War Tax Resister Nancy Alach

On , Peacework magazine covered the war tax resistance of Nancy Alach. Excerpts:

A member of the [Cambridge Friends School (CFS)] community, Nancy Alach, has for sixteen years been a war tax resister, and in the school received from the Internal Revenue Service a “final demand” to enforce a levy on her wages. The school has been withholding, and paying to the IRS, the federal income tax due on Nancy’s paychecks. Nancy, as a matter of conscience, has not been filing her federal tax returns. Now, in essence, the IRS is demanding that the school pay them Nancy’s net salary, less a small living expense allowance, until her tax bill is satisfied.

Nancy Alach had written a detailed letter to the CFS Board of Trustees, explaining her stand as a conscientious objector to the payment of war taxes. “First and foremost,” she said, “I was brought up by my parents to live my life with nonviolence as a guiding principle.… I do not see nonviolence simply as passivity, or as the absence of violence, but as the presence of justice and peace.”

Each year Nancy calculates the amount that the government will ask in taxes, and places the money in a local fund which assists organizations working to end to racial and economic oppression, and create alternatives to violence at local, national, and international levels. As she explained, “Practically speaking, my refused tax money has funded projects that are actively fighting the manifestations of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression rather than funding violence and war.”

Faced with Alach’s strong, conscientious stand, the school’s Board of Trustees asked its Peace and Social Concerns Committee to review the situation, and to facilitate a consideration of the Board’s response to the IRS. It was clear that non-compliance might result in the IRS suing the School to collect the amount of the levy, in addition to a 50% penalty. There was also a possibility that individuals at the School could be held responsible as co-defendants. After careful discernment and feeling strongly the need to support an employee who takes a conscientious stand in keeping with Quaker testimony, the Committee recommended that the Board send the IRS a letter declining to comply with the notice of levy.

At its meeting, the Trustees reviewed a letter responding to the IRS demand. Members felt it was not possible to act in a manner contrary to the conscientious witness of an employee following an historic Quaker testimony, and they stated clearly that “matters relating to military tax resistance should be resolved between the resister and the IRS. CFS, as an employer, is not willing to act as a third party in a situation which involves violation of an employee’s ethical or religious beliefs.” The letter made clear that the School is incorporated under the care of Friends Meeting at Cambridge, and is classified as a religious organization by the Massachusetts Department of Employment and Training.

“The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers),” the letter read, “has since its inception in the seventeenth century, witnessed strongly against all forms of war and violence as contrary to its belief in ‘that of God in everyone’… Cambridge Friends School is keenly aware of its Quaker heritage and the Quaker values which are inherent in its mission as a Friends school. It follows, then, that conscientious opposition to military tax payment on the part of CFS employees will be accepted as an appropriate stance, in keeping with the Friends Peace Testimony established and upheld by Quakers .”

At present, the letter is in the hands of the IRS.

Regardless of the outcome, the school has stood firm in its support of Nancy Alach’s act of conscience. And the students at the school will be aware that action based on loyalty to conscience is not confined to historical witness.