National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement
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April 2001. HEADLINES IN THIS ISSUE:

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Will Conscience Be Honored by the 107th Congress?

Members and supporters of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) and the Center on Conscience and War (CCW) will participate in a joint lobby day on May 16. NCPTF is campaigning for the right of conscientious objectors to pay their full federal taxes without paying for the military. CCW is working for the repeal or deep stand-by of draft registration.

"We hope that many more Members of Congress will embrace these ideas during the 107th Congress, since they cost nothing and will facilitate the freedom of conscience and religion of all citizens," said Marian Franz, Executive Director of NCPTF.

"This President and Congress have indicated that they strongly support matters of faith," said J.E. McNeil, Executive Director of CCW. "Both of these bills deal with matters of faith which have been long neglected by Congress."

Individuals wishing to join in the lobby day should come to the Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington DC, at 9:30 am on May 16 for a briefing and some refreshments. Those who can't come are encouraged to write a letter to their Representative and Senators.

For further information, contact:

Marian Franz Executive Director, NCPTF, tel.: (888)732-2382, email: marianfranz@peacetax.com

or J.E. McNeil Executive Director, CCW, tel.: (202)483-2220, email: www.nisbco.org

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Beware of Schemes that Promise Easy Ways to Reduce Your Taxable Income to Zero

by Peter Goldberger and James H. Feldman, Jr.

The last issue of More Than A Paycheck offers a valuable reminder to war tax resisters: If a tax avoidance strategy seems too good to be true, it probably is. While this common bit of wisdom is well known, it is sometimes difficult, even for principled war tax resisters, to resist the promise of an easy way to live above the poverty line without being forced to fund the next war. Since we are among the very few attorneys who give sympathetic assistance to war tax resisters (we have done so on a consistent basis for more than 25 years between the two of us), we are often called by resisters for legal advice. Several times a year, war tax resisters ask for our opinions concerning such schemes. Invariably, these strategies promise more than they can deliver. Most are simply recipes for tax fraud, often being promoted by "tax protesters" whose principles and politics are diametrically opposed to those of most conscientious objectors.

The truth is that there is no easy and legal way to avoid owing any income tax. Refusing to pay taxes, other than by earning less than the taxable limit, is essentially civil disobedience-with all the risks that that entails. Over the years, NWTRCC has offered resisters sound advice concerning those risks and strategies to limit them. NWTRCC's philosophy, as we have understood it, is to provide resisters with solid information, so that people can make informed choices. We were therefore surprised and dismayed to read in the last issue of More Than A Paycheck that there is supposedly now "A legal way to avoid paying war taxes." Unfortunately, there is not. That article does not disclose any well kept IRS secret. Instead, the author has apparently fallen prey to a common tax fraud scheme-one of which the IRS is well aware. We are concerned that the article will innocently and unwittingly cause other principled resisters to follow a misguided path. We hope that this article does not signal either a change in NWTRCC philosophy or a willingness by MTAP to serve as a platform for articles promoting questionable tax avoidance schemes without first verifying their accuracy, or at least soliciting other viewpoints.

The article states that it is possible to "convert most of your personal expenses into business deductions by setting up a home based business, bringing your taxable income to a very low amount or even zero." So as not to deter people who actually work for a living from taking advantage of this "new strategy," the article assures the reader that "it can take as little as 15 minutes a week," and require little more than "telling someone about your business or mentioning your business's name" to reduce your "taxable income to a very low amount or even zero." Apparently, most of those "fifteen minutes a week" involve nothing more than "keep[ing] the right records," which the article assures "should take literally only 10 to 15 minutes." In other words, the article claims that by doing no more than five minutes of unproductive "work" and ten to fifteen minutes of record keeping a week, one can claim most, if not all, of one's living expenses as deductible business expenses, and thereby reduce taxable income to zero. We urge readers not to follow the author's suggestion.

This article is full of bad legal and tax advice that can only lead to trouble for MTAP readers. While the article claims not to be giving "legal or tax advice that would make [the author] liable for the misfortunes of those reading this article"-it is clear that the article does give legal and tax advice. How could an article that says, "This strategy is legal" not be giving "legal" advice? While the author has little to fear from lawsuits-the First Amendment protects him from legal liability for the actions of others for simply writing about this "new strategy"-he is certainly morally liable for the fact that others might actually believe and act upon that "information." The article also cites unnamed authorities and vague, inherently incredible statistics which we have been unable to verify or obtain from the author on request. Those unfortunate enough actually to follow the article's advice would not only, in our opinion, diminish the power of their witness by being dishonest, they would almost certainly be committing tax fraud, and expose themselves to severe civil as well as possible criminal penalties.

