More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement
December, 1996
[WTR and the Urban Scene] [Religious Freedom Restoration Act Test Case] [Counseling Notes]
[Legislative Updates] [International News] [Resources] [WTR Ideas and Actions]
[NWTRCC Business] [Reprint Series] [Local Group Reports] [Perspective] [About More than A Paycheck]


WTR and the Urban Scene
Picture of Guest Speaker Vicky RovereAbout fifty-five people attended all or part of the annual New England WTR Gathering in Boston, MA, October 18-20. The host committee effectively organized around traffic, housing, and food preparation difficulties so that New England WTRs, many of whom live in rural areas, could experience some of the day-to-day realities faced by their urban counterparts.

The Friday evening panel, with New York City guest Vicki Rovere, spoke of the special challenges and advantages of doing WTR in an urban environment. A Saturday morning panel shared stories of creative organizing around their WTR actions. An afternoon discussion in large and small groups focused on building support. The local Boston group came up with a list of questions to help people begin to explore their ideas about support. (Send a SASE to NWTRCC for a copy of the questionnaire.)

Our Saturday evening revue featured a skit by Rick Goldin of Cambridge, MA, "Tax Check: The Last Generation," set on the bridge of the star ship Free Enterprise, My Ass, (script available from NWTRCC), a round of the Dating Game, and a visit from the War Tax Response Service to a family beleagured by the IRS. Vicki Rovere sang a ballad about hiding her refused tax money and forgetting where she put it. Others sang and told stories for our relaxation and entertainment.

Sunday morning we listened to reports from local WTR groups and made plans for next year's annual Gathering in Maine.

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Religious Freedom Restoration Act Test Case
In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which legislatively restored a standard of "compelling interest" in situations where governmental requirements clash with individual conscience. In other words, in order to overrule a stand of conscience, the government has to show a compelling interest to do so; it also has to come up with the least restrictive means for the individual to meet the government's requirements.

NWTRCC contact Priscilla Adams of New Jersey, with the services of lawyer Peter Goldberger of Pennsylvania, has petitioned for a tax court decision in response to an IRS assessment of unpaid taxes and penalties. The IRS has to assign a lawyer and appeals officer, which will take a number of months. Rather than go to tax court, the IRS may offer her a compromise, which she will have to decide to accept or not.

The difference between this case and the New Campaign for Conscience case last year in California is that the RFRA argument is being using defensively by the resister in response to IRS action, rather than offensively. The ideal test case for RFRA would be one in which the IRS takes action against a religious institution, but this one is as good as any for an individual. It is unlikely to get the frivolous penalty because it is testing a new law which has not yet been considered by the tax court.

Priscilla and Peter will be arguing that, under the RFRA, the IRS cannot deny the waiver of penalties for a religious conscientious war tax resister as long as they recognize other forms of reasonable cause for non-compliance with the tax law. They will also argue that the RFRA requires the enactment of something like a peace tax fund.

Given the RFRA, the IRS cannot insist on the collection of income taxes from a religious WTR who is willing to accept a reasonable accomodation such as earmarking tax monies for non -warlike purposes in the federal government. The RFRA does not allow the government to claim it would be cumbersome or that there is no statute to provide an accomodation. The RFRA requires them to do something. If it is too much trouble for an accomodation such as a peace tax fund, the IRS doesn't have to collect the tax.

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COUNSELING NOTES
LEVY THWARTED ON CHILD'S ACCOUNT
A war tax resister reported a thwarted levy on an account belonging to her college-age son. The son opened an account a number of years ago, using his name and social security number. His war tax resisting mother also had her name, but not her social security number, on the account.

Because the mother could have legally withdrawn money from the account, the IRS had the right to seize it for her tax debt. However, she decided to appeal to the IRS's Problems Resolution Office. They put off the levy for 21 days to give her time to negotiate, and because she had check stubs from her sons' earnings and receipts for his scholarship money in the account, they agreed to release the lien. Not only that, but they apologized on the phone and in a letter!

