Yes, it's that time of year again, when we take to the streets-in small numbers locally but large numbers all told-to
hand out information about where U.S. tax dollars are going-and too often to mourn the loss of lives associated with the
way the government chooses to spend the dollars it collects. This year more than last, people who call the NWTRCC office to
learn about resisting have a tinge of sadness in their voices. "I hate to have to take this step, but…."things are just so bad,
the war is just so awful, Bush and Rumsfeld and Rice just don't care how many are killed."
When you're out on the street leafleting you often have no idea what people do with the information, although, as opposed to many street flyers, the War Resisters League pie chart is one of the few that doesn't seem to become instant litter. Well after April 15, a call comes to NWTRCC from someone who saw the flyer tacked up on a bulletin board. That's the fun of working for a national organization, and you try to track down who was out leafleting that day and planting a seed that took root unexpectedly.
The list presented here is preliminary due to our deadlines, but we continue to add to it, and an updated version is posted on the NWTRCC website. We also send the list out to our affiliates and contacts and to the press shortly before tax day, so that media outlets around the country can be in touch with groups near them. (Please contact the NWTRCC office as soon as possible with any corrections or additions.)
Whether you're one person, a dozen, or one hundred out on tax day, your efforts are appreciated by all the others who can say to their newspapers and radio stations, "There are thousands of people around the country protesting the government's budget priorities and refusing to pay their taxes too!"
Contact the NWTRCC office if you have trouble reaching any of the local contacts above, and we will try to hook you up.
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Cell Phone Stories
Cingular: Well, things can change and we can make progress! I actually got hold of someone at Cingular who looked in their data system for instructions regarding the federal excise tax, and lo and behold the proper procedures to follow were right there! After nearly a year of communicating with the company and even having my service cut off, we're now back in business! Both I and my Pre-Paid Legal attorney contacted the office given below, and I received a letter from them which states, in part: "Cingular Wireless will adjust the monthly FET [federal excise tax] off of your bill as a write-off.
Please be aware, however, that as required by law, Cingular Wireless will report your non-payment, and provide your name, address, and amount of tax written off to the IRS." They also included a long paragraph about the near-victory in 2000 of the telecommunications industry's effort to have the FET on phone service repealed.
For those who may have Cingular Wireless cellphone service, or who are looking for a cellphone company which will handle their inability to pay the federal phone tax, the proper address for handling this with Cingular is: Cingular Wireless, Attn: Market Support / Tax Exemption, 3051 Bienville Blvd., Ocean Springs, MS 39564. They also provided a toll-free phone number of (800) 331-0500 to call.
- -Robert Randall, February 2005
March update from Robert: They have set up a system to automatically remove the federal tax from the bill each month, so no letter need be sent. It may even be possible to establish an automatic monthly payment via bank draft or credit card!
T-Mobile: T-Mobile had threatened to cut off my phone service for refusal to pay the tax. When I called and they took my complaint to the Tax Support Team, the TST came back saying it was a part of my bill and the charge stood in place. I then wrote a letter to the Legal Department, pointing out two things. First is item 6 in the T-Mobile Consumer Code, which distinguishes carrier charges from taxes and other fees. The second was the IRS Fed. Regulations Code included in the NWTRCC website. I asked for my account to be credited for the excise taxes I had paid since the inception of my contract with them, and
I received a letter from the Legal Department stating that my account has been credited and the amount has been reported to the IRS. One small victory! For anyone attempting this with T-Mobile in the future, I'd suggest writing the letter and not playing the runaround game with the Customer Service representatives on the phone. Write to:
Legal Department, T-Mobile USA, Inc., P.O. Box 37380, Albuquerque, NM 87176.
- -Stephanie Higdon, March 2005
Update on RIOY
The sentencing date for the three members of Restored Israel of Yahweh convicted on tax charges has been changed from April 1. It is now June 3 in Camden, NJ, but please contact the NWTRCC office for confirmation. If you are planning to attend, please call the office so that we can coordinate our travel and support efforts. The RIOY website has full
information about the case: www.rioy.org.
