National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

April 2004 Contents

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Editor: Ruth Benn
Layout: Ajay Advani/Susan Quinlan

More Than a Paycheck is the bimonthly publication of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, a clearinghouse and resource center for the conscientious war tax resistance movement in the United States. NWTRCC is a coalition of local, regional, and national affiliate groups working on war tax related issues.

NWTRCC Mission Statement: NWTRCC sees poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, economic exploitation, environmental destruction, and militarization of law enforcement as integrally linked with the militarism which we abhor. Through the redirection of our tax dollars, NWTRCC members contribute directly to the struggle for peace and justice for all.

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Tax Time 2004

Given the times that we are in-ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan; U.S. meddling in Haiti; U.S. weapons supplying violence in Colombia, Israel, and a long list of other places; more and more U.S. tax dollars going to military expenses now and in coming years under the Bush Administration's budgeting-you might expect the NWTRCC telephone to be ringing off the hook. Unfortunately, I have to report that this is not the case. While there are regular calls and emails for basic information, literature orders, reports from first-year resisters, and a steady number of counseling calls, the demand is not overwhelming.

The NWTRCC website gets about 1,500 hits a month, and a good sign was February's report showing most of those people looked at the Contacts and Counselors page. Hopefully that translates into direct contacts with local counselors. While the lack of a mass movement into war tax resistance can some days be discouraging, the advantage of sitting by the NWTRCC phone is that when it does ring, the person at the other end tells you all kinds of great things that are going on in their community. My energy is bolstered for another day.

This is also the time that NWTRCC collects information on actions around the country taking place on, near, or related to Tax Day, April 15. In early April a press release and the action list are sent to newspapers, radio and television stations nationwide, and we hope they will then be in touch with many of you.

Although the list in the link below is not the final version, readers may still gain inspiration for their own efforts or be encouraged to join up with a nearby event. Be sure to contact the NWTRCC office if you plan a tax day event. And remember, please take pictures of your actions for More Than A Paycheck and for use on the NWTRCC website. Mail or email them to NWTRCC at the contact numbers on this newsletter and help get the word out about all the people who are active in protesting taxes for war and in actively resisting and refusing war taxes.

Activities are on April 15, unless otherwise noted. In most cases phone numbers and/or emails are listed for further details.

      - Ruth Benn, Editor

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Counseling Notes:

Frivolous Returns Redux

What do we tell new war tax resisters about the threats of a "frivolous return" penalty that some wtr filers received after filing their forms last year? Among the people who filed and enclosed a letter about their reasons for refusing to pay some or all of their taxes, a small percentage that we know of received the frivolous warning. However, some of those were first-time resisters, and it came as rather a surprise.

As the law is written, enclosing a letter with an accurately filled out form is not subject to this civil penalty and had not incurred the $500 fine in the past. There has been no change in the Internal Revenue Code (section 6702) or regulations on this subject. Unless the return asserts a legally baseless position AND, as a result, contains an erroneous self-assessment of the tax (or as a result the amount of tax cannot be determined), the "frivolous filing" penalty simply does not apply.

Tax alert information that the NWTRCC office receives (more of these are in the next section) states: "IRS has issued Notice 2004-22 listing frivolous positions that taxpayers have recently been taking on their returns. These lack any foundation in law and taxpayers asserting them on a return may incur a $500 penalty. Those who pursue such frivolous arguments before the Tax Court face a penalty of up to $25,000."

The key phrase in this quote is "on a return." It is still the case that if the return itself is free of "frivolous comments and deductions," the form should be accepted as filed. This notice and other IRS information on frivolous positions is available on the IRS website (www.irs.gov).

