National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement
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April 2000. HEADLINES IN THIS ISSUE:

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WTRs [War Tax Resisters] Denied Appeals in Supreme Court
Tax Day, 2000
Social Security Tax Payments
Oregon Nurse Suing Dep't of Revenue
Perspective: On Being a Very Public War Tax Resister, by Larry Rosenwald
Counseling Notes: Tax Liens on Inheritances; Offers-In-Compromise; Expanded Filing Options
NWTRCC Business: Spring Meeting This Summer
Local Group Reports: Washington, DC; Ithaca, NY
Calendar: April 9-17, 2000: Mobilization for Global Justice, Washington D.C.; a16.org
Calendar: April 6-16, 2000: Fast [no food], School of the Americas Watch

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WTRs Denied Appeals in Supreme Court

0n January 18, 2000, the Supreme Court summarily refused to hear two separate appeals of three conscientious objectors who cannot pay federal taxes which fund the military.

Priscilla Adams, and Gordon and Edith Browne are Quakers who informed the Internal Revenue Service of their inability, in accordance with their religion, to pay for war. Adams' and the Brownes' cases were based both nn the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion and on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which states that the federal government, in situations where laws impinge on an individual's free exercise of religion, must have a compelling interest to enforce its laws and must find the least restrictive means to do so.

According to Peter Goldberger of Ardmore, PA, longtime NWTRCC adviser, and lawyer to Priscilla Adams, the Supreme Court's action was neither surprising nor precedential. There are approximately 7500 cases per year that ask to be heard by the Supreme Court, and less than 100 are accepted for full consideration. By the Supreme Court not accepting these cases, the decisions that were made in lower courts (the Third Circuit in Priscilla's case, the Second in the Brownes') are sell binding, If you live in those jurisdictions, says Goldberger, "you could not honestly expect to win in court (district or tax), either a First Amendment case or a RFRA." The federal Second Circuit encompasses New York, Connecticut and Vermont. The Third includes New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the Virgin Islands. Rosa Packard, a Quaker with a similar case, filed her case to be heard by the Supreme Court in late February=, 2000.

The RFRA requires that all agencies of the federal government, including the IRS, prove that they have tried to accommodate individual conscience in cases where a person's religious beliefs may be burdened by the government. Priscilla's, the Brownes', and Rosa's cases all advance Quaker religious beliefs as legal grounds for the right to be accommodated. They presented thoroughly developed arguments under federal statutes and the US Constitution. Cordon and Edith Browne were represented in court by Quaker attorney J.E. McNeil, who is acting Executive Director of the Center on Conscience and War/NISBCO, in Washington, DC. Because the Supreme Court has declined to hear Priscilla's and the Brownes' cases, those arguments are still open to be heard in other cases. Goldberger would be interested in seeing these arguments tried again, especially within the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Idaho and Guam) because that court has the most favorable precedent under the RFRA.

Having these cases not heard by the Supreme Court provides a very strong argument for the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill. "The judges have in essence said that it's not appropriate for the courts to come up with new exemptions under the tax code, that this is a Congressional issue," says Goldberger.

"We're very disappointed that the Supreme Court will not be taking the opportunity to reinforce religious freedom and freedom of conscience," says Marian Franz, Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund. "Congress seems like the most appropriate place where this human right can be p protected

"We will continue to hope that justice can really be found in the courts, perhaps in the case of Rosa Packard; however, no matter what the courts decide, we assert the right not to participate in military activity, whether that participation is physical or financial," Franz added.

"The federal courts have traditionally been afraid to uphold the rights of individual conscientious objectors against the IRS, just as they once were afraid of conscientious objector claims against the draft and the military," says Goldberger "The Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires all federal government agencies, including the IRS, to make allowances fur the demands of religious conscience.

"So far, the IRS has refused to comply, but we will go on petitioning the courts to enforce this law as long as a remedy seems to remain open to us. Bureaucratic agencies always say it would be too difficult to take account of individual circumstances, but when forced to try, they can find a way -- particularly for people with sincere religious reasons. That is all that the RFRA law requires. This is not a case of civil disobedience; the law is on our side, even though the courts have yet to recognize it."

Priscilla Adams, while disappointed, encourages others not to lose hope.