This is not to say that self employment is not an excellent strategy for many war tax resisters. Self employment (the kind that requires actual work and generates actual income) offers many valuable ways to reduce taxable income legally. Self employment also eliminates one of the IRS's most effective collection tools-wage levy. If you don't earn wages, you have no wages to levy. The problem with the article is not that it advocates self employment as a war tax resistance strategy, but that it seems to encourage people either to create businesses designed to have operating expenses which come close to or even exceed income (resulting in no taxable income) or to claim personal expenses as business expenses (also resulting in a reduction of taxable income). Either purpose could constitute tax fraud. While a business need not generate income to be legitimate, it must at least be created with the intent to generate profit.

Resisters who are interested in learning about the advantages and risks associated with self employment should read NWTRCC's excellent pamphlet, "Self Employment: An Effective Path for War Tax Refusal" (Practical War Tax Resistance #4). Resisters who want to learn even more, should seek the advice of a CPA or tax attorney, or other competent tax adviser, or read one of the many excellent and legitimate books on starting and running a small business.

We have great respect and admiration for people whose integrity and straightforward honesty lead them to resist paying for war. By their willingness to put principle ahead of individual self-interest, they bring us closer to a just and peaceful world. We also totally support all lawful and honest means for avoidance of taxes. These are not inconsistent either with the law or with the principles of pacifism and nonviolence. On the other hand, we would hate to see NWTRCC get caught up in promoting bogus strategies for illegal tax evasion, which are consistent with neither.

Peter Goldberger and James H. Feldman, Jr. are attorneys practicing in Ardmore, PA.

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MANY THANKS

Many thanks to the following groups that have given since our last newsletter!
Chicago Area War Resisters Support Group
Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance
War Resisters League
National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund
Washington (DC) Area Alternative Fund
Bethesda (MD) Friends Meeting
Quaker City (NH) Unity Monthly Meeting
Taxes for Life (Akron, PA)
Birmingham (AL) War Tax Objectors
The Nuclear Resister
Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation
Albuquerque War Tax Alternative Fund

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Call for WTR Recipes!

Do you have a favorite dish you serve when an IRS agent visits? What do you bring to your WTR group's potluck dinner? What do you serve on tax day? Be part of the War Resisters League next vegetarian cookbook calendar!

Send along your favorite recipe(s) for Appetizers Soups Breads Main Dishes Side Dishes Desserts Smoothies and non-alcoholic drinks too!

Got a favorite potluck recipe? A perfect recipe for large groups? One with political significance? Send it along.

The 1994 WRL cookbook calendar was a great success. Many of those recipes are still in use, and the demand for a new edition has been high, so be part of this fun project and see your name in print. You can also include a couple sentences about where you got the recipe or why it's special.

Send messages by email to editor Ruth Benn at ruthbenn@juno.com or on paper to:
Cookbook Calendar
War Resisters League
339 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10012
The deadline is August 30, 2001. The calendar will be coming out in 2003.

TAX REDIRECTION

The Urban Action School: Participatory Education for All

This is the first in a sporadic series of articles focusing on how affiliate groups are using their resisted tax money to create a new society within the shell of the old. It is these stories of the positive that can spark our creativity and keep us going for the long haul. If you have a story from your group that you want to share, please contact the NWTRCC office.

The Urban Action School is a Seattle based experiment in participatory education. Members of the Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia have been involved since its inception. A group of labor and community activists began meeting in 1998 to create a school which would offer empowering and participatory classes useful to people creating social change. The group met for more than a year to develop the mission, course criteria, and to recruit faculty and course proposals. Over 50 people attended the Urban Action School's kick-off reception event, held at the Seattle Labor Temple in March 1999. Since then, they have offered classes in the spring and fall of each year. The Urban Action School's mission statement reads (in part) as follows: "The Seattle based Urban Action School is dedicated to participatory education for working people, the unemployed, homeless people, youth, community organizers, and activists."

The Urban Action School: starts with the real interests and experiences of participants; stimulates conversations between people who don't normally get together; offers informal, participatory, and accessible education in leadership, social justice, economics, history, and organizing; practices and teaches a liberating theory of race, class, gender, and authority; works to change power relationships in society; and aims to inspire a sense of hope and create opportunities for action.

The school aims to help participants develop a critical analysis of issues facing their communities in Seattle, and to create capacity for action around those issues.