At this point we can tell new resisters to keep copies of whatever they send the IRS, and, 1) they might receive a "frivolous" warning letter from the IRS; 2) that they should call the number on the letter and contest the warning, pointing out that under the clear language of the "frivolous filing" provision, the penalty does not apply to their conduct; 3) ask for a supervisor if the first person is unhelpful; 4) try to avoid filing a second time for the same year, but if you do, watch for a late filing fee if your original return was sent by April 15; and 5) let a counselor or the NWTRCC office know how all this goes. One of our counselors also suggests that people call the Taxpayer Advocate Service about their form not being accepted as filed (arguments about war taxes won't be heard, but the misapplication of the frivolous fine is appropriate for this office). The Taxpayer Advocate Service is a somewhat independent office of the IRS, explained in IRS Publication 1546, available on the IRS website or from the IRS. There are Advocate offices around the country; call 877-777-4778 for an office near you.

Additional note: Two of the IRS's frivolous positions that are pretty much guaranteed to bring a $500 fine are the "Zero Return" (filling in 0 on all the lines) and the "Blank Return," if there is no IRS-approved reason for filing this way. Also well-established as "frivolous" under this law are taking a "war tax deduction" or similar "credit." An otherwise good article that appeared on the web last year ("War Tax Resistance Made Simple" by Matt Wheeland, still available on AlterNet) included these as methods wtr's use, but individuals who choose either should be made aware of the distinct possibility of a $500 fine. Generally, NWTRCC suggests that filers fill out the 1040 form accurately so as to avoid the frivolous filing penalty. Counselors should be sure to make these warnings clear, while letting individuals make their own choices.

IRS Updates

NWTRCC receives regular updates on tax-related legislation and IRS regulations from the Research Institute of America. Most of this technical detail has little to do with our war tax resistance, but now and then a few things pop up that are related or show trends. Here are a few notes:

o The IRS has announced that the interest rates for tax overpayments and underpayments for the calendar quarter beginning April 1, 2004, will each increase by a full percentage point. Thus, for noncorporate taxpayers, the rate for both underpayments and overpayments for the second quarter of 2004 will be 5%, up from 4%, for the first quarter.

o In a February 23, 2004, notice filed in the Federal Register, the Justice Department announced its intent to conduct a computer matching program with the IRS. Under this matching program, entitled Taxpayer Address Request, the IRS will provide taxpayers' mailing addresses to enable the Justice Department to "locate debtors to initiate litigation and/or enforce the collection of debts owed by the taxpayers to the United States." [Ed.'s note: Debts range from unpaid federal student loans to overdue criminal fines. This has an ominous sound, though at the time I looked I could not find the full notice; if any of you hear more on this, please send a note to the NWTRCC office.]

o The President's FY '05 Budget provides for increases to IRS's budget to enhance compliance and these additional proposals: Add a new civil penalty on the failure to disclose foreign financial accounts; require charitable deductions to reflect accurately the value of the donation by imposing additional appraisal requirements; increase the penalty for frivolous returns and allow it to be applied to frivolous submissions that are not withdrawn after IRS request; permit IRS to terminate an installment agreement if a taxpayer fails to file required returns or fails to make required federal tax deposits; consolidate jurisdiction over collection due process cases in the Tax Court; permit IRS to enter into installment agreements that do not guarantee full payment of a liability over the life of the agreement; allow private collection agencies to support IRS's collection efforts.

Perhaps for many resisters the last item above is one to watch. It is part of the budget proposal, so that doesn't mean it will pass (most of these proposals are tucked into the "budget" but should also be proposed more forthrightly as revisions of the IRS Code). There are Congresspeople who will hesitate to turn collection over to private agencies, but if you hear more on this, be in touch with the NWTRCC office. Sometimes we look at all these technicalities and lose sight of why we do what we do. It usually works to read the day's headlines if a bit of fear begins to creep in.

Independent Contractor Notes

Home Office: For those freelancers and resisters interested in deductions, there is a new issue of Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home, available from the IRS (800-TAX-FORM) that may be useful. The IRS offers fairly specific guidance on how to compute this deduction, and the article where this appeared noted that IRS publications are quite accurate, as opposed to their telephone advice!