"Each such legal case will help future cases, and as we continue to raise our voices we will be heard," she said. "It is only by trying that we will succeed. I ask you to continue to follow your own leadings, to have hope and faith in the power of each of our individual and collective acts of conscience, and to believe to the ripples which result from our actions which we can't see. This is what our faith calls us to do."

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Social Security Tax Payments

One WTR who does not file or pay his self-employment taxes does file and pay his self-employment Social Security tax payments Here's what he says:

"I enclose a copy of Form 1040-ES (OCR) Payment Voucher making a very clear that this amount is for the full calendar year. (By regulation I am meant to include my self-employment Social Security in each of four estimated tax payments during the year along with income tax, but since 1 refuse to pay any income tax -- to IRS, that is -- I kick m the exact amount of my self-employment tax right after the year closes, using the formula on Schedule 1040-SE to make my calculation. 1 forget who advised me to do it this way, but it seems to he working.

"Several times in the past few years l have requested the Social Security Administration to send me an update on my accumulated payments and credits for retirement, and each time I was pleased to see that all of my 1040-ES payments had been credited. So, when 1 elected to receive Social Security on turning 70, 1 got the full amount I had 'earned' over the years So far, no indication that IRS is moving to seize the portion of this which they have the power to do."

The number at the Social Security Administration is 800/772-1213.

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Oregon Nurse Suing Dep't of Revenue

An Oregon WTR and Registered Nurse, Ed Martiszus, is suing the Oregon Department of Revenue in a longstanding conflict over taxes. Martiszus claimed exempt on his state taxes because Oregon State Police and Hazardous Material teams are involved in nuclear weapons and nuclear submarine reactor shipments throughout Oregon. Martiszus was garnished at his job between 1998 and 1995. He is using the July 8, 1996 World Court Decision against nuclear weapons and the right of anyone to resist nuclear genocide under the Nuremburg Tribunal decisions as his legal defense. Case law using these treaties as defenses is growing in the US and internationally.

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Perspective:

On Being A Very Public War Tax Resister

By Larry Rosenwald

This is an excerpt from a talk given at the New England War Tax Resistance gathering in Voluntown, Connecticut, in November of 1999. Anyone wanting the full text of the talk can contact the office.

I'll turn now to the last matter I want to discuss, namely the relation between me as a public tax resister and the tax resistance community generally. I'm a little uneasy about discussing this. But the theme of this year's gathering is "Strengthening Our Movement." And for me, that means thinking about the ways in which our movement needs strengthening, i.e., is weak. I agree with the thoughtful, critical reflections Karen Marysdaughter made on our movement in her valedictory essays as NWTRCC's staffperson. My own, admittedly partial and haphazard experiences have confirmed Karen's assessment. l sit on the Grants and Loans Committee of New England War Tax Resistance, and several times in the recent past we've had to cancel meetings because we've received no applications. NEWTR's annual meet ings, when they happen, seem more like family reunions of familiar faces than the occasions for a flourishing movement to reflect and strategize. So it's a good time, in my judgment, to be talking about strengthening our movement, and I offer the following reflections in hope they'll be useful for that.

At the time of my last levy I could have been in closer touch with the tax resistance community I could have been asking for advice about how to formulate arguments about pacifism, and about how to talk with the people in the controllers office, and about whether Wellesley's refusal to execute the IRS levy would in fact jeopardize its tax-exempt status. So why wasn't I doing these things?

Partly because my own temperament got in the way I'm shy, I was raised to be stoic, I like to believe I can handle things on my own, especially arguments. Moreover, I didn't -- and don't -- think that anything very drastic was being done to me, certainly not in comparison with the things that have been done to other war tax resisters. My house wasn't being seized or threatened with seizure, the sums of money being levied weren't such as to threaten our ability to pay our bills or our children's college tuition, our comfortable and sheltered life seemed likely to remain comfortable and sheltered.

Beyond that, though, I think t didn't reach out to the local tax resistance community, even to people I'm friends with, because I'm uneasy, and have a history of being uneasy, about the relation between the kind of public tax resistance t do and the tax resistance community's implicit ideals.

