National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

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

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Tax Day, 2000
Supreme Court Refuses to hear Rosa Packard's Case
Perspective: The IMF, World Bank, and War Tax Resistance, by Peter Meyers
Counseling Notes: IRS Tidbits
NWTRCC Business: Join us at the IRS! [Washington DC, July 6-9]
Local Group Reports: SOA and WTR; State College, PA
WTR Profile: Why I Do It, by Neil H. Golder

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Supreme Court Refuses to hear Rosa Packard's Case

The Supreme Court chose Tax Day (April 17, 2000) to decline to hear the case of Rosa Packard. Rosa is a NWTRCC member and Connecticut Quaker who challenged the authority of the Internal Revenue Service to penalize her for her religiously based nonpayment of federal income taxes.

For the last 18 years Rosa, of Greenwich, Connecticut, has filed her income tax return, notifying the Internal Revenue Service by an attached letter that her core religious beliefs prevent her from paying a tax if any part of the money collected from her is used to fund war or preparation for war. Every year she has placed the full amount of her taxes into an escrow account maintained by the regional Quaker organization, Purchase Quarterly Meeting.

In 1998 she sued the government for the return of penalties assessed for late payment of taxes and for failing to pay estimated taxes. She argued that the government must abate the penalties it had previously imposed unless it could prove that its present policy was the least restrictive means for achieving a "compelling governmental interest." She also argued that the imposition of penalties on an individual exercising her religious convictions is discriminatory since the IRS has the discretion to waive penalties for secular reasons. Both the Free Exercise provision of the First Amendment of the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 were cited as the basis for her claim. The case was dismissed in the District Court and appealed to the Second Circuit.

Packard versus United States of America is the third case brought by Quaker plaintiffs under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Cases dismissed by the Supreme Court earlier this year included another Second Circuit case brought by Edith and Gordon Browne of Vermont, and a Third Circuit case brought by Priscilla Adams of New Jersey. In all three cases the government argued that were these cases to succeed, they would open the floodgates for tax resisters.

Rosa's case differed from the Adams' and the Brownes' to three distinct ways: first, she pays the entire amount of her taxes in trust for the government into an escrow account overseen by Purchase Quarterly Meeting. Second, the case made a due process argument that because her case was not given a hearing, the requirements of RFRA were violated. Under RFRA, the government must prove with evidence that infringement of religious exercise constitutes the least restrictive means of furthering a "compelling governmental interest." Finally, it was the narrowest of the cases, challenging only the imposition of penalties as an infringement of religious liberty: The other cases addressed the actual payment of taxes and interest

But as Henry Elkins, clerk of Purchase Quarterly Meeting, points cut, "The government allows a host of exemptions, exceptions, and write-offs for all sorts of purposes. The government could waive the penalties for people like Rosa Packard. Refusal to do so places the Internal Revenue Service in the position of being exempt from HERA and the First Amendment."

With the avenue of the courts closed by these cases, efforts turn to Congress and the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill. Despite the losses in the Courts, none of the plaintiffs will be moved to pay war taxes.

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Tax Day, 2000

War Tax Resistance groups organized actions in over 50 cities on April 15th and 17th this year! Conscientious objectors to paying for war gave away nearly $50,000 in refused tax money, leafletted at post offices and federal buildings, and participated in creative street theater to protest federal spending priorities. In our next issue we will report on Alternative Fund grants for 2000. Meanwhile, here are highlights of some local actions.

ASHEVILLE, NC

A very small group gathered in Asheville on a chilly and rainy day. At the main Post Office, two folks leafletted for about an hour before they were asked to move by postal employees. They went to another T post office, where the sidewalks are apparently owned by the federal government. The leafletters were asked to leave. Though they moved to the mail drop off box, a police van and three officers arrived shortly Though the officers listened to the leafletter's arguments, they insisted they had no legal right to practice free speech on federal property. Public spaces for protected free speech seem to be shrinking everywhere. Other post offices are located in shopping plazas owned by corporate entities who have the right to deny or grant permission to leaflet.

