


WHAT IF MY FEDERAL TAXES ARE AUTOMATICALLY DEDUCTED FROM MY PAYCHECK?

At some point, you filled out a W-4 form, which your employer uses to figure out how much tax to withhold. You are allowed to fill out a new W-4 at any time, so the idea here is to re-file the W-4 with your employer, filling it out in such a way as to reduce or eliminate the tax withheld from your paycheck. The NWTRCC website has another page with tips on altering your W-4 this way:

Controlling Federal Income Tax Withholding
 http://www.nwtrcc.org/practical1.html

This method carries certain risks as well, which are discussed in the above document.


Obviously, not everyone can afford to take the risks involved in tax resistance, especially if you've been audited before or have had other problems with the law. But even if you can't engage in this form of civil disobedience yourself, please pass this message along to friends & colleagues who may be able to do it.

If you do choose tax resistance, be sure to spread the word! Tell your friends, tell your fellow protestors at the next peace march, and tell the local media. Withholding our tax dollars is one of the few forms of direct leverage we have over 'our' government-- so let's use it!