While I was busy going through Friends Journal back issues, I didn’t attend much to American tax resistance news in the here-and-now, so I’ll try to give a recap today of some of the interesting items that caught my notice:
Cursing the IRS
Internal Revenue Service agents found an unwelcome surprise — and a possible witchcraft curse — on when unknown individuals left a trio of charred, headless chickens outside the agency’s McAllen offices.
War tax protest
Some Christian war tax resisters in Michigan held a small “Independence from War Tax Day” demo that included symbolic burnings of tax forms. “The common citizen is not being listened to,” wrote participant Michael J. McCarthy. “We must learn to vote with our money, as the powerful do. April 15th becomes the new second Tuesday in November. This tax redirection is one of a number of lifestyle changes that people can make to better participate in a real community-responsible democracy.”
McCarthy also wrote up his thoughts for USCatholic.org. Excerpts:
In , facing the probability that the Iraq War was unjust, a group of Catholics in my community in Port Huron, Michigan, openly informed IRS that we would redirect hundreds of dollars from our federal taxes, donating this “Iraq Peace Bond” instead to our local library. Our donation was merely a drop in the bucket of the trillions wasted in this war, but a small step in a new direction. Most of the money was eventually recovered by IRS, but the donation still helps the community and serve as an inspiration to find further methods to invest in the works of peace, not war.
The problem for us in the United States is non-cooperation with evil — a difficult feat when so much of our tax money (more than 50 percent of all federal income tax, or 25 percent of total income tax) is spent on war. There are, however, alternative ways to turn away from it towards peacemaking. It is possible to take some of the money you would have offered to the troubled war economy and homeland security and spend it instead on the works of mercy, from feed the hungry to investing in creative work opportunities for our young people to donating to your local Christian pregnancy care centers.
You must inform the IRS of your intentions, and your wish to be a responsible citizen while also divesting from this war economy. The dialogue that follows with them can be kept cordial. For the practical measures, contact the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. My wife and I have tried war tax resistance/redirection for 17 of the 35 years of our marriage, with varied results — some trial and tribulation, a lot of good done within our faith and larger communities.
Arthur Silber, of the blog Once Upon a Time…, shared the story of an IRS levy on his PayPal account. Excerpts:
For years now, because I knew the IRS was out to get me at some point, I’ve kept the balance in my PayPal account very, very low. Whenever I made pitches for donations, I withdrew the funds almost immediately. But because my health has now gotten so much worse, I wasn’t able to make as many trips as I wanted to the closest ATM. It’s only a block and a half away, but given my enormous difficulties in getting around, it might as well be a couple of miles. The heat in L.A. didn’t help, either. That’s the reason there were still funds left for the IRS to get. My apologies and regrets again, both for all the kind donors and for my sorry ass.
However, I’m not content to let the matter stand there. That is, I’m not ready to lie down and die, which is what I’m certain they’d prefer. I obviously have no money to pay an attorney or tax specialist, but if there is anyone out there who would consider volunteering their expertise, I would like to find out if there are any options with the IRS at this point. I should tell you that I don’t want to pay them a single damned cent — I don’t choose to give funds to murderers and torturers, thank you (which is why the IRS was after me in the first place) — and I’d also like to get back at least some of the funds they’ve taken.
As I say, I suspected this might happen at some point, especially after PayPal began filing tax forms starting with . I had thought about providing a warning to donors that the IRS might suddenly swoop down, so that you kind people would be forewarned. I’m terribly sorry I didn’t do that. But since the IRS and I hadn’t communicated at all for years now, I thought (hoped) they might have forgotten about me. I mean, Jesus Christ, I have almost no money at all. And I didn’t receive any warning at all before this levy was imposed.
And that’s another aspect of this that absolutely enrages me. I know, we all know, that there are multibillion dollar companies (and individuals) who, with the aid of their fleet of top line attorneys and financial experts, pay next to no taxes at all — and in many cases, none, period. And yet these bastards come after me.
Well, to hell with them. This has made me so angry that I feel I have a new lease on life. With your help, I hope we can figure out a way around these difficulties. And just to show them, I’ll live for another ten goddamned years, and write another ten books’ worth of essays.
During the day, I tried to remember the last time I had any communication from the IRS. I’m almost certain it was close to ten years ago. Ten years, during which I had heard nothing at all. So I had thought that perhaps, mercifully, I’d fallen off their radar. I guess that’s a lesson for all of us: they never forget. If there is any way at all, they’ll get you in the end.
Sequester? Why, I hardly know her!
Before “sequestration” took effect, the Obama administration issued specific — and alarming — predictions about what it would bring. There would be one-hour waits at airport security. Four-hour waits at border crossings. Prison guards would be furloughed for 12 days. FBI agents, up to 14.
