Why Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton Refuses to Pay Taxes

An interview with former Catholic bishop Thomas Gumbleton was aired on Democracy Now! . He briefly addressed war tax resistance. Excerpts:

Amy Goodman: Bishop Gumbleton, . What do you think of war tax refusal, war tax resistance, refusing to pay taxes that go to war?

Thomas Gumbleton: I feel strongly that that would be one of the things that people should try to do. Now… in fact, for the most part, I haven’t been paying federal taxes for a number of years. But I can do it because I don’t need much income, and so I can stay under the level where I’m taxed.

Amy Goodman: You haven’t paid federal taxes because…?

Thomas Gumbleton: Because I feel a good portion of those taxes goes to our war budget, which is our so-called defense budget, but it’s really a war budget. It’s the largest of any nation in the world. And years ago, Pope Paul Ⅵ said the arms race — and that’s what we are doing with our defense budget — is, in itself, an act of aggression against the poor. Using that money for weapons and strategies to use them is taking money away from the poor and causing them to starve. We should be using our natural resources and our wealth to promote development and to promote justice in the world. When you have a world where there’s such a gap between the rich and the poor, and such huge numbers suffering because of that, the church has a real responsibility to use whatever income it can bring to — I mean, our nation has a responsibility to use its income to help development happen, because that’s the basis for peace.


I skimmed a bit of the pitch for Obama’s new budget proposal to see if there was anything there we tax resisters ought to keep an eye out for. A few things caught my eye:

  • Some years back, when “deadbeat dads” were the objects of the latest Hate Week, Congress set up something called the “National Directory of New Hires” so that if anyone who owed child support got a job, the government would be on them like flies on shit to make sure they made their payments. Obama would give the IRS access to this database “for general tax administration purposes, including data matching, verification of taxpayer claims during return processing, preparation of substitute returns for non-compliant taxpayers, and identification of levy sources.”
  • Obama would also make “repeated willful failure to file a tax return” a felony, rather than a series of misdemeanors like it is today. “Repeated” would be defined as a failure to file returns for any three years within a five-year period, if the total tax liability during that period is at least $50,000.
  • Obama would index all penalty amounts in the Internal Revenue Code to inflation, so that they would increase every year automatically rather than increases requiring Congressional action.

These are only proposals, of course, and Congress will have its own ideas, but they give you some idea of what sort of things are percolating through the mire in Washington.

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