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Tax season 2008 has arrived. January brings W-2s, 1099s and 1040s to our doorsteps, so if you haven't registered for the 2008 War Tax Boycott, now is the time! About 250 people have signed on so far, but we know there are many more resisters out there-we have more subscribers to this newsletter than that! Your public resistance inspires others to join, and helps us plan for publicity for a public redirection to display how serious we are about changing national priorities. It only takes a few moments. Just go to wartaxboycott.org.
By Dave Gross
If we craft our message well, we can motivate antiwar activists to become war tax resisters.
As in sports, there's an offensive game and a defensive game. Offense is knowing what message you want to get out, crafting it well, and deploying it effectively. Defense is anticipating questions, understanding the real concerns behind them, having good answers ready, and not getting thrown off-message.
To craft a motivating message, consider three categories of motivations: needs, fears, and values.
To motivate somebody to do something, show them how it will meet their needs, protect them from something they fear, and be consistent with their values.
When the government tries to motivate taxpayers, they rely on fears and values. Fears of IRS enforcement action, criminal penalties, financial troubles, and so forth are important. But values are even more important.
The IRS once asked taxpayers what factors were important to them when deciding whether to pay their taxes. 35% said that fear of an audit was very important, 26% said somewhat, 35% said not very or not at all. How important was "personal integrity?" 76% said it was very important, another 15% said somewhat, and only 7% said it was not very or not at all important.
Taxpayers pay because they identify taxpaying with honesty, fairness, good citizenship, and their values as a whole.
We offer another path to integrity. The more we speak about how our values motivate us to become tax resisters, the easier it is for people who share our values to imagine themselves resisting.
But fear is also important. In 2006-2007, NWTRCC surveyed 1,100 anti-war activists who had never done tax resistance before. The #1 reason they gave for why they hadn't: "Fear legal consequences." Asked what they thought were the two most likely consequences of war tax resistance, 31.6% included jail time! Asked what they needed most before they would consider resisting, the #1 answer: "Clear idea of likely consequences."
People imagine the consequences of tax resistance to be much more frightening than they really are. We need to dispel this, not by saying "tax resistance is perfectly safe" but this:
We can also appeal to needs. How many times have you heard activists say they're tired of rallies - they want to do something that has a real effect? Tax resistance meets that need.
On defense, some questions come up frequently when tax resistance is discussed. These also concern needs, fears, and values:
Is war tax resistance effective? (Needs)
Is war tax resistance safe? (Fears)
Is war tax resistance ethical? (Values)
When answering, consider addressing both the specific question or concern and the whole category it represents. For instance, answer a specific question about the ethics of tax resistance, and then add something about how your values led you to become a tax resister.
You can meet a question honestly in many ways. Sometimes, a direct answer is best. Other times, it's better to put the question into a larger context or to address the assumptions behind the question. It can pay to practice meeting common questions in multiple ways.
With some questions the best policy is to change the subject. If you're about to begin an answer that looks likely to end with a defense of some particular political philosophy, what Jesus really meant, or the truth about 9/11 - take a deep breath and start over.
For example: Someone asks "do you think everybody should be able to decide what their tax money can be spent on?"
I could answer, "Yes: As a free-market anarchist, I think a society in which people make their own decisions about how to spend their money would be a big improvement," and pretty soon I'm talking about anarchism and not tax resistance, and maybe giving the impression that tax resistance is only for anarchists like me.
But I could answer, "Maybe so and maybe not, but the war tax resisters I know spend their money more fairly and wisely than Congress does. If war tax resisters were budgeting more money and Congress less, we'd all breathe easier. By taking responsibility for how my money is spent, I make sure Congress doesn't spend it irresponsibly."
Comparisons can put things into context:
When you play defense, look for opportunities to get back on offense - especially when you're trying to get your message out through the news media. Take charge - put your message front-and-center. Help meet the reporter's needs with pithy, well-practiced sound bites. If it's a telephone interview, write some key phrases down ahead of time so you can be ready when the right moment comes.
War tax resistance is what frustrated antiwar activists need - they just don't know it yet. If we can get our message across, the war tax resistance movement will grow and the antiwar movement will become more effective.
Dave Gross lives in San Francisco and is active with Northern California War Tax Resistance. He also writes a regular blog on war tax resistance and related issues at sniggle.net/Experiment.
--May Sarton (Poet, 1912-1995)
NWTRCC offers the standard deductions/personal exemption chart as a guide for people who choose to live below the taxable income. IRS standard deduction and exemption amounts are adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases.