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We are grateful to the following groups who have given to NWTRCC
since the last newsletter. Your support makes a difference!
Conscience, War Tax Concerns & Militarism
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Portland WRL /
Oregon Community Peace Fund /
Oregon Community for WTR
Quaker City Unity
Friends Meeting, NH
Citizens Tax Moratorium, IA
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Note that we have printed a list of alternative funds in this issue (under NWTRCC Business), as suggested at the Coordinating Committee meeting in Swarthmore last November. Please contact the office if your fund is missing, or if there is incorrect information on this list. Thanks!
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"...In Effeti La Prima Nel Mondo..."
Author's Note: This article is based on my best possible translation of information on the website of the Campagna di Obiezzione alle Spese Militari in Italy among other sources, but as with any tax-related matters the details can be quite confusing. I have done my best to present a decent idea of what is going on in Italy after reports to the International Conference on WTR/PTF in Brussels last year that the Italian courts were making allowances for war tax resisters. It would appear that such time has not yet come, but we will continue to study this and keep wtrs informed.
WTR Breakthroughs in Italy
The following paragraph sent shockwaves through the war tax resistance community when it showed up on the Peace Tax Fund website last year, in a brief item on the treatment of conscientious objectors.
"Italy is a unique example. A number of cases were brought to court not only for refusal to pay war taxes, but also for inciting others not to pay. Remarkably these cases were all acquitted. As a result, Italians are now allowed to pay the military portion of their taxes to one of four Italian non-governmental organizations that actively work for peace. Some even choose to pay an appropriate portion directly to the National Bureau for Civil Service (UNSC) and the Non-Violent Popular Defense (DPN) instead of to the Ministry of Finance. To date that practice remains unchallenged."
Ecco, this was serious news. Could it really be true? During over 30 years of hard work, lobbying, and advocacy, and despite the conscription of tax dollars during wartime or peacetime in every country, no state had established a national provision for conscientious objectors to military taxation (COMT). Had Italy's war resisters reached a critical mass? Was one favorable court decision enough to compel all of Italy to provide for the needs of this minority? Would the decision be challenged or appealed by the state? What would happen next? And, could the achievements in Italy be duplicated elsewhere?
Italy has a vibrant war tax resistance movement. The Campagna di Obiezzione alle Spese Militari (COSM) was founded in 1982, by fewer than 10 resisters. The movement has presented legislation to Parliament at various times (1989, 1993, 1996), and expanded their WTR campaign to include options entailing various levels of risk and support. At the end of the first Gulf War, there were almost 10,000 wtr's, which led to some 25 high-profile trials. Since then, the number of open resisters has dropped to its current level of about 1,000 per year. Originally handled through the League of Conscientious Objectors, the COSM is now an independent organization (now called the COSM-DPN-their emphasis on alternative defense), supported by a growing coalition of groups working for peace.
The Italian war tax resistance community has always maintained a focus on strengthening their conscientious objection laws (which were won in 1972), working to lower the amount of tax spent on the Italian military, and legitimizing the idea of Nonviolent Popular Defense. For 25 years, the campaign has worked directly to pressure the UNSC about alternative defense (www.serviziocivile.it). Hammering away at these related objectives has served them very well. Both peace tax lobbying and war tax resistance have come together in Italy. As a result of the work of many activists, and with help from some public WTR trials, two important laws have been passed in support of DPN. Law 230/98, "Conscientious Objection Reform" (how's that for framing the issue) allows COs to participate in alternative civil service, and compels the state to "experiment" with alternative forms of defense. This law led to the formation of the DPN Commission, the world's first state body dedicated to nonviolent defense. Law 64/01 essentially establishes and provides for the Nonviolent Defense Force and the National Civil Service, allowing for public and private funding.