The classes the Urban Action School offers cover a wide range of issues and skills. For example, in the recent fall quarter you could attend classes on African Americans and Jews; Interlocking Oppressions; Justice Organizing for Tenants; Theater of Liberation; Personal Story and the Power of Poetry; Investigating Corporate Power; Activism or Personal Growth?; Disability, Access and Public Transportation in Puget Sound; Independent Media Against Global Capital, and more.

NACC has consistently offered classes in nonviolent direct action and in consensus decision making, taught by four highly experienced NACC organizers.

The Urban Action School tries to makes classes financially accessible by having a sliding scale. They make it clear that nobody will be turned away for lack of funds, and encourage people to "Pay where you fit. Pay more if you can." The Urban Action School is an experiment and is still evolving. They'd love to hears from others who are involved in similar efforts and learn from your experiences. If you feel inspired to start a similar venture yourself, they'd be happy to help in any way they can.

For more information about the Urban Action School, see www.urbanaction.org, call 206/464-9129, or write to PO Box 95316, Seattle, WA, 98145.

This article was excerpted from an article in the NACC newsletter written by Vivien Sharples.

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WTR IDEAS AND ACTIONS

Sustaining WTR: In a Nest, Not Out On a Limb

by Bill Ramsey and Mary Loehr

How can we sustain ourselves and our WTR for the long haul? Here are a handful of ideas.

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Envisioning Goals For Our Movement

by David Bassett

As I was waiting in the airport for my plane one Sunday morning, I began to think of where our movement has come thus far, and how we may begin to think of it (and structure it) in the coming several years.

I submit the following thoughts, for your consideration and comment. It is my hope that the momentum generated by the Eighth International Conference will soon carry forward to an enlarged and even more active Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation (COMT) movement, with the three principal organizations: Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI), the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund/Peace Tax Foundation (NCPTF), and NWTRCC working and planning well together (and separately, where that is appropriate).

Goals for (CPTI), and for national Peace Tax Fund and WTR programs, for 2000-2004

  1. Complete the history project, international and US.
  2. Encourage the writing of the history of conscientious objection (CO), and of COMT, by one or more major historians.
  3. Write biographies, and record oral histories of leaders in the field of CO & COMT.
  4. Create a listing of undergraduate, graduate, law school, and public policy school courses and degree programs on
    -peace studies;
    -conflict resolution;
    -CO to war;
    -COMT.
  5. Encourage creation of literature (including children's literature) and art regarding COMT.
  6. Establish curricula (for all age levels) leading to understanding of -conscience; -pacifism; -CO to war; -COMT.
  7. Encourage studies of the -psychology -philosophy -theology of CO and COMT.
  8. Get words regarding CO, and COMT into key international (including UN) documents. For example: "In the context of the right not to be complicit in killings, we call for full legal recognition of the rights of conscientious objectors, and of the right of conscientious objection to the payment of military taxes."
  9. Help COMT to become an acceptable plank in the platfroms of various political parties.
  10. Engage in political activity, ensuring that supportive administrations, and candidates are found, elected, and kept in office.
  11. Work to create, in individual nations, a link between an established federal system which recognizes COMT, and an established federal system providing for a national Nonviolent Peace Force (this in turn being linked to a Global Nonviolent Peace Force) (see Peaceworkers at www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org.)
  12. Carry out surveys to determine the proportion of people supportive of, and engaging in war tax resistance and peace tax campaigns in all countries.
  13. Arrange for economic analyses of the effects of COMT in various countries, depending on -their tax systems; and -their economic systems.
  14. Encourage reviews of the judicial status of CO, and of COMT, in various countries (including detailed description of efforts to gain legal recognition of these rights.)
  15. Seek out, and support judicial challenges until one, and then another country provides judicial (constitutional) recognition of the right of COMT.
  16. Establish an international office (and national offices) of CPTI, with adequate funding, staff, and endowment.
  17. Establish effective, and inter linked web pages for CPTI; NCPTF; NWTRCC; War Resisters League, & WRL International; Fellowship of Reconciliation; American Friends Service Committee; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Mennonite Central Committee; New Call to Peacemaking; Episcopal Peace Fellowship; Jewish Peace Fellowship; Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.
  18. Gain more visibility for the concept of A Culture of Peace; for envisioning the future; and describe steps needed, to gain greater recognition and practice of the concepts of ahimsa, satyagraha, nonviolence, and pacifism on a worldwide level, describing how we get "from here to there", i.e. outline the "natural history" or the evolution of any of these concepts.
  19. Write on the interrelationships between COMT/health/ecology/energy/politics.
  20. Continue work with legislatures and parliaments, to draft the best possible Peace Tax Fund legislation, and to enact it into law.