To figure out how much you can earn in 2008 before owing income taxes, identify your category and multiply the personal exemption by the number of dependents you can claim, including yourself, then add your standard deduction. For example, if you are married and filing jointly, with two children, you would add $14,000 ($3,500 x 4) to $10,900, equaling a taxable level of $24,900. Below this amount your family would owe no income taxes for the year. This calculation also gives the amount of income the IRS needs to leave you to live on during the year if they are garnishing your wages. This formula does not apply to Social Security taxes.
|Married, filing jointly||$10,900||$3,500|
|Married, filing separately||$5,450||$3,500|
|Head of household||$8,000||$3,500|
An additional $1,050 standard deduction may be claimed by a married taxpayer who is at least 65 years old or blind. If the taxpayer is single, the additional standard deduction amount is $1,300.
The 1040 instruction book, available from the IRS or at tax form tables, includes more details on this and also the filing threshold for each category. NWTRCC's Practical #5, "Low Income/Simple Living as War Tax Resistance," also includes information on legal ways to reduce taxable income at higher levels to owe no federal income taxes ($1 from the NWTRCC office).
Resisters who file and refuse to pay some or all of their taxes have mentioned that letters and salary and bank account levies seem to be arriving faster than in the past. A number of resisters who refused 2006 taxes last spring are already experiencing seizures. In workshops and counseling sessions be sure to note that obvious assets may be vulnerable on a faster timeline than resisters used to expect.
In addition, banks may add a fee to an IRS levy. One caller told us her bank was charging a $100 fee for a $300 levy. Apparently savings accounts are usually not charged a fee, but checking accounts are. Non-interest bearing accounts are harder for the IRS to find, but "cash transactions rule" says a comment on the war tax resistance listserve on this topic. Consider living without a bank account if you want to avoid such seizures-and nasty bank fees!
Many people ask what to do about a salary levy. Here are some of the options. Perhaps other readers and counselors have more ideas for this list?
Salaries are vulnerable to collection. Before a levy arrives, change to being an independent contractor, if that makes sense with the particular job and the employer allows that. Levies for independent contractors are not standing levies; they are only good for what is due at the time the levy arrives.
According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
(TIGTATIGTA), the IRS has more than 2,100 databases that store taxpayer
and other financial data, many of which are susceptible to penetration
attacks. According to a November report, over the past five years
"significant weaknesses" have been detected in the IRS security
controls... Over one out of ten of the databases recently tested
exhibited these problems... TIGTA has stated that these weaknesses
could lead to taxpayer identity theft, fraud, and financial losses
to the federal government. A complete report can be found at
The Government Accountability Office notes that it costs the IRS
$2.36 more to process a paper tax return than one that was filed
electronically. "Paper returns also limit the effectiveness of
IRS's enforcement programs. To control costs, IRS does not transcribe
all the lines on paper tax returns into its computer databases,
such as taxpayers' telephone numbers, limiting the amount of information
available electronically for enforcement purposes.... Further,
to avoid disadvantaging taxpayers who file electronically, IRS
has a policy of posting the same information from electronic and
paper returns to its databases. Consequently, if a line is not
transcribed from paper returns, it is not posted from electronic
returns either. Only information posted to computer databases
is readily available for use in IRS's automated compliance checking
programs. These programs include matching tax return entries with
information returns from third parties, such as W-2s from employers
or 1099s from financial institutions, and selecting suspicious
returns for audit."
The IRS welcomed in the new year by identifying four new frivolous claims that can trigger a $5,000 penalty. One of the new claims may be a result of the Appeals Court ruling against Daniel Jenkins' last March (MTAP April 2007):
Misinterpretation of the 9th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding objections to military spending. Specifically, this position states that the Ninth Amendment exempts those with religious or other objections to military spending from paying taxes to the extent the taxes will be used for military spending. (Notice 2008-14, 2008-4 IRB)
The 9th Amendment reads: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
The penalty can apply when filing a frivolous tax return (an unacceptable form and showing a "frivolous" argument) or submitting to IRS a frivolous request for a collection due process hearing or application for an installment agreement, offer-in-compromise, or Taxpayer Assistance Order.
Preparations are underway for an appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The case is based on retained rights of conscience as identified in state constitutions and as protected from federal denial by the Ninth Amendment. The freedom of individual conscience is also guaranteed in various international human rights covenants. Jenkins cannot appeal to the United Nations human rights tribunal system because the U.S. government has not ratified the necessary protocol. For additional information contact Daniel Jenkins at 518-891-4083.