The kind of public tax resistance I do is related to the kind of life I lead, which is for the most part a comfortable and middle-class one, and is partly centered around very specialized, very intense individual accomplishment. Some of the frequently stated ideas in the tax resistance community are at odds with that kind of life, are in fact a critique of that kind of life. To some extent, then, the kind of tax resistance I do is going to be judged, in relation to those ideas, as bland or flawed. And I have some experience of being judged in that way. (I should make clear that I'm not sure I really dissent from this judgment; I'm just trying to set down, as honestly as possible, what it feels like to he the object of it, and what consequences that has for our movement.) There was -- I'm no doubt brooding too much over this -- that meeting called to support me that only two people came to. Again, three years ago, when I filled out the WTR living will for a meeting of the NEWTR support group, I was struck with how many of the questions seemed designed to stress the limited character of my tax resistance -- in my willingness to show the IRS our records (on the unlikely chance that an agent ever asked for them), to provide the IRS with information, to speak to an IRS agent, and in my quite pronounced unwillingness to consider quitting my job or changing my work situation in order to avoid collection. Around the same time, someone on the tax resistance e-mail distribution list wrote that maybe folks who want to live a wealthy life, living in Chevy Chase, MD, the Hamptons, etc. etc., consuming everything they have pitched to them via the media ... well, maybe they should pay their full share for the military, since it is that big-gun-wielding big brother that allows Amerikans to live high on the hog while most of our world neighbors scrape to get by, malnourished, uneducated, dirt poor.

And I thought, well, I'm not consuming everything I have pitched to me via the media, I don't own a house, I have one car and it's not new, my rent is subsidized by the college; but I'm certainly living a life that many people would call wealthy, in a town that many people would also call wealthy; does that mean that I shouldn't be doing war tax resistance?

So it's not so surprising that when we've been levied, our support has come more from outside the tax resistance community than from within it. In most of my communities, I'm marked as a person of conscience, and people admire that, and that's gratifying and strengthening. In the tax resistance community, I feel, perhaps wrongly, as if I'm marked as being only occasionally a person of conscience, taking only moderate risks, incurring only moderate penalties. Particular people are pronounced exceptions to this, and I cherish them a lot. But that's the pattern; and that's why I tend to seek support outside the tax resistance community, even though I know that I thereby weaken my own resistance.

So where does all this lead? Not, I think, to a plea for everyone in the tax resistance community to be nice to me, or to an exhortation for us to attend to our similarities rather than to our differences; I have too much respect for our philosophical disagreements to wish them away. Not to an argument that all modes of tax resistance are equal to value; clearly the movement's center is rightly with the people whose lives are systematically lives of conscience, who take extreme risks and incur extreme penalties.

Maybe, though, where all this leads is to a sense of how each mode of tax resistance needs the other, how each mode is incomplete in itself. I've said a fair amount about the limitations of my own mode of tax resistance. Let me suggest, briefly, some of the limitations in other modes, two in particular. One involves living below the taxable level; it's movingly described in the recent NWTRCC fundraising letter from Mary Loehr. People who do that kind of tax resistance can certainly be public, but there's some sense in which what they're resisting isn't exactly war taxes, but rather the overall economic system of this country, or in which what they're doing in regard to that system isn't exactly resistance but rather self-emancipation. I remember a wonderful talk Bob Bady gave at a gathering on behalf of Arthur Harvey and Elizabeth Gravalos, in which he evoked the great words of Thoreau's essay: "if (the injustice) requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine." People who live below the taxable level are not breaking the law, and their lives are not, in Thoreau's sense, a counter friction to stop the machine; rather they've found a way to get outside the machine altogether. They can he entirely public in what they do with their money; but in a sense, what they're being public about is not tax resistance, not in my sense, but a more radical way of dealing with money in this economy.

The other kind of tax resistance I'm thinking of involves fairly elaborate strategies for keeping the refused taxes out of the hands of the government. It's practiced, in my experience, by people who are, reasonably enough, so revolted by the thought of having their money used for the government's bad purposes that they'll do practically anything to keep it out of the government's hands. This sometimes involves a lot of moving of money from one bank account to another, or not filing tax returns, or filling out W-4 forms to minimize tax deductions, or complicated choices about what kinds of jobs one can hold, and for how long. And people who choose to do this kind of war tax resistance, the ones I know at any rate, cannot be public about what they're doing, because that would jeopardize their main goal, which is to make sure that the government doesn't get the money.