David Bassett is a wtr living in Ann Arbor, MI, and a longtime advocate for a Peace Tax Fund. P>[Return to List of Headlines]

RESOURCES

Radio Free Maine

Audio and video tapes on a range of basic social justice issues are offered by Radio Free Maine. There are tapes on problems: the myths about capitalism, democracy, and freedom in the US, corporate power, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction, and tapes on solutions: a real health care system, greater social supports for women and children, and a society actively seeking to understand and create change. Talks by an impressive list of progressive voices are available. Some examples of people featured are: Brian Willson (a war tax resister), Howard Zinn, Stephanie Coontz, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Schell, Carolyn Chute, Mary Daly, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Manning Marable, among a host of others.

For a catalogue, send a self-addressed envelope with $1 postage to Roger Leisner, Radio Free Maine, PO Box 2705, Augusta, ME 04338; 207/622-6629.

Military Recruitment in the Schools

There are several NWTRCC affiliates around the country which are focusing on military recruitment in the schools. Here are some resources available if your group is interested in getting something started.

Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org). COMD is a long-time anti-draft group in San Diego, CA, that contributes significantly to national networking and resource production. Their recently updated web pages include extensive background articles and several downloadable flyers for youth and school organizing. You can also download Choices, an interactive software program for educating young people about the realities of military enlistment and introducing them to nonmilitary alternatives for skills training, community service and college financial aid.

Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (www.objector.org/). The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors supports and promotes individual and collective resistance to war and preparations for war. Their web pages start right out with direct information for youth considering enlistment. CCCO sponsors three major program areas: Military Out of Our Schools, the GI Rights Hotline (1-800-394-9544), and the Third World Outreach Program. This last program is geared to counter the especially high-pressure military recruiting efforts in minority communities. The web pages also contain practical information on draft registration and on getting out of the military's Delayed Entry Program.

The Center on Conscience and War/NISBCO (www.nisbco.org/). The Center on Conscience and War/NISBCO serves as the national clearinghouse on counter-recruitment legislation and lobbying. They also provide extensive legal and educational resources on conscientious objection, and administer the Fund for Education and Training (FEAT), a loan program for individuals who are barred from receiving state or federal financial aid because of their conscientious refusal to register with the Selective Service System. American Friends Service Committee National Youth and Militarism Program (www.afsc.org/youthmil.htm). The AFSC's Youth and Militarism Program focuses on challenging the expansion of military programs in the nation's high schools (such as the Junior Reserve Office Training Corps, or JROTC) and on advocating alternatives that address the real needs of students. Their extensive web pages focus on the following topics: young people and war, life in the military, recruitment in the schools, enlistment issues, alternative to the military, activism, resources, media articles, and Y&M Online, a monthly newsletter about youth, war, and peace.

This information appeared in the newletter of the Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia. Thanks to author Carolyn Stevens.

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Local Group reports

Minnesota

The Minnesota Military Tax Resistance Network (M-TAX) extended its display ad efforts this year to include more newsletters of local peace and justice organizations. Several months before Tax Day the newsletters began carrying quarter page ads asking readers to "make the connection" between their Federal income tax dollars, military spending, and one of several concerns such as nuclear weapons, the U.S. Army School of the Americas, or militarization of the police. The ads also encouraged readers to "explore with us your next steps".

The April newsletters will carry half page ads which both promote the Peace Tax Fund and invite readers to join M-TAX in its Tax Day activities. The cost of the ads were around $20-$25 for a quarter page ad, with some free in exchange for help with mailing the newsletter. Organizations which carried the ads included the local Vets for Peace, Resource Center of the Americas, and Women Against Military Madness.

Southern California

Southern California WTR was present in a small way at the Los Angeles "counter-inaugural" event attended by 5,000 people on January 20. Joe Maizlish gave out quite a few of the War Resisters League's leaflet, "Our Tax Money, Our Choice." About 30% of those passing by accepted the leaflets, and a few stopped to discuss the subject. There seems to be an upsurge in activities in support of equality, social services, and in protest of the U.S. administration. WTR as action and concept can be a part of it-and NWTRCC and More Than a Paycheck can be a good place to exchange ideas, experiences, and inspiration.

Cascadia

The Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia (NACC), has recently made decisions which change its day-to-day activities. Their minimal paid staff positions will support other activist organizations while keeping the focus on WTR work. All other work is on a volunteer basis. That includes nonviolence trainings, an Urban Action School, and coalition work on issues like disarmament, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and Iraq.