In September 2007, All Saints Church, Pasadena, received a letter from the IRS that it was closing the dormant two-year old IRS examination of the church's tax exempt status. The IRS commenced the investigation in June 2005, raising questions about a guest sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. George Regas, entitled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush." (MTAP Dec. 2005). However, the IRS's letter also concluded without explanation that the sermon in question constituted intervention in the 2004 Presidential election
In response to the letter, All Saints Church, Pasadena formally referred the numerous procedural and legal errors of the exam to the Commissioner of the IRS and demanded a correction and apology. In addition the Church's Rector, the Rev. J. Edwin Bacon, Jr. expressed great concern about the letter's implications. "While we are pleased that the IRS examination is finally over, the IRS has failed to explain its conclusion regarding the single sermon at issue. Synagogues, mosques, and churches across America have no more guidance about the IRS rules now than when we started this process over two long years ago. The impact of this letter leaves a chilling effect cast over the freedom of America's pulpits to preach core moral values. We have no choice but to demand clarification on this matter with the IRS."
To follow this continuing story, see the "News and Actions" page on the Church's website. NWTRCC has added a page to our website, nwtrcc.org/nonprofit_status.htm, to help counselors answer questions about WTR and 501(c)3 status.
We are grateful for recent contributions and dues payments from:
Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation
Iowa Peace Network
Mennonite Central Committee
Resources for Organizing and Social Change (ROSC), Maine
and to Resist for a special grant of $350, a share of the extra $40,000 they decided to grant in 2007 as part of their 40th anniversary celebration. Happy Birthday, Resist!
Counselors and contacts are updated on our website fairly regularly. If you find that contact information is not correct, please let the NWTRCC office know. If you need someone in your area and do not use the internet or see anyone near you, call the NWTRCC office for referrals, 1-800-269-7464.
By Alan Gamble
The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) invites peace advocates to Washington, DC, for three unique times this spring. Each event brings an opportunity to share information about NCPTF and the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill (HR 1921) or participate in lobby days on Capitol Hill.
March 6-10 Christian/Interfaith Peace Witness, christianpeacewitness.org, is planning workshops, an interfaith service on the mall to end the war in Iraq, and possible civil disobedience on March 6-7. This will blend into the March 7-10 Ecumenical Advocacy Days and conference with the theme, "2008: Reclaiming a Vision of True Security." There will be training to lobby on March 10, and over one thousand participants are expected. See advocacydays.org for more information or call (202) 386-6397. Come and lobby for the Peace Tax Fund bill (HR 1921) or help table at the conference.
March 21-31 NCPTF is sponsoring days of action at the time when thousands of visitors come to Washington for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. "A Blossoming of Conscience" will include a rolling fast beginning on Purim/Good Friday/Bahai New Year, and readers are encouraged to join and commit to a period of fasting. Sunday, March 30, will feature a forum and worship with primary Peace Tax Fund bill sponsor Representative John Lewis. Monday, March 31 is lobby day, starting with a breakfast with John Lewis and leaders of endorsing organizations, a program including songs and stories from Citizens of Conscience, and lobby training. Afternoon lobbying will be followed by a debriefing and Celebration of Conscience with Congressional leaders and a surprise celebrity.
May 16 Join NCPTF and the Center on Conscience and War, centeronconscience.org, for Conscientious Objector Day to lobby for the Military Conscientious Objectors Act and the Peace Tax Fund bill. If you can't come to DC, arrange to meet with your representative or senators in your district, especially in February and March. Send NCPTF a brief report of your meeting and together we will be a persistent voice in following through. By all of us playing our small part in a coordinated and strategic plan, the Peace Tax Fund bill may be granted another public hearing before the Ways and Means Committee. Strong grassroots support is also necessary to introduce companion legislation in the Senate for the first time in twelve years.
For more information contact NCPTF, 2121 Decatur Pl. NW, Washington, DC 20008, 1-888-PEACETAX, www.peacetaxfund.org.
Alan Gamble is the Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.
By Daniel Sicken
The 22nd annual New England Regional Gathering of War Tax Resisters and Supporters was a huge success. It was held at Woolman Hill Conference Center in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Fifty-six registrants from six northeastern states enjoyed good food, lively conversations with new and old friends, and the warmth of wood stoves cranked up on a cold, snowy weekend in early December.