Lawyer Peter Goldberger of Pennsylvania, in an interview with NWTRCC contact Priscilla Adams, passed on the following information about WTR issues and the IRS:

IRS APPEALS OFFICERS
Peter has had more positive results from dealing with appeals officers than with other IRS employees in cases involving penalties (not the tax itself). Appeals officers are often sympathetic with individual principled tax resisters and are willing to compromise. In recent penalty appeal cases using conscience and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (see article on RFRA test case elsewhere in this newsletter) as good cause arguments, appeals officers have offered compromises such as dropping the larger penalties like negligence and leaving the smaller penalties like lateness. Appeals officers are sympathetic to individuals, have the flexibility to settle, are inclined to settle, and are expected to by the IRS.

LEVIES AND INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS
Boards of nonprofits have been unwilling to take the step of challenging levies on WTRs who are independent contractors. Peter knows of a case where an accountant for a service firm is willing to test the issue of whether a levy on an independent contractor is continuous or not. The case will either be dropped by the IRS or will lead to a confrontation on the issue of a discrepancy between the statute and the IRS practice of treating a levy on an independent contractor as a continuous one.

LEVIES AND PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS
The IRS has clarified its informal policy to levy on net salary, not gross. The employer continues all the regular payroll deductions including regular pre-existing payments to charity and automatic payments to credit union savings plans. A possible loophole: could a person have their whole paycheck direct deposited into a savings plan and thus have no take home pay to levy? IRS says a direct deposit of the whole net pay is not a deduction; an employer needs to calculate the pay subject to levy before the direct deposit. The WTR can still have a small savings plan, but this is no longer a loophole big enough to drive a truck through! The IRS says they go by the net instead of the gross pay because the levy is not intended to take away insurance coverage, etc. from a person, plus it is more convenient for the employer.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
Peace Tax Fund Looks at Election Results
The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) was naturally very interested in the results of the fall elections. In the U.S. House of Representatives, all thirty-two PTF cosponsors were re-elected. Lead House sponsor Rep. Jacobs did not run for re-election; the Campaign will announce who will lead the PTF Bill in the House in the new Congress soon. At this point it looks like it will be a Democrat from the south and a Republican from the midwest.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the only remaining cosponsor in the Senate, was re-elected in a close race. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D -Minnesota), a former cosponsor, also was re-elected. With the retirement of Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Oregon), the Campaign will be looking for a new sponsor in the Senate.

The first task of the Campaign in the 105th Congress will be to seek a hearing in the Senate. Campaign lobbyists are meeting with Senate staffers to pursue this, so look for more information in the future. The Campaign will also be developing a list of prospective supporters in the new Congress.

Marian Franz, the Campaign's Executive Director, has been in contact with the White House counsel's office. She will lead a delegation of religious leaders for a meeting in November.

Meanwhile, Marian Franz and David Bassett, the Campaign's Honorary Chair, will attend the Sixth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns to be held in London, England November 29 - December 1, 1996.

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INTERNATIONAL
International Law Testimony Leads to Not Guilty Verdict
With the help of testimony by international law professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, nuclear resisters Donna and Tom Howard-Hastings were found not guilty of sabotage for cutting down antenna poles at the nuclear Navy's Project ELF in Wisconsin. A jury acquitted the pair of a charge that could have led to ten years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines, although they did find them guilty of the lesser charge of destruction of property.

The sabotage charge required proof that the defendants interfered with preparations for defense and acted with criminal intent. Following up on expert testimony about the nature of ELF as a pre-emptive attack tool, Boyle explained that all three U.S. military service manuals forbid sneak attacks for any reason. In addition, Pentagon regulations restrict military attacks to combatants only, and require soldiers to disobey orders that would result in indiscriminately attacking civilians or civilian objects.

In effect, the expert witnesses made the case that ELF is not part of a U.S. defense system, but is offensive. Thus the defendants could not have interfered with preparations for defense.

For more information on this case, contact Nukewatch, c/o The Progressive Foundation, PO Box 649, Luck, WI, 54853-0649, (715)472-4185.

