National War Tax Resistance
Coordinating Committee

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NEW ADDRESS! (April 1999)
PO Box 6512, Ithaca, NY 14851

(800) 269-7464. Email: nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org

More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement
December 1999. HEADLINES IN THIS ISSUE:

Click on a link or scroll down the page:


Join Us in Washington
Patrolling Inequality, by Joe Maizlish
Counseling Notes: IRS Website; Public Comment Sought; Telephone Tax; Reported Changes in IRS Practice
Networking with SOA [School of the Americas opposition] Activists
International News: Hungarian Peace Tax Effort
Legislative Update: Peace Tax Fund Bill Reviewed
WTR [War Tax Resister] Injured in Accident
NWTRCC Business: Report from Fall Meeting in Milwaukee
Local Group Reports: North Carolina; Albany, NY; Milwaukee, WI; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR
Perspective: Living Out Tax Resistance Day by Day

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Counseling Notes

IRS WEBSITE

The IRS has trade it easier to reach their Web site. You can now connect to the agency at www.irs.gov.

PUBLIC COMMENT SOUGHT

The Joint Committee on Taxation invites public comment for a study it is conducting on taxpayer confidentiality. They want comments on various issues, but the two that relate to WTRs are: l) whether greater levels of voluntary compliance can be achieved by allowing the public to know who is legally required to file tax returns but does not do so, and 21 the impact on taxpayer privacy of sharing tax information for the purposes of enforcing state and local tax laws (other than income tax laws).

TELEPHONE TAX

WTRs m New jersey are being threatened with having their cellular phone service turned off because they are not paying the 3% federal tax on their bills. Jurisdiction over cellular phone companies is murky territory, and NWTRCC is researching this further. If you have experience with cellular phone companies regarding the telephone tax, please let NWTRCC know. Along those lines, mention was made in the August newsletter that a bill that would cut the current 3% federal communication excise tax to 1% was introduced into Congress. That bill is still in committee

REPORTED CHANGES IN IRS PRACTICE

The October 10 issue of The New York Times had an article about the IRS that may be of interest to VIM,. The key excerpts follow.

Understaffed and caught in a set of mixed signals from Congress, the Internal Revenue Service for more than a year has let many tax delinquents go without paying tax bills ....

Instead of working cases, tax collectors, whose numbers are dwindling, have spent much of the year in training on complex new rules imposed by Congress.

In addition, the I.R.S. interprets the new rules as requiring an all-or-nothing stance on back taxes. Rather than reach negotiated settlements and work out payment schedules, as was customary in the past, the I.R.S. is demanding full payment. If the taxpayer is unable or unwilling to comply, the agency is setting the cases aside as temporarily uncollectible. Then, calculating that the agency is unlikely to act before the 10-year statute of limitations runs out, many tax delinquents are opting to take their chances and pay nothing.

...Charles O. Rossotti, the tax commissioner, said the number of collection cases languishing in I.R.S. tiles is growing, particularly cases involving taxes withheld from paychecks and then not turned over to the Treasury by small businesses. "Our case inventory is building up because we are not working as many cases," he said.

...Though some tax advisers say it remains risky to dodge tax debts, even some high-level I.R.S. officials acknowledge that the latest ploys may be successful. They blame antiquated computer systems, the shortage of collectors and complex new regulations that taxpayers can manipulate to delay collection.

...Still, the new strictures on the agency have had unintended consequences-most notably the de facto all-or-nothing policy on tax debts. The policy stems from a requirement by Congress that the I.R.S. negotiate all terms of a tax-collection agreement up front. In the past, the agency would often collect what it could from a taxpayer, and then-as the period for collection was about to end-threaten action such as seizing a house to persuade the debtor to pay the balance or extend the collection period, sometimes for decades. Now, according to tax professionals, if a taxpayer does not agree to pay in full, collectors are quick to designate the debt "currently noncollectible," which, for the purposes of performance reviews, effectively closes a case.

"Revenue officers are no longer judged by the dollars they collect, but by the efficiency with which they close cases," said Mike Wellman, a tax accountant in Longview, Texas ....

Rossotti said he now limits extensions of the statute of limitations on collecting back taxes to an extra five years. And if the taxpayer will not grant an extension -- or if regular payments would not cover 100 percent of the debt even with the extended pay period-the I.R.S. is refusing to accept an installment agreement and suspending its collection efforts. If the statute of limitations expires without LR.S. action, the taxpayer successfully avoids paying the debt.

The danger, explained Manaka, the I.R.S. collections executive, is that the agency could revive the case within the allotted time-and seek penalties and interest. "Tax processionals who advise clients to do this are taking a risky approach," he said.

Manaka acknowledged that the chance of a case being revived is small, provided the taxpayer continues to file annual tax returns and there is no evidence of a sharp increase in income. ...Charles Rossotti characterized the collection problems as transitory while collectors are trained.