The theme of the Gathering, "Embracing Simplicity," was well illustrated by four presenters on Friday night (see page 8) and set the tone on Saturday for several small group discussions on food, transportation, housing, health care, community, and other essential elements of our lives. In the evening we provided our own talent show entertainment, and entertaining it was. Many had a story or poem to share or a song to sing. In a skit, agents from the Department of Homeland Simplicity raided the home of a surprised family, searching for simplicity violations and driving home the point that we can go too far with this theme.
After sharing our personal war tax resistance experiences in a large group discussion, regional reports from WTR groups were given. It was evident that our group members are diminishing when it seems they should be increasing in a time of unending war. We discussed why this is occurring, which led to suggested brainstormed themes for next year's gathering, including "growing the movement," "fear and war tax resistance," and "war tax resistance and war resistance by young people." (Watch for details in a late summer or fall issue of this newsletter.)
On the whole, it was clear that this weekend was an enriching experience. In essence, we shared with each other in building community. Isn't that what it's all about?
Daniel Sicken lives in Vermont and works as an electrician. He's been a WTR for the last 25 years and is active with Pioneer Valley War Tax Resistance.
On Wednesday, March 19, War Resisters League, war tax resisters, and others are planning a nonviolent blockade of the national IRS headquarters in Washington, DC, as part of the day of actions against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just as military recruiters supply the bodies for the war, the IRS supplies the funding. To mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, United for Peace and Justice initiated a call for mass nonviolent civil disobedience in Washington, DC, on March 19, and the IRS action is planned in coordination with this call. If any of you can join in the DC action on March 19, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at the NWTRCC office, 1-800-269-7464. See 5yearstoomany.org for more information about March antiwar events.
The War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund (WTRPF) is a mutual aid fund designed to assist ourselves in the event of an IRS seizure of interest and penalty amounts. It is a way of spreading the financial cost of resistance and redirection amongst all of us, rather than having it borne only by those few who experience collections. The Fund, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2006, is administered by volunteers in North Manchester, IN.
The most recent appeal was mailed last November seeking $21.07
per member to reimburse three war tax resisters. We encourage
you to be part of this important support organization. If you
are not already a member send a note to the address below asking
to be added to the active member list. Toss in a donation ($21.07?)
if you can. As we promote the 2008 War Tax Boycott, it will
be very important for components of our movement such as the
WTRPF to be securely in place and well supported.
WTRPF, PO Box 25, North Manchester, IN 46962
-Thanks to Robert Randall for providing this information, which he posted on the war tax resistance listserve. You can sign up for that - for free - on the NWTRCC homepage, nwtrcc.org. Click on the "E-mail Discussion Group" button.
It's not often that tax resistance gets a thumbs-up from presidential candidates, but Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich both have had good things to say about tax resisters.
Paul told Newsweek: "Civil disobedience is a legitimate tool in a free society... This money is supporting evil in the world, through pre-emptive war. I mean, that's pretty evil as far as I'm concerned. So much waste in a system of government that has just overrun our liberties. In many ways it's heroic that people are willing to risk their freedom to defend what they think is freedom."
Kucinich, in an interview with Chris Hedges of The Nation, said of tax resisters: "I understand that. That is a civil disobedience tactic. It also invites scrutiny by the IRS, which doesn't really care about anyone's politics. They just care about getting the money they are owed. It is a brave thing for people to do because there is a degree of risk in doing that. Why should people have to do this? ... I am asking a rhetorical question. People are feeling they have to do something."
Paul and Kucinich are also cosponsors of the Religious Freedom
Peace Tax Fund Bill.
Prepare for workshops, leafleting, and tabling materials between now and tax day! All bulk orders have postage in addition to the cost of materials and can be invoiced. Below are a few options. See the website, nwtrcc.org/publications.htm, for a full list or contact the NWTRCC office for a copy, 1-800-269-7464 or email@example.com.
If you have a friendly radio station in your area, please help promote our work by asking them about requirements for public service announcements (PSA). Send in the text below if they agree to read PSAs, or call or email the NWTRCC office (1-800-269-7464 or firstname.lastname@example.org) if you'd like us to send them the prerecorded version, which you can listen on the "Tools" page at www.wartaxboycott.org. The text of our War Tax Boycott 30-second PSA is:
"It's time again for a war tax boycott. In 1968 thousands including Kurt Vonnegut, Gloria Steinam, and James Baldwin made a public pledge to stop paying taxes for the war in Vietnam. Now, 40 years later, we've got another war to stop. To learn more about war tax resistance visit www.wartaxboycott.org."