Withholding?! A January 15, 2004, New York Times article reported that the Taxpayer Advocate, a position created by Congress to help the public deal with the tax system, proposed in her annual report that taxes be withheld from payments to independent contractors, from truck drivers to freelance writers. The advocate, Nina Olson, said this withholding would reduce the number of people who do not report part or all of their income and may not even file tax returns, and that it would reduce burdens on people who fail to set aside money for taxes and end up in debt to the government. The idea is expected to meet a good deal of opposition from employers as well as contractors, so we may not see any change in the foreseeable future.

(Notes written by Ruth Benn and reviewed by Attorney Peter Goldberger) ?

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MANY THANKS

We are grateful to the following groups who have paid affiliation dues since our last newsletter.

Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia
War Resisters League - National Office

NWTRCC will be sending out 2004 affiliation fee reminders pretty soon. And, since we are coming into the period of redirection, we ask that individuals and alternative funds keep NWTRCC in mind as your redirection decisions are made.

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Network List Updates

Northern California War Tax Resistance has a new and developing website: www.nowartax.org.

Southwest Region - Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation has a new/permanent web address: www.acomt.org.

New network lists of counselors, affiliate groups, area contacts, and alternative funds were updated and mailed out to affiliates in November. The NWTRCC website includes contacts for all listings with offices, and for individuals with email addresses. If you would like the complete national list or the list for your region, please contact the office for a copy.

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International News

WRI Ordered to Pay War Taxes

In February 9, 2004, the City of London Magistrates Court ordered War Resisters' International (WRI) to pay up their war taxes. Arguments were heard immediately prior to the decision.

WRI is an 83-year-old pacifist network based in London with affiliates in 40 countries. In September 2001, the WRI Council, at a meeting in Turkey, called for conscientious objection to war and preparation for war, including refusal to pay war taxes. In December 2001, the War Resisters' International Executive Committee decided to withhold the proportion of the staff's income tax used to fund war. Since then, every quarter WRI withholds 7% of the income tax, representing the proportion of the UK budget used to fund war. The money is held in a separate fund.

In an April 2002 letter to Inland Revenue, WRI wrote: "Both employers and employees feel that our consciences cannot allow us to contribute willingly to military expenditure. It is not our intention to avoid paying this proportion of due taxes, merely to ensure that our employees' human right to freedom of conscience…is upheld by receiving a guarantee that their taxes are not used to further the suffering and destruction brought about by war."

WRI was first taken to court on September 11, 2002, and agreed not to interfere with the tax collector of the Inland Revenue if they sent someone around to pick up the payment in cash.

In court on February 9, WRI representatives explained their position, citing Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), which was incorporated into English law by the Human Rights Act of 1998. Article 9 includes the right to conscientious objection to military taxation. Although the representative of the Inland Revenue Recovery Office conceded that he does not have any knowledge of human rights legislation, he declared that the tax law does not provide for any conscientious objection. Therefore the court should declare WRI's underpayment of income tax as payable debt and should issue an order for WRI to pay.

Although the Magistrates deliberated for roughly 15 minutes, they did not take any of WRI's arguments into account. The Magistrates declared that nothing could be gained by adjourning the case in order to have a full hearing, which could include a legal discussion on human rights, and issued an order against War Resisters' International to pay. The possibility to appeal is under discussion.

For more information or to support WRI please contact: WRI, 5 Caledonian Rd., London N1 9DX, Britain, email: info@wri-irg.org or see the website: http://wri-irg.org>.

Conscience Canada

After a period of reorganization and a move to Toronto, our friends at Conscience Canada are back to producing their newsletter regularly, and they have a presence on the web at www.consciencecanada.ca. In April they are organizing Community Dialogues on Peace across Canada and holding their Annual General Meeting on April 21. Their Spring 2004 newsletter reports on a study by the Ottawa-based Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade on the military-related investments of the Canada Pension Plan, to which millions of Canadians make mandatory contributions. The Pension Fund's investments are based solely on profit, with no social or ethical considerations, and in 2003 the fund invested in 15 of the world's top 20 military contractors. Canadians can register their opposition to these investments at http://coat.open concept.ca.