ASHLAND, OR

Over 100 signatures for a petition on how the federal budget is spent equaled over 100 conversations in Ashland, OR. Darth Vader was present, as the theme of the day was the new Star Wars initiative War Resisters League pie charts and information sheets about Star Wars were handed out.

BANGOR, ME

Activists in Bangor, ME, held a press conference at which they gave away 53,000 in grants to groups, on the theme of debt relief. Groups included a Family Development Account Coalition, a women's coop in Chiapas, Mexico, and a low income craft coop. They had a phone link interview with a Maine person in Washington, DC for the April 16 demonstrations and the announcement of the formation of the Maine Global Action Network, which was one of the grantees.

DALLAS, TX

Activists in Dallas, TX, conducted a penny hull Giving passersby 10 pennies each, they asked them to "vote" on the federal budget. They polled 61 people. After voting or declining to vote, people were offered a flier describing actual spending. One person who worked the poll says that, in general, people:

DES MOINES, IA

Folks in Des Moines, IA, held a bake sale and penny poll. Behind them was a poster with the saying, "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber!" They raised $300 from the bake sale, which was held in downtown Des Moines. Proceeds will go to the Des Moines School District Alternative High School, which is vastly underfunded. About 100 people voted in the penny poll. The results were dramatically different from where they are currently allocated.

ELKHART, IN

In Elkhart, IN, several hundred Post Office patrons voted in a penny poll on how they wanted their taxes spent. At the end of the day, their message: spend more federal funds for education, health care and the environment, less on the military. This was the fourth year that members of Bethany Peace Society and Christian Peacemaker Teams conducted the penny poll at the Elkhart Post Office. They report that results have been pretty consistent.
"The main value I see is in asking people to think about how they would like their money spent, and about how the government is now spending their money," said Erin Kindy "It gives people an opportunity to speak."
On the other hand, the most, common treason given for not participating was: "No one cares what 1 think; no one is listening." Others said they didn't have time to think about it. "Democracy is in trouble when people are too busy to care about what their government is doing," commented Eric Meyer, a high school student.
At the end of the day, results were phoned to the offices of legislators, and to the IRS.

EUGENE, OR

Military Tax Resistance of Lane County, focused on the nationally coordinated SOA (School of the Americas) Watch Fast 2000 actions this year. It seemed especially appropriate, since this grassroots campaign took place during the tax season. The Fast 2000 campaign hoped to involve 2000 groups nationally and even more individuals who would engage in a juice fast of up to two weeks. Fourteen local groups endorsed the action, and about 28 people fasted, at least eight for a week or more.
The Eugene folks feel that the fast was meaningful and that the message reached a lot of people.
On Tax Day, folks passed out flyers, conducted a penny poll, and had an op ed piece in the daily paper.

GREENFIELD, MA

About 20 people processed to the Post Office with signs and life-sized, somber puppets of Iraqi mothers and babies. They passed out pie charts and flyers about Iraq. The local paper printed a photo and a fairly long article about war tax resisters in the area. Some folks went on to Andover, MA, where there was a parade from the regional IRS office to Raytheon, where there was a rally and civil disobedience.

HESSTON, KS

Last year it was dessert pie, this year it was pizza pie! Folks from Hesston, KS, handed out pie and pie charts to last minute filers at the Post Office.

ITHACA, NY

War Tax Resisters in Ithaca redirected $1,000 to a support group of African American men recovering from addictions, and loaned $3,000 to the revolving bail fund of a jail activist group.

MEMPHIS, TN

Folks in Memphis leafletted at the main branch of the library, as this is where tax forms were due last year. Aunt Sam(antha) was present, handing out reports on how to define national security There was a medium amount of traffic and dialogue with individuals.

NORTHAMPTON, MA

Activists held signs on a bridge about how much money Northampton sends to the Pentagon each day (info provided by the National Priorities Project), and leafletted at the Post Office.