World Court Ruling on Nuclear Weapons
Last summer the International Court of Justice, aka the World Court, ruled that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally illegal and that states have an obligation to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons. The court remained undecided about a right to use nuclear weapons for self-defense.

The ruling is advisory only, carrying no legal force. However, the decision will be used by countries working to limit or end nuclear proliferation.

This decision can be seen as strengthening the claim of many war tax resisters that they are in fact upholding international law when they refuse to finance their governments' crimes against humanity.

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RESOURCES
Michael Fogler, a WTR counselor on NWTRCC's network list has written a book entitled, Un-Jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook. It's about living a life of conscience, without major full-time employment, giving one the freedom and flexibility to do and to be what one truly wants to do and to be. It shows how to live on much less than the culture leads us to believe is necessary (and be happy about it!), and still make ends meet.

Of particular interest to WTRs is the chapter entitled "(Unlike Death) Taxes Are Not Certain." Since the book is about spending life energy and money in alignment with personal values, Michael makes the point that taxes are a major category of personal spending and deserve to be questioned from the point of view of personal alignment with values. The book will be out by around December. For ordering information: Internet: mfogler@igc.apc.org, tel: (606)299-3074 , fax: same number, call first. Or write: Free Choice Press, PO Box 1027, Lexington, KY, 40588-1027.

Leo Schiff of the Tax Resisters of Conscience group in Brattleboro, VT sent us a copy of his history thesis, "Toward a Nonviolence of Daily Living: The Life and Times of Juanita and Wally Nelson." The 90-page manuscript is primarily based on interviews with the Nelsons, who helped to found the modern WTR movement. Copies are available for $10 from: Leo Schiff, 22 Laurel St., Brattleboro, VT, 05301.

We mentionned the following book a couple of years ago, but it bears repeating in light of the books above and our newly published Practical #5 pamphlet on Simple Living (see NWTRCC Business section of this newsletter). Downwardly Mobile for Conscience Sake, edited by Dorothy Anderson, contains ten autobiographical sketches of people changing their lifestyles to live a more just, peaceful, and ecologically friendly existence. The majority of the writers are war tax resisters, including Juanita Nelson. Order from the Tom Paine Institute, 467 River Rd., Eugene, OR, 97404-3210, (541)461-9381 (phone & fax), $10 per copy plus $2 shipping for one copy and 50 cents shipping for each additional copy.

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War Tax Resistance Ideas & Actions
Infrequent Filers Club
Joe Maizlish of Southern California WTR invites war tax resisters and supporters to join the "Infrequent Filers Club."

Now you can get great gifts while you "undo your part" for commercialism and warfare!

Earn credits by:

  • filing late or not at all (one credit for each day of non -filing)
  • living below taxable level (one credit for each day lived)
  • filing and refusing payment (one credit for original refusal and an additional credit for each demand letter refused)
  • demonstrating or writing in support of other resisters (one credit for each demonstration, letter, and phone call)
  • phone tax refusal (credits granted for each month of refusal)

  • Collective Award Program:
    For each 100,000 credits pooled by infrequent filers club members the military budget drops 1%.

    Personal interim awards:
    Along the way club members get little prizes such as demand letters from the IRS and brochures in reader-friendly English about "The Collection Process".

    Start accumulating your "infrequent filers" credits now! Keep track as your credits grow by using the handy forms provided by our affiliated organizations such as the phone company and IRS.

    Inform the club of credits you can pool for peace (write Infrequent Filers Club, c/o NWTRCC, PO Box 774, Monroe, ME 04951).

    Letter to Campus Activists
    Mira Tanna of the St. Louis (MO) Covenant Community of War Tax Resisters sent a letter regarding war tax resistance to an email list for campus organizers. Following are excerpts from her letter.

    "I'm certain that most of you on this list are horrified by the Defense Appropriations bill which was signed by President Clinton and which gives the Pentagon $11.1 billion more than was requested--and an increase over last year's budget--while at the same time welfare is being terminated, and there are cuts across the board in social services, education, environment, etc.