Tell your friends in Canada about this, and refer Canadian war tax resisters to Conscience Canada, 901-70 Mill St., Toronto, ON M5A 4R1, (416) 203-1402, email: conscience canada@shaw.ca.

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NWTRCC Business

Space for War Tax Resistance; Join us May 7-9

Those creative and irrepressible folks at Citizens for Peace in Space in Colorado Springs are making preparations to host the May 7 - 9 conference and NWTRCC Coordinating Committee meeting. NWTRCC will be gathering in the city at Shove Chapel, somewhere in between two Air Force Bases, an Air Station, an Army Fort, and the united States Air Force Academy. Plenary and workshop presenters include Bill Sulzman, director of Citizens for Peace in Space, and Loring Wirbel, author of Star Wars: U.S. Tools of Space Supremacy; activists from Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center on the clean-up at Rocky Flats; Bill and Genie Durland, who will have just returned from Palestine with the christian Peacemakers teams; plus basic war tax resistance workshops, stories from war tax resisters, and thoughts on sustaining community, especially in a military town.

Registration forms and all the information are on the NWTRCC website, or request a brochure from the NWTRCC office. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Resources

Funny Money

The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund has produced a new version of the "funny money" flyer-great for handing out at big demonstrations (okay, and small ones too). One side says "Free Your Taxes from Enlistment for War!" and gives a short description and contact information for NCPTF and NWTRCC. The other side asks the simple question, "Want to stop paying taxes for war?"

The flyers are available from the NWTRCC office for $5/100 plus $1.42 postage.

Pie Charts

The War Resisters League pie chart is enclosed with prices on the back; a Spanish version is available to download from the WRL website at www.warresisters.org/piechart-spanish.htm. We'll hope to hear that all 100,000 of the print run (only in English) were given out by and on April 15. NWTRCC can fill orders up to 200, or call the WRL office at (212) 228-0450 for larger orders. Get yours today!

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War Tax Resistance Ideas & Actions

Start Singing to Stop War

Mac Song

(Sung to the tune of "Down by the Ohio")

The Heartland Peace Tax Group in Kansas uncovered this song recently and got excited about using it in their war tax actions. It appeared in the Peacemakers Songbook and celebrates the life and witness of Maurice McCrackin, one of the founders of the modern WTR movement.

'Twas in September of '58
The tax men came up to my gate
They said McCrackin we want you
Your income tax is overdue.
I'd lived my life as a preacher should
To try to save my neighborhood
Now I'm in jail, six months to do
I told the internal revenue:

Chorus: Tear up those income tax returns
They'll buy no bombs with what I've earned
If they want my money they can go
Down to the banks of the Ohio.

I'd not support a prostitute
Nor buy some thug a gun to shoot
Why should I buy a war machine
To kill some child I've never seen.
Don't bail me out, don't pay my fine
Your cash can kill the same as mine
There's no one's blood I want to spill
And I'll not pay a war lord's bill.

The men who plan for blood and strife
Demand your money or your life
My faith in God is not for sale
That's why I'm here locked up in jail.
Between these bars I see blue sky
I know that some day you and I
Can live in peace and without war
And that's the day I'm working for.

Don't Pay Taxes

By Charlie King (to the tune of Bye, Bye Blackbird)

The IRS says pay your dues
Business doesn't, why should you?
Don't pay taxes
Enron skipped a year or two,
tell the taxman you're no fool
Don't pay taxes
You can end this yearly aggravation
Just pretend that you're a corporation
And tell 'em that you're workin' hard
Drilling oil wells in your yard
Don't pay your tax

A package you don't want or need
Arrives next April C.O.D.
Don't pay taxes
A few demented terrorists
have got you on their mailing list
Don't pay taxes
Please report these sleazy overspenders
Mark your tax return,
Return to Sender
Call John Ashcroft or any Fed
It's obscene, unsolicited
Don't pay your tax