So maybe none of us can do everything that war tax resistance might lead us to want to do. Maybe we can't hold on to the money, maybe we can't get people to listen to us, maybe we can't express our deep resistance to the economic priorities of our country, maybe we can't get the people who set those priorities to notice that we're resisting them. We can only do those things together, piece by piece and resister by resister. We shouldn't ignore our differences; they matter too much. But we can make a better use of them. Right now, for me at any rate, something about the way the center of the movement is related to its margins is keeping me at the margins from reaching out to the people at the center, and thus making it harder for me to do the best possible job of the war tax resistance I actually do. And I'd like to do something to change that.

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Counseling Notes:

TAX LIENS ON INHERITANCES

The Supreme Court ruled in December that the interest of an heir in an estate constitutes "property" or a "right to property" to which the federal tax lien attaches even though the heir later attempts retroactively to disclaim the interest (allow it to flow to the next in line) under the state's law.

If you as a WTR know that you will be inheriting property and you owe money to the IRS, you should ask the person executing the will to put it in someone else's name. Otherwise there is a serious risk that you will lose the inheritance to the IRS.

OFFERS-IN-COMPROMISE

The IRS has announced "a new, simplified method of settling taxpayer debts" under the Offer-in-Compromise program in the form of a fixed monthly payment option.

The program's purpose is to settle tax debt for the maximum amount that a taxpayer can pay Until now, the Offer-in-Compromise standard had required a lump sum payment.

The new option is also expected to assist taxpayers in situations where taxpayers are willing to pay their debts, but the maximum amount they can pay is insufficient to pay off the full amount of the debt. In this situation taxpayers are ineligible for ordinary installment agreements, but will he eligible for the new, fixes monthly payment option. The agency anticipates that the program will also produce increased collections in these situations and eliminate confusion associated with interest calculations for deferred Offer-in-Compromise payments. The fixed payment combines all debts, including interest, owed by the taxpayer under the Offer-in-Compromise terms into a single payment, which reflects the maximum the taxpayer can pay after covering basic living expenses

EXPANDED FILING OPTIONS

The IRS has expanded the options for filing and paying federal taxes electronically. The option to pay taxes by credit card has been expanded to taxpayers choosing to make a payment with their automatic extension of time to file and to those making estimated tax payments. When filing a balance due return, taxpayers can pay with an automatic withdrawal from a bank account by preauthorizing a direct debit from their checking or savings account on a date they specify.

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NWTRCC Business:

Spring Meeting this Summer

NWTRCC's "spring" Coordinating Committee meeting -,vill be held this year in conjunction with the Eighth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Funds in Washington, DC, from July 6-9. If you would like a registration form, call the NWTRCC office. If you have signed up and were planning to stay off campus with NWTRCC folks but haven't called the NWTRCC office, please do so right away! Financial assistance is available if the cost is too great.

The Coordinating Committee will be meeting on Sunday afternoon, July 9, in DC, at the William Penn House on Capitol Hill. This meeting is separate from the international conference and there is no fee associated with it. Anyone is welcome.

As usual at our "spring" meeting, we will be looking for a couple of people to serve as full (three year term) or alternate (one year term) members of the Administrative Committee. This committee works closely with the Coordinator between national meetings. The travel expenses of full members, or alternates filling in for full members, are paid to national meetings twice a year. We will especially be looking for new people from the west coast and the southwest. Anyone who is interested should contact the NWTRCC office by May 15.

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Local Group Reports:

WASHINGTON, DC

Washington WTR attended the National Civil Disobedience Conference at American University again this year. Bruce Baechler and Rachel Harrison did a workshop on WTR (Bruce) and the Peace Tax Fund (Rachel). About 40 people attended the workshop, which was one of three happening at the time. The conference was great! It was a good, young crowd, most of whom are serious about civil disobedience and social change. We had a table of WTR materials and other stuff, and that was pretty popular too.

ITHACA, NY

The Ithaca, NY War Tax Resistance group regathered in February after many years of not meeting! About a dozen people came together for a potluck, shared their ideas for the group and will plan a tax day action, which also has not happened in a long time.

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National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

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