    Likewise, I'm sure many of you were as angry as I about the recent missile attacks on Iraq, which were justified as being necessary to maintain our standard of living. Couldn't we have maintained our standard of living (if that were our goal) better by spending that $44 million on programs which were designed to benefit people instead of kill them? And isn't this rationale for a military attack no more than a thinly veiled colonialist mentality - that we have a right to the resources of another country because we are stronger?

    So what can we do? We can organize, write letters, lobby for change, protest. We can also refuse to participate in a system that we have fundamental moral disagreements with. We can withhold our taxes from the government.

    I became aware of the idea of war tax resistance during my senior year of college in 1991. I was organizing against the Gulf War, and came into contact with peace activists in the community who had been at this kind of work for decades. They took the idea of peace and human rights very seriously, making conscious decisions to live more simply, to not invest in companies which manufactured weapons, to not purchase products made through exploitation (or to at least try!), and to not contribute money to a government which would use that money for death squads in El Salvador or nuclear weapons which it threatened to use against Iraq or for overthrowing unfriendly regimes, as the US tried to do in Nicaragua. Instead, that tax money was turned over and given as grants to community groups or to international organizations which were helping to right some of the wrongs the US had created.

    I first refused war taxes two years ago, in April 1995. I owed about $200 at the end of the year; I filled out my tax form, signed it, and sent a letter explaining why I had sent the tax money to a medical clinic and a peace team in Guatemala rather than to the federal government. This past year, I changed the number of exemptions, so that I would not have any taxes withheld, and I was able to turn over much more tax money to an inner city AIDS project, a summer program for African American youth, an organization which helps victims of landmines all over the world, and a flood relief program in North Korea. I felt so happy that I knew my tax money was really making a difference in sustaining life and was not being used for weapons.

    Tax resistance is an act of civil disobedience, unless you bring yourself below the taxable income level and therefore are not obliged to pay any taxes to the IRS (which many people do to avoid paying for war). It is not a decision to be taken lightly. The consequences can include having property seized, wages garnished, being harrassed by the IRS, and having to arrange your life so that you don't own property.

    But I believe that paying taxes is also a decision that should not be taken lightly. The consequences can include paying for a war that you don't agree with, being complicit in killing innocent civilians, being party to breaking international law (if we look at the pattern of US military interventions).

    Most of you are at a stage in your life where you will soon enter the job market and you will have to make decisions about buying a car and a house. You probably haven't paid many taxes up to this point. It is a perfect time to think about what kind of lifestyle choices you might make that would fit with your conscience."

    Responsible Spending
    Adele Kushner, a NWTRCC Area Contact, had too much money in her bank account and knew the IRS would be coming after it. Her daughter had sold a house they co-owned and Adele could not get the senior citizen exemption. What to do with the money? She knew she could give it to tax exempt groups, but she wanted other options.

    Then Adele heard of Global Volunteers, a group which sends out teams of people to help others on projects such as contructing or renovating schools, digging wells, providing medical services, or teaching conversational English. Locations cover the map.

    The best part? The total cost, including airfare, is tax deductible. For more information: Global Volunteers, 375 E. Little Canada Rd., St. Paul, MN, 55117, 1(800)487-1074.

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    NWTRCC BUSINESS
    Birmingham is A-Maze-ing!
    Birmingham, AL host David Waters treated early arrivals to Halloween adventures on the eve of the fall NWTRCC meeting, including a trip through a pitch dark cardboard maze in the basement of a neighboring home. Scary! He then took us cruising through downtown Birmingham where local folks dressed up in bizarre costumes amused and frightened passers-by like ourselves.

    About forty people attended the Southeast Regional WTR Gathering on Saturday, November 2 as part of the weekend NWTRCC meeting. We met in small groups in the morning to discuss topics such as legislative alternatives to the Peace Tax Fund Bill and anarchism and pacifism. New people watched the Paying for Peace video while long-timers discussed how to talk with people about WTR.

    Susan Quinlan of Northern California WTR shared her thoughts on the parallels between U.S. foreign policy and the domestic prison system. She introduced William Mohammed from the Prisoner Support Committee of Birmingham who spoke further on the "Imprisonment of America." Karen Marysdaughter and Clark Hanjian presented a basic "How-To's and What-If's" session that led to small group meetings between experienced WTRs and new people.