For Italian peace activists, this is an historic period. As of May 2004, the UNSC now has an official DPN Commission that includes members of civil society. In June, the Constitutional Court of Italy recognized that Unarmed Defense is a valid concept-equal to that of armed defense! Today, Italian peace tax advocates pursue meetings with political leaders to request a law allowing them to give all of their income taxes directly to the UNSC and the DPN, armed with the "numerous institutional recognitions" of the right to pay for nonviolent defense.
War tax resisters currently have several different options to consider. Here they are, from the COSM's "Guide 2004," which appears in Italian on their website [address at end of article] :
- "La Dichiarazione:" Supporters of the COSM can send a declaration
of objection to military taxes to the campaign, the Ministry
of Finance, and to the President.
- "L'Opzione Fiscale:" Private citizens can give money directly
to the UNSC and specify that it go to the DPN.
- "L'Opzione Fiscale Parciale:" Taxpayers can also make a
payment towards one of several peace-based non-profits or
NGOs (named by the COSM), a "proportional" amount can then
be legally deducted from the contributor's tax burden. This
is much like our own charitable deduction system.
- "Rimborso:" Italians can also ask for a refund of paid tax
in the amount that they would like to resist. It sometimes
- "L'8xMille:" Traditionally, taxpayers have been able to
donate 0.8% of their taxes to the Catholic Church. WTRs request
that this money go to the DPN.
- "Disobbedienza Civile:" About 1,000 Italians a year still
openly "turn" all or a part of their Base Tax towards groups
that work for peace including the COSM, or the DPN. Fines
and the eventual confiscation of property are possibilities.
Resisted amounts of less than 15 Euro (about 30 dollars) are
Peace Tax Campaign advocates the world over can learn from these developments. The Italians have, for decades, given almost equal attention to the UNSC as they have to WTR and PTC. Using logic and reason, they have used the UNSC to advocate for nonviolent defense. They have used the DPN to take positive steps for all Italians of conscience (by establishing an unarmed defense force), as well as take the country nearer towards COMT. Nonviolent popular defense is becoming or is already acceptable to large groups in society now-in Italy, at any rate-and by concentrating on an intermediary idea that people can relate to, they are moving closer towards making their ultimate goals acceptable.
Groups that address international bodies about COMT, like Conscience and Peace Tax International and the Quaker Council on European Affairs, also concentrate on strengthening existing laws on conscientious objection and seek to insert mentions of military taxation. In the U.S. we also use this technique of working from concepts that Americans relate to already, such as conscientious objection to military service, religious freedom, and our country's traditional attention to the rights of the minority. The Italians have used this stepping-stone technique to great effect.
Italians can now reduce their tax burdens with contributions to NGOs, or pay some-but not all-of their taxes directly to the state and request that this portion go straight to the Nonviolent Defense Force of the UNSC. "Although this is still not correct," says the 2003 statement of the campaign, "...the ultimate objective of the COSM-DPN, the right to finance peace instead of war...is much closer with the passage of Law 64/01." If the developments in Italy stick, it might bring the rest of the world a few steps closer as well.
The website for the Campagna di Obiezzione alle Spese Militari is http://ospiti.peacelink.it/cnosm. For a list of resources, and the citations for all this information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick Wright is an activist with Northern California War Tax Resistance who practices living way below the taxable income level. He is currently a busy Quaker in Residence at the Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City.
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Nashville in May!
Plans are coming along for the next Coordinating Committee meeting and gathering. We're headed to Nashville, Tennessee, this time, where we will be hosted by the Nashville Greenlands WRL. We expect the meetings and discussions to be great, but let's not neglect the fact that May in Nashville should be lovely, so plan to join us. Make your travel arrangements now!
The weekend is open to anyone interested in war tax resistance and peace tax campaigns and begins with dinner on Friday evening (6 p.m.) and ends Sunday at noon. Friday evening and Saturday will feature small group discussions on war tax issues, tax day action reports, planning for our fall strategy conference, and presentations by area activists.