At the Pentagon, the military health program would be unable to pay its bills for service members. The mayhem would extend even into the pantries of the neediest Americans: Around the country, 600,000 low-income women and children would be denied federal food aid.
But none of those things happened.
Partially this is because Congress quietly made exceptions to the sequester in some cases, but a lot of it is because all of the alarm was bluff, and when agencies finally did have to cut their budgets, they found that there was plenty of stuff they could cut fairly painlessly.
The act of screaming bloody murder while engaging in mostly-symbolic belt-tightening seems to be a global phenomenon. In an article for Negocios.com, Jorge Valín says, of the Spanish version of budget cuts, “‘austerity’ doesn’t work (because it doesn’t exist).” Excerpts (my translation):
There is much debate on the issue of Government austerity. Those with a leftist mindset accuse it of generating poverty, reducing welfare, and even killing people when it comes to health. The rightists insist that government spending has to be checked, and in this sense austerity is good.
, the government has created three new bodies per month, whether commissions, committees, councils, centers, or agencies of some type. The government propaganda agencies receive more than a billion euros in additional subsidies to what they had at the beginning of the economic crisis. In fact, government spending grows year after year even without mentioning the exponential growth of the debt. Austerity doesn’t work because it does not exist.
…It simply does not happen; it’s propaganda and a stalling measure. And the big problem with austerity is that it is just another government program.… The government, any government, is simply incapable of reducing its drag on the economy or to eliminate its debt.
Unfortunately, the politicians are incapable of doing anything. They would lose their power. So the other option is to force austerity on the state. The politicians live on our work and there’s no moral or technical reason why they have to plunder us with taxes this way. Tax resistance is not only a moral position, it’s a necessity before a corrupt status quo in which criminals prosper.
Some of our feckless legislators are trying to come up with some sort of radical tax reform plan. Of course it’s unlikely that this Congress will ever agree on much of anything, but some future Congress is likely to try to pass something that they’ll call radical tax reform, so it’s worth at least keeping an eye on things like this.
Of course, whatever they come up with will be awful. And the motivations of the politicians will have a lot less to do with trying to make the tax system better or more efficient (even by government standards), and more to do with the fact that radical tax reform is an incredible shakedown opportunity, where every deep-pocketed son of a bitch with a stake in tax subsidies will have to pony up if they want to keep their cash cow alive.
But keep in mind that tax simplification, even when it’s accomplished in such an ugly way, and even if it doesn’t shrink the budget by a nickel, can still shrink government somewhat. So there may yet be reasons to smile.
I didn’t make much noise about it last quarter, when the Treasury Department announced its highest quarterly total number of people who had renounced their U.S. citizenship (679), as there was some indication that this had been an accounting fluke caused by names being shifted from one quarter to another.
The educated guesses about why this recent surge of citizenship renunciations has taken place say that it has less to do with people becoming increasingly ashamed at having to call themselves Americans, or with eagerness to avoid U.S. taxes, and more to do with the onerous paperwork requirements that the U.S. government requires from its citizens — even of those who live overseas and who conduct little activity back in the “land of the free.”
A more do-it-yourself approach to taxpatriatism was tried by the Gastonguay family, who fled the United States in part because they were upset at being “forced to pay these taxes that pay for abortions we don't agree with.” They boarded a small boat and sailed for Kiribati, a remote set of islands with a total population of a little over a hundred thousand people, where they hoped their religious practices and beliefs would be better-tolerated. But they never made it there, instead getting storm-tossed and lost at sea for three months before getting rescued and taken instead to Chile, from which, they said, they planned to return to the United States, at least for now.
Peace Tax Fund
Jerry Kirk of Searcy County, Arkansas, one of that odd crop of American tax protesters who adhere to incredibly baroque legal systems of their own devising, refused to pay his county taxes whereupon the government seized and sold some of his property.
He responded by doing something I haven’t seen a tax protester of that ilk do before: he redirected his unpaid taxes by handing out envelopes of money to people in front of the county courthouse. Here’s a video of the event:
What “sales tax holidays” reveal
Some American states that use a sales tax to raise revenue also periodically have “sales tax holidays” as a fiscally silly cheap ploy for the sympathies of the chamber of commerce set — often holding these holidays in late Summer when parents are doing their back-to-school shopping. Michael Graham looked at the psychology behind these holidays, and suspects they reveal a simmering resentment of government:
Let’s face it: As a marketing strategy, a 6.25 percent sale is embarrassing. What car dealer has ever run ads saying “Today Only — Save Just Over A Nickel On The Dollar!” When does Macy’s ever post “6.25 Percent Off!” over their junior miss selection?
And yet, the sales tax holiday weekend is huge. The stores are packed. It’s like a mini-Christmas in the dog days of August.
, when you see Massachusetts shoppers waiting in long lines to buy stuff they could have bought two days earlier without any hassles, they’re showing you just how hard they will work to stick it to the state.