Employers Can Help Employees Resist Taxes

Employers can help tax resisting employees by refusing to withhold taxes from their salaries (see The Picket Line, ) and by refusing to cooperate with salary levies (see The Picket Line, ).

But that’s not all. Today I’ll mention some other ways that employers have helped (or can help) resisting employees:

Kenya in 2008

During a post-election crisis of legitimacy in Kenya in , Charles Kanjama urged the opposition to embrace a nonviolent resistance strategy, with tax resistance at the forefront.

As part of this, he urged people to adopt both legal and illegal forms of tax avoidance. Among the legal techniques he advocated was a sort of tax delaying tactic:

Compliant tax avoidance plays within the rules of the current tax statutes to reduce, delay or eliminate tax liability. For PAYE for example, participating employers and employees can enter into a voluntary contract to convert monthly employment into quarterly or half-yearly employment, thus effectively delaying tax liability for several months.

The Catholic Worker

As Dorothy Day noted,

The C.W. [Catholic Worker] has never paid salaries. Everyone gets board, room, and clothes (tuition, recreation included, as the C.W. is in a way a school of living). So we do not need to pay federal income taxes.

The Other Side

Another Christian activist magazine, The Other Side, published . Staff member Dee Dee Risher said: “We’ve built into our workplace certain small disciplines to remind ourselves that we are on this path of conversion. Our salaries are structured to allow staff members to do war-tax resistance and are intentionally low to remind us of the struggles of the poor and sharpen our willingness to sacrifice.”

NWTRCC notes

NWTRCC, in its publications, has noted a few cases in which employers have been accommodating when confronted with the unusual needs of war tax resisting employees:

Steve Soucy, [a resister] from Orland, Maine, arranged with his employer to reduce his hours after a levy notice arrived at his workplace. “I had received a proposed assessment from the IRS for the first years that I’d earned enough to be taxed. From that notice it was clear they knew my current employer, and so it seemed just a matter of time before they would try to collect directly from my wages. After some soul searching, I decided to prepare myself to leave that position, or cut back my hours, and I began training for a career change to something which I believe will let me earn money in a way that would be more difficult for the IRS to track. Up until the notice of attachment I did not tell my employer why I claimed nine exemptions on my W-4, since if they knew, they would be obliged by law to report me. But once the levy arrived, I was able to be more open about my tax resistance. I wrote a letter to my boss and my program manager (my supervisor’s boss) explaining that for reasons of conscience, I would no longer be able to continue in my position full time. I stated my willingness to work up to a certain number of hours per week until they were able to find a replacement, or decide what to do. I eventually tapered my hours from the maximum allowed before withholding to just a few hours per week, while increasing my employment in my other jobs to cover the loss in income and benefits. The most rewarding part was talking to my co-workers, who I found quite sympathetic to my reasons for tax resistance. In a way it was like coming ‘out of the closet,’ and gave them the opportunity to be supportive.”

A counseling session at NWTRCC’s Kansas City gathering got into stories of responding to salary levies and employers. In a current case, the resister found his employer to be most accommodating and is planning to lower his salary and barter for some benefits that will help keep money from the IRS. The resister was surprised that his employer was so willing to help — as long as the risks to the business were minimized.

One war tax resister writes: “Rent is always my biggest expense and thus the biggest burden on my practice of war tax resistance. Usually, I try to arrange housing as a component of one of my jobs. By doing this, I significantly reduce the amount of cash I need to earn. I currently work as the caretaker of buildings and grounds at a camp for people with disabilities. The camp provides me with a residence on the premises so I can keep watch over the facility and so I can be available on short notice for critical maintenance needs. Although our arrangement is a barter of services in exchange for housing, the value of this particular type of barter is excluded from my income under the Internal Revenue Code…”

Job sharing can be a way of keeping income below taxable levels as well as balancing other parts of life. Nancy and Gary T. Guthrie, a husband-and-wife parenting team, shared the job of Iowa Peace Network Coordinator. This allowed them to be involved in both meaningful employment and parenting; it also let them keep their income below taxable levels.

William Hill asks uncomfortable questions

A woman who worked for the gambling bookmaker William Hill asked her employer to stop withholding taxes from her, on the grounds that under international law it would be illegal for her to continue to pay for what she felt to be illegal warfare conducted by the government. She describes what happened next:

[T]o my amazement, I got a response inviting me to a meeting with the area manager and a chap from Personnel, and we sat down and we discussed the legal implications of paying tax to the U.K. government. And of course they raised all the normal concerns about the legality of not paying tax, and they showed us a copy of a letter that they had received from the Inland Revenue, so William Hill actually wrote to the Inland Revenue, bringing this matter up, and got a response! It was the usual whitewash, along the lines of “we are not aware of any law, blah blah,” — however, they also included in that letter that they’d had a series of other inquiries from other people (they didn’t say whether it was just individuals or whether they were other companies). So the Inland Revenue had already been contacted by other people, already. So, by the end of the meeting, the area manager of our shops and a chap from Personnel, they both seemed pretty-well convinced of the legality of withholding taxes — of course he had to go to the board of directors: if they’re going to withhold my tax, they’ve got to do it for the whole company, haven’t they, or not at all? So we’ll see what happens.

Voices in the Wilderness

Corporations can also refuse to pay taxes that they owe as a group. For example, in the activist group “Voices in the Wilderness” was fined $20,000 for bringing food and medicine into Iraq when that country was under a blockade. They have refused to pay, saying:

Voices will not pay a penny of this fine. The economic sanctions regime imposed brutal and lethal punishment on Iraqi people. The U.S. government would not allow Iraq to rebuild its water treatment system after the U.S. military deliberately destroyed it in . The U.S. government denied Iraq the ability to purchase blood bags, medical needles, and medicine in adequate supplies — destroying Iraq’s health care system.

We chose to travel to Iraq in order to openly challenge our country’s war against the Iraqi people. We fully understood that our acts could result in criminal or civil charges. We acted because when our country’s government is committing a grievous, criminal act, it is incumbent upon each of us to challenge in every nonviolent manner possible the acts of the government.

We choose to continue our noncooperation with the government’s war on the Iraqi people through the simple act of refusing to pay this fine. To pay the fine would be to collaborate with the U.S. government’s ongoing war against Iraq. We will not collaborate.