The dollars that you pay for war
Kill people in El Salvador
Don't pay taxes
If some escape to this fair land
Your dollars send them back again
Don't pay taxes

The generals say they wantcha where they gotcha
They gotcha buyin' Black Hawk helicopters
You work for peace, you pray for it
If you hate war, don't pay for it
Don't pay your tax

(Reprise) Tell the IRS this year
Let 'em know the buck stops here
And don't pay your tax

Recorded on "Sparks and Tears" by Charlie King and Karen Brandow. Look for their touring schedule and CD's at www.charlieking.org

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Local Group Reports

Austin

It's a rare occasion when war tax resisters are among the speakers during the Democratic primaries, but in this case, Austin resister Thad Crouch (pictured right) speaks about the Peace Tax Fund and war tax resistance at the January 3, 2004, Peace/Kucinich Rally in front of the State Capitol. The rally drew approximately 1,000 people, and Thad's speech was well received.

White Plains, NY

WTR Activists Haunt Madam Secretary

Members of the War Resisters League and the WESPAC Foundation scored a double bulls-eye this past March 7, leafletting with pie charts in front of the local IRS office, across the street from Borders bookstore, where former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was signing copies of her memoirs. The peace protesters reminded the public what Albright told reporters several years back, that the sanctions against Iraq, which were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, were "worth it." Fortunately, very few people turned out for the book signing, but a lot of pie charts were handed out to shoppers, taxpayers, and passersby.
      -Mike Levinson

Philadelphia

Eighteen people came to a "War Taxes and Conscience" workshop in Philadelphia on February 28, sponsored by the Conscience, Militarism and War Tax Concerns Working Group of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. During three hours, with Suzanne Rie Day facilitating, participants heard short presentations by three wtr's (Priscilla Adams, Kathryn Mariani, and Robin Harper), which covered some of the why's and how's of war tax resistance, as well as the perils and possibilities experienced in coping with IRS.

The session was characterized by earnest questions and thoughtful discussion of such issues as partners doing war tax resistance together, dealing with the IRS "fear factor," and the central importance of forming support groups.

During a spirited 20-minute break, a great deal of personal networking took place. The mood was very positive, and the sponsors were encouraged by the turnout and quality of sharing.
      -Robin Harper

Maine

The Annual Meeting and WTR workshop of Maine WTR was held on February 28. We set a record by having our annual meeting postponed twice because of snow. About a dozen people turned out despite the postponements, most of them new faces, which made up for the somewhat low number. We agreed to use a Tax Day leaflet being written by Peace Action Maine and WRL pie charts and to leaflet at various cities/towns in Maine. Six locations have been established so far. A second workshop in Portland on March 10 drew another half a dozen people, mostly new to WTR.

In addition, the New England war tax resistance gathering dates have been set for November 12-14 in Southern Maine. Stay tuned for more details.
      -Larry Dansinger

Albuquerque

The January issue of the Albuquerque Center for Peace & Justice featured phone tax resistance on its front page, a sign that the Albuquerque War Tax Alternative Fund is alive and well. The sad death a year ago of longtime member Ann Dudley Edwards (also a good friend to NWTRCC) set them back, but former and new members have reestablished their mission and goals including: maintaining a display board at the Albuquerque Center for Peace & Justice; maintaining an escrow fund for refused taxes; offering support and information to people interested in exploring or implementing war tax resistance; sharing materials and publicatons; and, meeting as necessary to plan actions around tax resistance.

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Perspective

Tax Day and the Heart's Call

by Shirley Whiteside

Ed's Note: People write such amazing letters around tax day in conjunction with their resistance. NWTRCC has a section on the website devoted to letters, and if you would like to submit yours, please mail or email it to the NWTRCC office. Sometime last summer Shirley Whiteside of Colorado sent the NWTRCC office her April 2003 letter with a note saying in part, "Even if I don't send it to the IRS I usually send a letter to other people saying why I'm not paying…which was inspired at least in part by my awareness that there are others like you." Let the inspiration flow on:

I forgot to pay my income taxes this year. Why would a person do that, you say? Won't they just steal it from you anyway? Let's just say if all we have is today, it was what was right for me today.