For many years, NACC had used most of the interest from resisted war tax dollars in its escrow account to fund office and activist work in Seattle, with a relatively small percentage going to other progressive and direct action groups locally and around the world.

At a group retreat in August 2000, NACC folks decided to shift their focus and grant a large proportion of their escrow interest to outside groups. With the new grant program, the funds will be split about half and half between internal organizational work and external grants. This reflects the energy and interests of the core NACC members, and is part of their evolving nature as a war tax resistance group over their 21-year history. First as the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign, and later as NACC, they charted a course of activist organizing that differed from the structure of most alternative funds which collect funds and grant or loan them out. Over those 21 years, they evolved from an organization which initially intended to pressure Congress for passage of the Peace Tax Fund bill, to a national group that more generally promoted war tax resistance and counseled resisters, to a group that pulled back into its local community and broadened its work to more general anti-militarism organizing, to their current incarnation, wherein they still have many national depositors and a strong interest in providing services and publicity for the war tax resistance community, but wish to use the unique resource of their escrow interest to not just maintain their own work, but to build alternative anti-militarist, politically active institutions.

NACC Grants-spread the word!

NACC is seeking grant applications from grassroots groups for activist organizing and education on issues of peace, social justice and community empowerment. High priority is given to groups that fall outside of mainstream funding sources because they are considered to be too "radical." They will accept applications from groups working on local, regional, national, and/or international issues, and have no restrictions on content focus. Funding limit is $3,000 per recipient group.

For more information, call, write or email NACC, 4554 12th Ave NE, Seattle WA 98105; tel. (206)547-0952; email: cmtc@igc.org.

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Perspective:

Standing In Solidarity

by Sasha Vodnik

In 1995, I was a couple years out of college and beginning to set down roots in my adopted home of Seattle. One aspect of my transition was the process of feeling out how to integrate political beliefs (which had until then been largely theory) into the living of my life. Having entered college as a conflicted conservative Republican studying business, I left unshakably convinced of the utter corruption of capitalism and its associated orbital -isms. I slowly recognized my long-standing doubts and beliefs as budding anarchism. My focus of putting actions to thoughts was related to coming out unapologetically in college as a queer man, and appreciating the comfort in my own skin that stemmed from that experience of aligning my internal reality and my external life.

In Seattle, I had the good fortune to share a room in a house with two other people-one a self-described "professional revolutionary" and the other an artist who worked entirely under the table. Their lives, and those of their friends and allies, introduced me to a wider spectrum of ways of living "real life," widening the set of possibilities for incorporating conscience and convictions while carrying on with the day-to-day. At the same time, I began working a new job as a freelancer. As April 15 approached for the first time, because I was self-employed I was faced with literally writing a check to the US government. With even a nascent familiarity of its wars and deceit (for starters), I simply couldn't do it. Or perhaps more precisely, I decided that given the options, I couldn't do other than to take the more difficult route: refusing to pay. The WTR community in Seattle held a WTR workshop around the same time, which was quite helpful in putting my initial misgivings in perspective, along with answering a lot of questions.

A year later I moved to San Francisco to join my then-partner. Although I was firmly committed to WTR, I faced a couple new challenges: a WTR mixed relationship, and relatively fewer organized activities in the local WTR community. But fortunately, the US government has continually come through with new examples of malfeasance to strengthen my resolve whenever it has wavered-both through out-and-out wars, and the miscellaneous evil that activists constantly bring into focus through committed research and work.

In the last couple years in particular, my WTR challenges have become more personal. Through the lens of challenging white supremacy, I've identified one of these obstacles as simply the temptation of privilege. Since I'm employed doing interesting work that pays well, this culture regularly offers the lure of, "just pay up, and you can have all this stuff; you can take full advantage of the money and power to which you have access as a middle class white man." Another challenge, tangential to the first, is a simple desire for security. Who wouldn't love to own a place to live, rather than rent, and to sock money away for a more relaxed old age? (And in reality, who doesn't deserve that?)

When I make contact with the roots of my WTR-what tax money pays for, along with its far-reaching effects-the challenges seem pretty small in comparison. Ultimately I think everyone should have the luxury of a little security-insurance that we'll have roofs over our heads, and that health problems won't result in financial ruin, for example. But as long as that's not the norm in our culture-and as long as our culture is driven by a capitalist ethic that actively works to undermine such security-WTR is, for me, a relatively small way to stand in solidarity with folks who aren't granted carte blanche due to sex, or skin color, or citizenship status, or class, or mental health.

Sasha Vodnik is a wtr currently living in Virginia.

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National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

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Ithaca, NY 14851
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