PHILADELPHIA, PA

Noon on April 17th was WET on the west side of Philadelphia's City Hall, but costumes on Uncle Sam, Daddy WarBucks and his Missus, and a General drew attention of those hurrying by under umbrellas and drivers stopped for traffic lights. A large "sacred cow" stood munching money under a plastic cover as Uncle Sam called, "Arms for the Poor, Arms for the Poor _.. You know we've got to arm those poor countries!" Brandywine Peace Community passed out a flyer, tailored to the greater Philadelphia area, describing how Lockheed-Martin corporation was receiving an average of $200 from every taxpayer. Almost no one paused long enough to grasp the idea of the penny poll or pick up a WRL pie chart. A penny poll at the Hamilton Mall (near Atlantic City), however, garnered 436 responses!
The Brandywine group also leafletted and vigiled from 10:30 pm 'til midnight at Philadelphia's main Post Office drop-off for the thousands of last-minute filers. Lockheed Martin is the world's largest weapons corporation and the U.S.'s chief nuclear bomb contractor. As part of its ongoing campaign, the Brandywine community leafletted at train stations and Post Offices in the Philadelphia area from mid-March to Tax Day.

PORTLAND, OR

Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance had three members on local community radio Friday April 14, for a morning rush-hour call-in show. On Monday, April 17, they gathered with activists from other peace, justice and environmental organizations at the main post office from 4-6 PM. They distributed literature, and talked about how the bloated military budget affects everyone. They finished up by publicly redirecting $5,367.40 in resisted taxes to representatives of the groups receiving the money

SANTA ROSA, CA

This was the 20th year of anti-military leafletting by the peace community in Sonoma County on Tax Day, at multiple Post Offices. War Tax Resisters handed out about 5,000 of the 1040 SIMPL form, a parody of the IRS' 1040 EZ form. Some questions from the SIMPL form: "When are you getting a second job to pay for your share of the military budget? Did you know that a 10% reduction in the U.S. military budget for one year would send more than half a million people to college for four years, all expenses paid? Whose government is it, anyway?"

SKOWHEGAN, ME

Two cars, valued at about $2,000, were given away to two families in need of reliable transportation, in Skowhegan on April 18. The cars were donated by the Maine War Tax Funds for Life.

ST. LOUIS, MO

War Tax Resisters in St. Louis combined efforts with SOA folks for tax day. They presented three tax resistance letters to their local Senators' offices. They are redirecting $5,000, but will do this in May and June at the Board Meetings of the groups to whom they are giving.

TUCSON, AZ

About a dozen war tax resisters were out in front of Senator Jon Kyl's Tucson office for about an hour on April 13 with Peace Action's 50' inflatable mock missile and a 35 foot banner which reads "Here We Go Again--More Nukes, More Star Wars, More $$ Wasted." The missile was used to highlight the swelling cost of the national ballistic missile defense program strongly promoted by the Republican lawmaker.
Pentagon planners have announced that the revived Star Wars program ,krill cost at least $30.2 billion over the next two decades, a huge increase over previous estimates. Flyers describing opposition to Star wars were left in the Senator's office.
Activists were also at the local earth day festival on April 17, at a demonstration in support of actions in DC on the 17th. and leafletting near the main PO. for tax time on the 17th

WASHINGTON, DC

On April 14, 2000 members of the Washington Dc: Area Alternative Fund attended the "Keep Space for Peace" rally in Washington, D.C. where war tax resister Carol Moore announced the presentation of more than $10,000 in resisted tax monies to two dozen peace and human needs groups.
Because the rally happened the weekend of the IMF/World Bank protests, which police feared would be a repeat of the worst aspects of Seattle, the hundred odd peace activists were surround by about 30 police! It certainly dramatized the "militarization of law enforcement" which NWTRCC recently added to its statement of purpose.
Other speakers at the rally included well-known anti-nuclear activist Dr. Michio Kaku who spoke about the hundreds of nuclear physicists who have: refused to work on "Star bars" type projects. Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, which sponsored the rally, and Gordon Clark of Peace Action spoke about the evils of the government's newest attempts to put nuclear materials and nuclear weapons in space.
Carol clearly outlined the ways that people can do "token tax resistance," withholding a small or even a significant amount of money until the IRS threatens to impose a lien. She also urged listeners to consider "hard core" war tax resistance, and just refuse to pay at all. She reminded the audience that nuclear weapons and nuclear war are the number one reason peace activists must stop paying for the wars that we work so hard to stop.