    The evening fun time was an eclectic mix of skits, belly -dancing, cooperative games, and a Day of the Dead ceremony honoring our loved ones, with special mention of Franklin Zahn and Marion Bromley, long-time WTR activists who died this past year.

    The Sunday NWTRCC business meeting included a general discussion of how WTR as a strategy might connect with death penalty work. This led to suggestions to prepare a literature piece on the connections between militarism and the death penalty and to do more networking with death penalty groups.

    We discussed possibly hosting an International WTR Conference in the U.S. We didn't think it was the best location; however, if the International Conference wishes to come to the U.S., we are willing to serve as co-hosts with the Peace Tax Fund Campaign. We agreed to stay in touch on a regular basis with third-world people that we have sent to the International WTR Conferences.

    About 40 employers/contractors responded to our questionnaire about their WTR activities. Based on this we decided to produce a literature piece for WTRs to use with people who hire them.

    In response to the request from the War Resisters League that we consider co-publishing the next edition of their Guide to WTR in 1998, we agreed that it made sense for NWTRCC to be involved. However, we will await a more specific proposal from WRL before making a definite decision. We expressed support for the two separate literature pieces that came out of the Quick Reference piece update and delegated them to the Literature and Legal Information Working Groups.

    Everyone thought NWTRCC did a fairly good job of carrying out its proposed objectives for the previous fiscal year. We discussed objectives for the upcoming year and agreed to them with a few changes. Some new plans are to sub-contract parts of our media and outreach work to someone other than Karen, to focus some time at the next NWTRCC meeting on the media and WTR organizing, and to send one or more WTRs to meetings of other national peace and justice groups. After discussing the objectives we agreed to the budget for the next fiscal year with small changes.

    NWTRCC will be looking for 2-3 new Administrative Committee members at our spring 1997 meeting, which we agreed to have in Seattle, WA. Areas from which we are especially interested in volunteers are the northeast, California, the southwest, and the midwest.

    For a complete copy of the minutes of the Birmingham meeting, send a SASE to NWTRCC, or an email request to nwtrcc@igc.apc.org.

    Practical #5: Living on a Reduced Income/Simple Living
    It's here! The pamphlet we've all been waiting for! It's the latest in our Practical WTR series, for people who want to live on less income to reduce or eliminate their tax liability. It includes sections such as: Why live on a reduced income?, At what level is income taxable?, Social Security taxes, Practical matters, and more, as well as stories from actual WTRs living on reduced incomes. You can order this 20-page pamphlet from NWTRCC for 50" apiece (affiliates 40").

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    REPRINT SERIES
    War Tax Resistance and Anarchism
    Nation-states in the modern world, - regardless of professed ideology - consistently work to maintain and expand their own power. No country does this more consistently, more ruthlessly, and more successfully than the United States.

    Over half of U.S. tax dollars go to military spending. Not to housing, education, environmental protection, or any of the other desperately needed social programs, but to killing people to maintain state and corporate power, expand wealth, and enforce racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. The U.S. military does not, as it claims, protect us from people who would take what is rightfully ours; instead it protects THEM, the people who take what is rightfully ours, from us.

    One of the best ways to challenge that power is to refuse to fund the system that maintains it. Consider, and encourage your friends to consider, refusing to pay taxes for war and military spending - and redirecting refused tax money to positive uses.

    Become informed about the various forms of war tax refusal and redirection. Contact NWTRCC. . .

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    LOCAL GROUP REPORTS
    BERKELEY, CA
    Northern California War Tax Resistance (NCWTR) held their annual dinner, Caribbean style this year, on September 8th. Researcher Nicky Gonzalez Yuen presented the results of his University of California dissertation entitled "Lives of Resistance, Communities of Support."