On Saturday evening the public is invited to hear short presentations from individual resisters who represent different styles of resistance followed by an open discussion about the whys and hows of wtr. The Coordinating Committee business meeting takes place Sunday morning.
We will be meeting in a newly developing community space in a former church - thus, it doesn't have a name yet. But, there's good meeting space, a kitchen, full baths, and plenty of floor space for people who can bring sleeping bags or bedding. People who need a bed will be housed in the homes of local activists.
The address for the meeting space is 4602 Indiana Avenue. The Nashville airport is about 10 miles from the meeting space, and for those who arrive during the day it is possible to make city bus connections to the meeting site. As much as possible local folks will set up airport pick-ups to make it easier for travelers.
NWTRCC will post all the details on the website and send out a mailing at the end of March with a registration form. If you do not receive further details and would like to come, please contact the NWTRCC office at 1-800-269-7464.
Save the Date
NWTRCC Strategy Conference
If you would like to be on the committee planning the conference or if you can help out in NYC with logistics, contact the NWTRCC office.
October 7 - 9, 2005
St. Vincent Ferrer Church
Brooklyn, New York
Alternative Funds Need Support
For many war tax resisters, the act of redirecting tax dollars to groups that won't use the money for killing is an important part of the resistance. For some, having a safety net in case of collection is also essential. War tax resisters around the country began developing alternative funds 20 or more years ago to respond to these needs. Funds have been set up to pool resisted money and develop a fund from which to give donations; in some cases to set up an escrow account for the time when the Peace Tax Fund becomes reality and the resisted taxes will be paid; and to provide a safety net so that if collection occurs some money can be returned to the resister.
The number of funds in the NWTRCC network has remained somewhat stable for many years now, but a few have folded recently. Many group reports indicate that a small number of people keep the fund going, but there is not a lot of growth.
Printed here is a list of the funds on the NWTRCC network list. We present this list to encourage you to become involved with a fund, either through donating your volunteer time or your resisted tax dollars. In addition, supporting these funds is a great way for nonresisters to give support to the war tax resistance movement. While the temptation may be to redirect your money individually, there is still strength and support in numbers. Alternative funds can serve that purpose.
Please contact the funds directly for details about their structure and guidelines. Don't let location deter you, as many of the funds are open to contributions from around the country; CMTC, in particular, has a national donor list.
Conscience & Military Tax Campaign (CMTC)