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Perspective:

The IMF, World Bank, and War Tax Resistance

By Pete Meyers

It's early in the morning of April 16th, 2000. An excitement is in the air of Washington, DC as activists, young and old; from near and far, have gathered together in hopes of closing down the annual Spring Meetings to start this morning between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

I have come to DC with about a hundred or so people from Ithacastudents, professionals, senior citizens, laborers-and we are feeling a sense of mission and purpose. IMF and World Bank officials are on the defensive. In a sense, we have already won, as we have created the space for national dialogue surrounding the IMF and World Bank. Such a dialogue has never before existed. Of course, the mainstream media has done its share of distorting our message. That is to be expected.

As a group of fifteen of us walk toward the action, we run into a group of five people who have just been released from fall. These five people were part of a group of 600 people arrested the night before. None of the 600 had been looking to get arrested. They were manifesting energy peacefully to bring attention to the prison-industrial complex, to general, and to Mumia Abu-Jamal's case, in particular. The prison-industrial complex is part and parcel of the living organism that we have come to DC to protest, shut down, and otherwise transform.

As we lope across Nebraska Avenue to get to the Metro, we inadvertently block traffic. A woman in a car is forced to stop for us. I think she is going to be angry that we're holding her up. She leans out of the window asking, in what seems to be a Haitian Creole accent, if we are going to the IMF/World Bank protests. We say yes. She says, "Thank you so much! You are doing this for us!" All of a sudden, any doubts about what I/we are doing in DC are gone!

I have traveled to Haiti and Nicaragua-like many fellow WTR's 1 have seen, first hand, what pain and suffering the IMF and the World Bank, despite their rhetoric, are capable of causing. This woman's support for us indicated to me that whether or not she knew what a "structural adjustment program" (SAP) was, that she does know the effects such SAP's have upon her country.

This woman's support for our protest indicates that she does know that the IMF and World Bank's continued monetary support for Haiti are conditioned upon the imposition of a structural adjustment program. Such a program will require a decrease or total elimination of government spending on education, health care, public transportation-programs that weren't funded well in the first place-so that the government will have the money to pay their loans back to these international financial institutions. "User fees" are charged now for government services such as education, health clinics and drinking water,

She may or may not know that her country is being groomed to take advantage of its "comparative advantage". Comparative advantage is the international financiers' terminology for exploitation. It means that a country is being groomed for several export items that the rich Northern peoples would like to have, such as mangoes, coffee, and cheap labor, etc.

This woman may have lived herself on a small plot of land in Haiti-like many people around the world-where she and her family were able to eke out an existence growing rice and other basic staples. Now the global economists deem Haiti to be important only for its mangoes, coffee, and cheap labor. All land is sold to large landowners. The people are forced to move into the cities.

The only thing not to be exported to the North is people-cheap labor. Labor is cheaper when it resides in Haiti. Disney-one example among many-can take pride in providing jobs to the Haitian people at sweatshop wages. How many times have I heard that people in developing countries should feel fortunate that multinational corporations are providing them with a job!

My group of fifteen gets onto the Metro and ride into DC's government district. Police are all over the place in full military regalia as we head towards the Ellipse across the street. from the Washington Monument.

A man from Bolivia is addressing 10,000 or so people at the rally that is being "permitted" by the police. He is one of the leaders in the recent Bolivian movement to challenge the governments' selling off of its state-owned water company to a subsidiary of the San Francisco-based Bechtel Corporation.