    Nicky studied members of the NCWTR group to establish the value of war tax resistance as a political movement and to figure out how people sustain their involvement in WTR. He looked at war tax resistance in the larger progressive movement and concluded, "If nothing else, war tax refusal helps to focus and clarify the debate about our moral principles and thereby serves as a reminder to us to continue thinking about what kind of society we really want to live in, as opposed to what we are willing to settle for in the moment."

    In regards to sustaining our war tax resistance, Nicky focused on the social networks that operate among WTRs. He came to believe that they form and nurture activists' social identities as activists. Personal social contact with war tax refusers is very effective at shaping one's identity as a member of the WTR movement. But, "even for people who may not be convinced of the ultimate efficacy of war tax refusal as a politically useful strategic act, WTR nonetheless does help solidify people's identities as oppositional activists."

    For a longer article about Nicky's research, request the Spring/Summer 1996 issue of Taxing Times from NCWTR, PO Box 2422, Berkeley, CA, 94702, (510)843-9877.

    CHICAGO, IL
    The Chicago Area War Resisters Support Group (CAWRSG) will host the next Midwest WTR Conference with the theme, "Tax Resistance into the 21st Century," February 21-23, 1997. For more information, contact CAWRSG c/o Kathy Kelly, 1460 W. Carmen, Chicago, IL, 60640, (312)784-8065, email: kkelly@igc.apc.org.

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    PERSPECTIVE
    WTR Effectiveness By Sallie Marx & Robert Hieger, New York City WTR
    The following are excerpts from a response to the War Tax Refusers Penalty Fund about a letter the Penalty Fund published regarding the effectiveness of war tax resistance.

    "War Tax Resistance Is a Waste if You're Collected On?: Exercising the right of conscience is of primary importance to war tax resisters. And for some resisters the need to express conscience overrides the issue of IRS collecting their monies. Protesting the collection of money going to the military is a pivotal issue, especially today, when the country is clearly not only stockpiling destructive weaponry but destroying the social support system built up during the past sixty years. Money spent on war has weakened our economy and scapegoatism (saying the poor, immigrants, social security are the cause of our deficits) has been used with great success. Resisters must speak out, write letters and withhold their monies, whenever possible, to make that point again and again.

    Resistance puts the IRS administrative machinery to work. The more resisters we have doing this, the more the government feels the impact of their actions.

    Along with war tax protest, a resister is talking to friends, fellow workers, and IRS employees in an effort to change political sentiment in the country. Such changes are difficult, if not impossible, to measure because they can't be empirically verified. Since many resisters ignore influencing the long-term direction (i.e., political direction) of this country as a goal of war tax resistance, the collection of monies disheartens them.

    Resistance in the Context of Lifestyle: Many who begin protest with an all-out effort fail to alter their lifestyles or consider the changes necessary to continue on a total level. We should ask ourselves, "Do counselors talk about the long-term struggle?"

    Government Does Good Too!: You can't earmark funds to the Department of Education, for example, so we pay taxes to support all government expenditures, over 50% of which goes to destructive purposes. However, one of the most inventive aspects of WTR is the creation of Life Funds, which rechannel money to worthwhile community groups. Presumably, redirected taxes are employed constructively. The contrast between a military budget still accounting for over 50% of total government expenditures and the cruel social cuts already in force portends a dismal future. Presumably, Life Funds speak to the needs of the community, and it is important that we stress this as well as the act of war tax resistance. People who can only symbolically resist may be persuided to contribute substantial amounts to Life Funds as either loans or outright grants.

    Symbolic Resistance: With regard to the letter advocating the promotion of symbolic resistance, it seems to us that good counseling sets forth choices and also explores consequences of those choices so that prospective resisters can, if necessary, alter their lifestyles or, at the very least, be cognizant of possible consequences. Rather than offering symbolic resistance as an attractive incentive to come into the movement, we should be educating people about many options and stressing that they get involved at whatever level seems best for them at a given point in their lives."

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    About More than a Paycheck
    *More Than a Paycheck* is a publication of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), 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 sees poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, economic exploitation, and environmental destruction 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.

    Hard copy subscriptions to More Than a Paycheck (6 issues per year) are available for $10 per year. Editor: Karen Marysdaughter.

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