4554 12th Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98105
New England War Tax Resistance
Cambridge, MA 02139-7174
Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters
c/o Eveline MacDougall
216 Davis St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
New England Yearly Mtg. Peace Tax Fund
366 Savin Hill Ave
Dorchester MA 02125
Cambridge Friends Meeting
Peace Tax Fund
5 Longfellow Park
Cambridge, MA 02138
ME WTR Resource Center/ROSC
PO Box 776
Monroe, ME 04951-0776
New York City People's Life Fund
339 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10012
Westchester Alternative Tax Fund
255 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd, 2nd floor
White Plains, NY 10601
Ithaca War Tax Resisters
125 Park Place, 2nd floor
Ithaca, NY 14850
Princeton Fund for Life
40 Witherspoon St.
Princeton, NJ 08542
WTR Life Fund of Lehigh Valley
Riegelsville, PA 18077-0344
Washington Area War Tax Resistance
PO Box 65518
Washington, DC 20035-5518
Louisa Alternative Fund
138 Twin Oaks Rd.
Louisa, VA 23093
Taxes for Life! Alternative Fund
PO Box 15892
Asheville, NC 28813
FUM Peace Tax Fund
101 Quaker Hill Dr.
Richmond, IN 47374
Heartland Peace Tax Fund
217 W. Smith
Hesston, KS 67062
St. Louis Covenant Community of War Tax Resisters
438 N. Skinker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63130
Albuquerque War Tax Alternative Fund
9404 Arvilla NE
Albuquerque, NM 87111
War Tax Alternative Fund and Southern California WTR
c/o 2436 Armstrong Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039-3201
Northern California War Tax Resistance/People's Life Fund
PO Box 2422
Berkeley, CA 94702-0422
Sonoma County Taxes for Peace
467 Sebastopol Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Oregon Community for WTR/Oregon Community Peace Fund
2000 NE 42nd Ave., Ste 224
Portland, OR 97213-1305
Finally, contributions to the following fund help war tax resisters get something back if the IRS collects with penalties and interest. People who do not resist but would like to support war tax resisters are encouraged to make a donation.
War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund
PO Box 25
N. Manchester, IN 46962
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April 15 Supplies
Enclosed is the latest "Where Your Income Taxes Really Go" flyer produced by the War Resisters League. The cost is listed on the back of the flyer. NWTRCC can fill small orders (200 or fewer) or contact WRL for larger orders: (212) 228-0450.
Peace Tax Return
Final call for orders of the new Peace Tax Return published by NWTRCC! We still have some in the office, but call now for tax day orders (800) 269-7464 or email email@example.com.
Follow-up: Please let the NWTRCC office know how the Return has been received during your local outreach and whether you think we should keep this form in stock year-round or for the next tax season. We'll hope to follow-up with some statistics on use of the form in the next issue.
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Displaying the WTR Exhibit
For this year's Tucson Peace Fair, I mounted the six WTR history panels along the bottom edge of 30" x 40" foam board, with larger hand-printed headings across the top for greater visibility from afar.
I purchased six pieces of 2' x 3/8" rebar (ribbed steel rods used for concrete reinforcement), and two 20' sections of 1" PVC pipe. I cut the pipes into thirds, for six pieces about 6'8" long.
In the park, I pounded the rebar into the ground vertically, for two triangles, 40"/side, positioned several feet apart. I placed a section of PVC over each rebar, and then used strips of plastic packing tape to secure the back of my foam board panels along each side to the vertical PVC, with the top of the panel just a few inches below the top of the PVC. (If you fold back a tab on one end of a tape strip before placing it, it makes removal and disassembly much easier.)
The flexibility of the PVC makes the structure somewhat forgiving for sloped ground or slightly irregular placement of rebar. But once taped in place, top to bottom of each side of the foam board, the structure is a pair of sturdy, wind-resistant kiosks for temporary outdoor display, with the larger print mostly visible from afar, even above the heads of people reading the text.
- -Jack Cohen-Joppa
- S. Arizona WTR/Nuclear Resister
(Ed's note: We'll hope to follow this up with pictures in an upcoming issue. The six-poster exhibit is still available from the NWTRCC office for $30, and pictures of the posters are on the website at www.nwtrcc.org/exhibit.htm.)
Peace Activists Face Federal Charges
To be Tried a Second Time for the Same Act
On Friday, February 18, 2005, Peter DeMott, Clare Grady, Danny Burns, and Teresa Grady, "the St. Patrick's 4," received a summons to appear in the United States Federal District Court in Binghamton, New York, on charges reading "conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States."
This will be the second trial for the four for their act of nonviolent civil resistance at the local US Army/Marine Recruiting Center on March 17, 2003. After prayer and discernment the four poured their own blood sacramentally in the vestibule of the Center, thereby making visible the blood that is shed by the work of the Center. They went there in the spirit of nonviolence, knelt in prayer and in no way threatened or used force. A jury in Tompkins County was unable to reach a unanimous verdict last year, and the four are confident that another jury will reach a similar conclusion.
All four activists are also involved with Ithaca War Tax Resisters. For more information contact: Clare Grady, (607) 273- 6257 or Danny Burns, (607) 280-0369.