Water in Bolivia was already at an intolerable $5 a month when owned by the government. The average Bolivian monthly wages are, on average, $100 a month. Water prices had jumped up to $20 a month since the company was sold to Bechtel- Bolivians took to the streets this March to protest. At least ten people lost their lives to police violence. The Bolivian government quickly capitulated-with the help of people worldwide through Internet organizing-and forced Bechtel to leave the country

I drift out to the streets where "peacekeepers" warn me that 1 will risk arrest should I go outside of the Ellipse. I continue on to where the "direct action" is taking place. There are standoffs between police and protesters on just about every block between the, Ellipse and where the lMF/World Bank nil stings are taking place-about six blocks away.

Every time the police put their riot masks on, protesters put their masks on. Bandanas soaked in vinegar. (Vinegar will help to keep the tear gas from getting into the sinuses). Some of us scurry= away riot wanting to get sprayed, gassed, hit, or arrested. This is not a good weekend to be arrested. Finals are coming up for some of us. Some of us will be deported if arrested. Some can't afford the time off from work.

On my way back to Ithaca and in reflection after A16, I am exceedingly happy that so many people have begun to make a connection about the ways in which economic violence is a form of warfare. We are no longer under the illusion that it's only bombs that kill people. I feel good about war tax resistance and how it is a concrete alternative to helping to fund a machine that destroys- I would like to add the word "economic" to war tax resistance.

I am excited that there are so many young people out here that are taking interest in tax resistance. 1 have spoken to a good portion of the students who went on our trip to DC from Ithaca about war tax resistance. Generally I am finding a lot of support and interest in our movement from young people. Their questions are the usual. How can you do that? Won't they put you in jail for that?

When 1 explain that our WTR movement is about putting our money where our mouth isa form of economics that stands in solidarity with those most victimized by a corporate-driven global economy-they are genuinely challenged to look at what responsibility we all have to live in accord with our conscience.

Pete Meyers is a war tax resister who has recently moved to Ithaca NY. He a on NWTRCC's Administrative Committee.

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Counseling Notes:

IRS TIDBITS

The IRS has a new statutory provision that (subject to exceptions,) suspends interest and penalties due from an individual taxpayer unless notice of the liability was provided to the taxpayer within a set time period. Notice of the liability is defined as sending in writing to the taxpayer at his or her last known address the amount of the liability, the basis for that liability, and sufficient information or explanation regarding the adjustment to enable the taxpayer to challenge the adjustment. Audit letters that only state which items are under examination are not sufficient to constitute notice. The time period is the 18 months that begin on the day the return was filed or the due date of the return, whichever is later. Contact the NWTRCC office for more details. Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti, in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, warned that various "constraints" on the agency, "including budgetary, have meant providing less than acceptable service to compliant taxpayers, while drastically reducing the level of enforcement for such staff intensive and expensive procedures as case work in exam, collection and criminal activity" Rossotti added that unless the trend is reversed, the IRS "will certainly fail to meet the public's expectations" for the agency.

Many thanks to Clark Hanjian of Vineyard Haven, MA, who for the last five years, has sifted through the Federal Taxes Weekly Alert, a digest of IRS procedures and changes in policy! He highlighted articles of note for WTRs and passed them on to the editor of More Than A Paycheck. That volunteer task has been passed on to Joe Maizlish and Sarah Forth of Los Angeles.

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Local Group Reports:

SOA AND WTR

"Why don't you just quit paying taxes?" the Federal Judge asked!

In a trial of nine defendants accused of trespassing onto the U.S.Army Reservation at Ft. 13enning, GA, Margaret Knapke, from Dayton, Ohio, told the judge, "We are being 'obedient to the Nuremberg principles. Citizens are required to not cooperate with government policy that leads to war crimes such as those in Central America committed by graduates of the U.S. Army School of Assassins,".

Federal Judge Hugh Lawson, who was listening attentively, leaned forward to ask, "In what way have you been called to support the SOA?"
"By payment of taxes," Knapke replied.
"Why don't you just quit paying taxes?" the judge queried.
"I have stopped paying," she replied.

