- Increasing numbers of Americans say the U.S. government
is involved in immoral and illegal wars around the world and are refusing
to support this with their tax money. The invasion and occupation of Iraq
and Afghanistan and the indiscriminate killing of civilians, for example,
are outlawed by international law.
- "Of every tax dollar paid, more than 50 cents goes
to pay for past, present and future military expenses. The military budget
for the Department of Defense alone for 2005 will be close to $500 billion.
Our payment of federal taxes enables the government to carry on a continuing
program of illegal military activities," wrote Glen Milner, a member
of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Wash., in a recent
opinion piece in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
- "International laws and agreements support and encourage
citizens to resist their government when it is engaged in illegal acts,"
- Under international laws, those who facilitate illegal
wars and war crimes could actually be morally-if not legally-accountable,
say proponents of resisting war taxes. Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles
states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government
or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international
law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
- For example, a 1996 ruling by the International Court
of Justice regarding the threat or use of nuclear weapons could be interpreted
to mean that the United States' deployment of depleted uranium weapons
is illegal. The humanitarian measure prohibits the use of weapons or methods
of warfare that are directed against civilians or cannot discriminate between
military targets and civilians; cause unnecessary suffering to combatants;
violate the territory of neutral states; cause long-term and widespread
damage to the environment or use poisonous substances.
- Most war tax resisters redirect their withheld federal
tax funds to outfits such as the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign Escrow
Account in Seattle. This way, the money is still on hand, if they should
ever be forced to fork it over. Though getting a notice from the Internal
Revenue Service is likely, jail is uncommon for war tax resisters. Still,
there are no guarantees.
- IRS public affairs officer Ken Vargas of the Austin,
Texas, office of the IRS explains the collections office sends out "soft
notices" first, followed by "harder notices" later. Vargas
says the IRS doesn't keep a handy record of war tax resisters. He insists
"normal collection procedures" apply to all subjects, regardless
of whether they write letters stating their war tax resistance. In fact,
the tax reform act of 1998 makes it illegal for the IRS to designate tax
protesters as a special class.
- Susan Quinlan, a Bay Area organizer for the National
War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, pegs the number of war tax resisters
who have seriously faced jail time at less than 20 over the past 50 years.
It doesn't necessarily have to be your income tax that you use for protesting,
- One of the first federal taxes to spark opposition was
the federal phone tax. This tax has been in existence since 1914. Originally
introduced as a "temporary" tax, after 76 years Congress made
it permanent and set its level at 3 percent of your phone bill. Protesters
simply include a note saying that they refuse to pay their federal excise
tax for conscientious purposes and pay the rest.
- Resistance to the telephone tax has a long and distinguished
history, and most phone companies will put up no fight to customers who
will not pay it. Perhaps they're just as happy not to serve as unpaid tax
collectors for the feds.
- In any event, tax resister groups estimate that tens
of thousands of Americans don't pay their income taxes in order to protest
U.S.-backed war efforts around the world. And, they say, that number is
growing every year.