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International News

Hungarian Peace Tax Effort

Memhers of a group called Peace Tax Payers Hungary are petitioning for a Peace Tax Bill in their country. Robert Fidrich met with the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament to introduce the idea of war tax resistance. Reaction from members of Parliament was mixed. The group received support and ideas of possible wording, from the Dutch peace tax campaign.

Robert is a member of a group called Alba circle. Thcir 600 members have actively worked on conscientious objection to military service since the group's founding In 1990.

For more information, e-mail fidusz@zpok.hu

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Perspective:

Living Out Tax Resistance Day by Day

By Liz Scranton

In 1986 I began attending Friday night talks at the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker in Worcester, MA. At the time. I was a somewhat conservative individual, and the experience at the Mustard Seed began to slowly transform me This was my first experience with a faith-based community. Growing up in a Protestant New England family, church was just something done on Sunday; it was not lived out day to day. So seeing people living the Gospel in their words and deeds had a real impact on me. I began to listen and ask questions. Eventually I began to see the light. By August 1989, when 1 made the decision to move to Washington state to be with my partner of two years. I was ready to begin a new life based on my faith.

The first thing I did was to withhold war taxes. I was really quite scared, but with my deeply held beliefs and my strong faith, l knew God would take care of me. 1 had a 401-K plan that I cashed in (as I needed the money) and I owed almost five thousand dollars in taxes. I could not bear to give all that money to the IRS, so I sent a letter with my income tax statement informing the IRS of my refusal to pay for war. I withheld all my taxes owed the IRS and sent the money instead to the Mustard Seed. That act, in September of 1989, was the beginning of what has become quite a journey. It has not always been easy, and although 1 try to act complacent and cool about the IRS, there are tunes when I still worry.

My tax resistance has made my life more complicated and it has, at times put a hardship on my home life and on my partner. This is the part that bothers me the most. Teri has been supportive of my choices but she worries about the consequences more than I do. It also puts a burden on her since I am unable to own anything or have a bank account, which makes it difficult to pay bills and cash checks. It means when we go for a house mortgage that my income may be suspect clue to my debts with the IRS.

There were times when I was tempted to rethink my commitment to tax resistance. Like when my father told me he had cut me out of his will because of my tax resistance (1 stood my ground, and years later he rescinded). There are times when I feet that it is just not worth the hassle. Then 1 think of the Iraqi people dying each day. I think of all the men and women in US prisons whose crime is to be poor, and the many others, too numerous to name, who die each day, as a result of the US military complex. Just when l am waffling, a new war comes to light, and I literally hear the military jets take to the air each night as they prepare for attack (I live close to Whidbey Air Force Base). This year it was the bombing of Serbia and continued bombing of Iraq. When I imagine the faces of those who are dying or suffering a slow death, I realize my risk is really not so great.

As a Christian rooted in the gospel, I cannot participate in our government's military policy, and a system which rewards the rich, allowing their wealth to grow, while the average working people see their income shrink. I can not participate in a government which builds more bombers, but neglects the health and welfare of our children.

In order to live with all this, I have done my best to withdraw from mainstream society. It is the only way I find I can deal with the world as it is. I live, albeit a privileged life, on a small island near British Columbia. I try to live simply, for a number of reasons. Living simply supports the environment because 1 m not buying in to the disposable consumer culture. It also affords me more time for family, friends, and volunteering in my community.

My partner Teri and I currently live without power or running water, in a small yurt, on a beautiful piece of land that was gifted to us by a friend. As we get older (we are 42 now), we have been wanting a little more space and conveniences like running water and power. We debate whether to bring in power or to set up our own system with wind and sun. Teri would like to be able to use her sewing machine, and I would like to be able to use a computer and to run power tools. We are considering a mortgage so we can build a small straw bale home. We feel, in a way, that we will be selling out, but our goal is still to try to keep things as simple as possible.

What 1 am coming to realize is that my faith-filled life involves give and take, that there is no black and white, but lots of gray areas and lots of compromise. We think about all our actions and weigh them heavily We try to make choices that are good for the entire planet: eating organic food when we can, building to a sustainable manner with straw bales, buying few consumer goods, to name a few things, Yet there is lots more we could do, It seems that life is a balancing act and we constantly struggle with all the difficult choices.

War tax resistance is neither black nor white. It is a complex choice and there are many ways to live it I have tried to decide what my limits are and abide by them. I can not support an economy of neglect and a huge military complex, yet my partner does choose to pay taxes and live within the system. We share our income and I rely on her so I can have a car. In a way, l have it easy because of her. That is some of the gray area. It is not easy: nor simple. Only one thing is really clear cut, and that is that every bit of the worry and risk have been worth it for me, I know without a doubt, that this year, I will once again send a letter off to the 1R5 when 1 send my tax form and inform them of my choice to refuse war taxes. I will redirect the money I owe to local organizations, groups that are working to make a better world.

It will he ten years since my first act of tax resistance, and here I am living a very blessed life, full of joy and line. Faith has brought me safe thus far, and faith will lead me on.

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National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

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