A revised and updated version of "Compelled by Conscience," the introductory DVD by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, is available now. This 12-minute film explains the idea of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill through interviews with war tax resisters, Congress people, organizational sponsors, and activists. The new DVD has extras too, including interviews with Campaign founder David Bassett, peace educator Colman McCarthy, a tour of the NCPTF office, excerpts from the 35th anniversary celebration and concert by John McCutcheon, and more.
DVD's are $20 each from NCPTF, 2121 Decatur Pl. NW, Washington, DC 20008.
Note: In case you are wondering about the progress of NWTRCC's "introduction to war tax resistance" film, we are working with filmmakers at Pan Left Productions in Tucson, Arizona, and the DVD is projected to be available by the end of the summer 2008.
NWTRCC's Administrative Committee (AdCom) seeks new members to give oversight to day-to-day business operations and plan for the two meetings held each November and May. New members from nominations will be selected at the May 2008 meeting and serve as alternates for one year and full members for two years. Full members have travel paid to the meetings.
Contact NWTRCC for a job description, or send in nominations, and we will follow up with further details. Self nominations are fine, and affiliate groups should make a special effort to offer nominations. Deadline for nominations is March 14, 2008.
Plan your travel now for the next National War Tax Resistance gathering and Coordinating Committee meeting. Birmingham War Tax Resisters, in the person of David Waters, will be hosting NWTRCC over the weekend of May 2-4, 2008. Gatherings begin with dinner on Friday and end at noon on Sunday after the business meeting. Brochures will be mailed in March and information will be posted on the NWTRCC website "Programs and Gatherings" page. Proposals for new program ideas are due March 28.
"Embracing Simplicity" was the theme for the New England Gathering of War Tax Resisters in December. The photos and profiles on this page are taken from presentations by panel members who have all "embraced simplicity" in their own way.
Ruthy is part of an 11-member workers' collective called Pedal People in Northampton, Massachusetts, and lives in a communal household. Pedal People use their bike power to offer a trash pick-up service to residences, and they even secured a city contract recently to empty the town's sidewalk trash cans. The collective arrangement helps to support war tax resister members. As someone who lives simply, Ruthy talks about seeing the "trash end of consumption." She is amazed at the amount of trash one family can produce. "They're taking up landfill, and so many people in the world have nothing." The Pedal People website and newsletter give people ideas on how to cut back on trash, and they do what they can to represent a responsible lifestyle to the community at large through potlucks, bike workshops, a public lending library, and even a free internet phone set up next to the bike path behind their house for passers by to use anytime. Check out Pedal People at pedalpeople.com.
"The problem isn't Bush, it's us and the way we live. If we didn't buy it, they wouldn't produce it." Aaron's war tax resistance is motivated by a desire to address the causes of war, with U.S. consumption as the number one cause. With less than 5% of the world's population, the U.S. consumes 25% of the world's resources, and Aaron has tried to minimize his participation in this overconsumption. He bikes and walks and lives without a car. He has no computer, cell phone, or TV, and would prefer to live without electricity but compromises there, but he doesn't want to live in a cave. He still feels trapped in the industrial society that demands more resources and continues to do all he can to live a life that promotes peace.
"I suddenly woke up about five years ago and made a big sign that said 'Does Our Lifestyle Demand War?' and hung it on my door." Frances then proceeded to work at changing her lifestyle, starting by not using her car for two days a week. As she walked more, she found she could use her car less and less-and liked walking more and more. It became something of a meditation, with the added bonus of meeting people along the way. She changed from a Friends Meeting that was some miles away to one within walking distance, and dropped her YMCA membership where they use so much heat and air conditioning. She doesn't want to fly anymore and takes the train instead. She's still working on many things, like buying food that is grown locally. She's really working to reduce her footprint on the planet, and at the same time redirecting taxes from war to funding real human needs like schools, peace and justice work, and rebuilding the new society in the shell of the old.
Desiring to live more lightly on the planet, Daniel is in an ongoing process of developing a self-sustaining, urban lifestyle with his wife and two children in Springfield, Massachusetts. They have been working on this for number of years and just reached a point where they could get rid of their refrigerator. They have chickens, goats, and a big garden, and share and trade with neighbors to fill the gaps. He offered a list of eight keys to their success:
Ecological footprint quizes are circulating among many groups, or see http://earthday-dev.shs.net/footprint to find out how many planets you need to sustain your lifestyle.