I was anxiously looking at the tax form on April 15-like a lot of Americans, judging by the lines at the Post Office at 10 pm-and the first phone interruption came. It was a fundraising call from a national relief organization anticipating doing relief work in Iraq-a nation just bombed with weapons paid for by the same U.S. tax dollars that I was preparing to send in. After destroying the infrastructure of this oil-rich nation in 1991 my country proceeded to enforce an embargo on them, denying them access to basic medical, educational, and nutritional supplies. The U.N. estimates on how many children died because of these sanctions every day were so staggering I don't even want to think about it. Not too many people did think about it.

Anyway I was sitting at the table looking at my W-2 form when the next call was that a friend had passed away. Last time I saw Tom in the flesh he was in a wheelchair at a peace rally when the U.S. 2003 encore-presentation attack on Iraq was still forthcoming. He had recently had a bad stroke. A carefully thoughtful man, he based his ideas on listening and not being afraid to ask questions. He was a kind and generous man who loved to visit, and knew the things in life that were good. I met him when he came after work to serve food at a soup kitchen. After clean up sometimes we went to happy hour and worked out the world's problems.

I think Tom would support my forgetting to pay. I quickly lost what little interest I had in the whole W-2 thing.

My nation harbors more Weapons of Mass Destruction than absolutely any other nation in the world. This remains a frequently ignored fact. Some people ardently believe these weapons and the willingness to use them makes us strong-I believe quite the opposite. The aggression used by my own government in trying to impose its will on other nations offends me. Even people in Iraq or Colombia or Cuba are part of the same world family as I am. I transport myself to some imaginary place where one or two billion dollars a day is spent to care for the weakest among us, or educate the children, or create renewable energy and transit systems that provide community-building options.

We are watching our nation wield aggression on the world on TV-content with nothing less than world military domination. This is an affront to my spiritual and religious beliefs. I am awed by the sacrifices people in other nations make to confront violence and generate change. Here all we have to do is agree to pay for war-in conservative estimates 47% of our tax dollar.

At the same time people right here are huddled in alleys and dumpsters trying to keep warm because they have no right to shelter. U.S. high school students can't find their own country on a world map.

We tout ours as a democracy, forgetting that most people are either too cynical or too disinterested to simply vote. The same companies own the media and the voting machines. Few citizens take advantage of our rights beyond voting, to speak out through our media, public events, contacting elected officials. What a respected right this is. Now the U.S. is establishing new laws that infringe on these rights. The economy is in a shambles. In most states budgets are being balanced on the backs of the poor, more literally than I can recall.

Is it even possible that a good citizen, such as myself, would not cooperate with paying a silly tax? I am a conscientious objector to war. I will not pay voluntarily. It just seems like there are other, more important things to do with time and money. It is a luxury for me to send 2/3 of the $286 the U.S. government thinks I owe to the American Friends Service Committee for the service work they are doing around the world. The other 1/3 will go to Denver Urban Ministries, a local group struggling to stock their food bank shelves, while we wait for justice to flow like water. I wish I could reapportion the entire $459 billion allocated by Congress for current military costs-which does not even include the extra $75 billion, so far, borrowed against the poor of the world, for the present attack on Iraq, or the old war debts.

I'm going to go to Tom's funeral today to celebrate embracing the power of positivity at all the beauty and goodness in the world, and how to not be afraid of acting with loving rage against the machine.

All of us can do something to honor the call of our heart, whatever it is. Hopefully, with that mere act on each one's part, the world will know more peace.

That's how Tom lived. And that is why I forgot to pay this year.

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National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
PO Box 150553, Brooklyn, NY 11215 • Email: nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org
www.nwtrcc.org