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The Choice Seems ObviousBy Rev. Bucky Beach
It was over 20 years ago that I started nonpayment of taxes owed to the IRS. I was scared, but youth breeds a sense of immortality, which was accompanied by a bit of a chip on my shoulder and a desire to be faithful to what I believed. I did some research and read some stories of property seizures and levies, but thought it was worth the risk. I withheld my money, sent the IRS a letter stating clearly why I was opposed to military taxation, and defied the IRS to come and get me. I received a few letters in response and waited.
I never heard from them again. But then, I think I owed them a grand total of $80. I didn't make much money, but didn't want any of it to support wars, or the nuclear arms race, or government sponsored coups, or cover-ups. Maybe someone somewhere knows that I still owe that $80, plus 20 years of interest, but maybe not. Last year when I withheld payment again, the notice of possible seizure didn't include the outstanding tax bill.
For most of those 20 years I did not make enough money to owe the IRS. They refunded me, and I was glad to not have to pay taxes at the end of the year. Recently, circumstances changed, and I found myself owing what to me was a substantial amount of money on April 15. What was I going to do? When I was young, it mostly angered me and also energized me. But it doesn't excite me much anymore to take on the IRS, to feel like David slaying the giant with his $80 slingshot. Now it truly saddens me to have to take the action of nonpayment. I don't mind paying taxes for things that do not take away life, but paying taxes necessarily does exactly that, so I feel I have little choice.
Theologian Walter Rauschenbusch (the Social Gospel movement in the early 1900s) believed Christians should not withdraw from the world, but had only two choices: "The Church must either condemn the world and seek to change it, or tolerate the world and conform to it." So I guess I am making a choice again. My small effort won't stop killing and war, but neither will paying taxes that support it. The choice seems obvious. As I write this, someone somewhere is grieving the loss of a child-American, Iraqi, or Afghani. I don't want to be responsible for financing the reasons for their loss. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about willingness to suffer as a sign of one's commitment to the redeeming nature of nonviolent resistance. He believed that sacrifice is the supreme manifestation of one's commitment to serve humanity. I know that not paying my taxes will not cause me to suffer much, but I know that someone else is suffering. Even if we don't see body bags on the tarmac in news coverage of this war, and we don't see mothers and fathers wailing in the streets, mourning the loss of their children and the destruction of their country, we know it is happening.
I can hurt someone by giving the military-industrial-complex my money. I don't want to do that. Resignation to its inevitability is immoral. As Dr. King wrote, "Noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good."
In the end what can they do, really? They can and maybe will seize my money this time. Or maybe not. They may get a little extra because of interest. It's not really as big of a deal as it was when I was 25. Maybe that's it. I've gotten older. Maybe braver. Maybe the sense of perspective I have now is healthier, because I know they cannot hurt me by taking my money. It's not a huge sacrifice, but it is something I can do.
My Lenten readings on the theology of Martin Luther King Jr. have caused me to think again of what it means to suffer for a cause, to be nonviolently resistant, and to be willing to pay a price that can possibly change an opponent's mind. This, really, is the goal. If enough people are willing to withhold their tax payments, maybe it will actually become legal for those of similar conscience to take such action.
Withholding a few thousand dollars isn't such a great price to pay, but I remember clearly what would have been: I was fearful when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan that a draft would be reinstated. I had one son in college and one in high school. I could let the IRS seize my money, but I would not let the government and the military seize my children. I decided the military would not get my boys…they would get me. It's not right for us to send our young people to fight wars. I would go as a Chaplain. Someone has to be there ministering to soldiers who are laying down their lives for us back home. I don't blame the soldier. I blame us, the parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents and politicians who make the policies. We should be the ones paying the ultimate price so our children can live in peace. Not the other way around.
Rev. Bucky Beach is a minister at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church / Lutheran Campus Ministry and lives in Houghton, Michigan.
*Quotes are from a book on the theology of Martin Luther King Jr., Search for the Beloved Community by Smith & Zepp.
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