After hearing testimony from all defendants, the judge found all guilty as charged. Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

On the same day; war tax resister David Miller of Asheville, NC drove onto the military reservation with six others in the first of a Gandhian Wave of protests. The six activists, including war tax resister Anne Huntwork of Portland, OR, all previously charged for civil disobedience at Ft. Benning, placed six white crosses in the ground at the front of the Army School of Assassins and dug a small grave site. A child's coffin was nearly buried when they were apprehended by military officials, who took about seven minutes to notice the internment ceremony

STATE COLLEGE, PA

Pete Meyers and Mary Loehr went to an activist conference in State College, PA, the first weekend in April. Mary had been asked to do a workshop on war tax resistance and dragged Pete along to help. There were over 300 people at the conference, mostly students and people in their early twenties. The "workshop" turned out to he a lecture in a lecture hall, but it still went well. There were about 35 people in the audience. In an hour's time slot, Mary and Pete told their personal stories, talked about logistics of doing WTR then opened it up to questions. People asked good questions and seemed receptive- From literature and a sign-up sheet, they got names of about 45 people who wanted more info about WTR. It seemed like a successful attempt at outreach/planting seeds.

WTR Profile

Why I Do It, by Neil H. Golder

Something sticks in my mind that probably has a lot to do with my decision to stop paying U.S. income taxes. The story goes that after a large anti-Vietnam War demonstration in D.C., Alexander Haig, Secretary of State at the time was heard to have said: "Let them march all they want, as long as they pay their taxes." The story may not be true, but its essence is. The government needs our money to keep the military going, to prepare for and make war.

I don't know when or why I came to the idea that killing is bad. Maybe from the Judeo-Christian tradition I was brought up in, or maybe the Buddhist practice I have taken on. It seems pretty natural, and a way to love the world and myself. The way I look at it now is that people who want not to kill, or not to support killing, or maybe even to try to prevent killing, have to make change in their thinking and acting. They also have to decide how far they are willing to go, or how far they are called by conscience to go.

We can't be perfect. When we eat or walk or breathe or take medicine, beings get killed. But we can become aware of what we're doing -- the consequences -- and make very definite efforts to reduce harm. Not eating animals is one good example.

The hard thing is, you might have to make decisions that aren't easy to make and whose consequences put you in difficult places. For me, those consequences are a big part of the juiciness of my life. They're hard and challenging, but oh so worth it, and have brought a richness I couldn't have foreseen.

Over the past 15 years, I've reduced my income to below taxable level. I think this had to do with another comment that stayed with me "You can't do tax resistance and live a middle class life." This is a big thing to give up, but also a great thing to give up. I'm certainly still in the process, and lots of internalized messages remain. But the wonderful part is, 1 live more in connection and in community with others than I ever have. Circumstances have led to sharing of houses, cars, jobs, and all the difficulties and joys of living more frugally and more cooperatively. And these are the kinds of things I would have chosen anyway.

I once heard someone refer to the IRS as his spiritual guide. Meaning, for example, that if at a certain job he got his pay garnished, he'd take it as a sign to leave that job. A little strange I think. But my trip of living below taxable income is a little like letting the IRS determine my income or jobs. It still sounds bizarre as 1 write about it -- not healthy -- and l can remember many resentments. Why would anyone give the IRS (or US government) any spiritual authority?

I'll suggest that to live a life of not harming means to think and act and live by a principle. Taking that principle Seriously means following it, questioning it, discussing it, meditating on it, letting it take you where it may. It's a kind of spiritual guide. Of course, there's always the trap of being too rigid, getting all self-righteous and actually harming self and others through over-adherence to a principle. But I think and hope that, for me, taking on that principle is a joyful challenge, like marriage. It's. part of a larger commitment to justice and it will grow and change as I do.

Even in my most radical outlaw activities, I'm like everyone: we like to have things our way and in our time. That's where I believe that putting ourselves out there in some shaky, scary, insecure places helps build courage and humility. Maybe that's part of why I do it. Of course it has the obvious practical effect of removing funds used for killing from the government (and redirecting those funds for life-giving causes.) I can be happy about that and also, I hope, he happy in the riskiness and community that ensues. So, join up now, and start pushing your envelope. You won't be bored.

Neil Golder is a longtime war tax resister living in Ithaca, NY

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