Tax Resistance in the American Catholic Press, 1976

Today, some excerpts from The Catholic News Archive concerning tax resistance in

From The Catholic Advocate, :

Priest defies tax law

Rev. John P. Egan has again notified the Internal Revenue Service that he will not fill out a tax form this year in protest against “the diabolic ways in which the U.S. government spends so much of the money given to it by its citizenry.”

This is the second year that Father Egan has not cooperated with the income tax program even to the extent of sending in a form. For several years before that, he paid no taxes because “I gave away whatever surplus earning might be subject to tax.”

The only response the activist priest got from his protest last year was a form letter notifying him that he had not filed an income tax form. “I sent that one back with the notation that I had already told them I was not going to file one,” he said. “I haven’t heard from them since then.”

In his letter , Father Egan says that “It is hard to think of a better way to celebrate the bicentennial than by tax resistance. The first protests against the tyranny of the British government were in the form of non-payment of unjust taxes.”

Father Egan protests against the “clear policy of the present administration to keep millions unemployed, supposedly to slow down the rate of inflation,” the “development of the B-1 nuclear bomber at a cost ultimately of more than $1,000 to every average U.S. working person” and use of “food as a weapon to force people to follow the will of a particular government.”

The Catholic Worker reprinted this Peacemaker pamphlet in its issue:

No Money for War

(The following article is from a Peacemaker leaflet updated to figures. This leaflet is contained in a more complete booklet, The Handbook for Non Payment of Taxes, published by Peacemakers, 1255 Paddock Hills Av., Cincinnati OH 45229, who also publish an outstanding newsletter of nonviolent alternatives and responses.

For more information on tax resistance, contact Mandy Carter, War Tax Resistance National Office, 629 South Hill St., Rm. 915, Los Angeles, CA 90014. Other literature on tax resistance is available from Angie and Bob Calvert, Nonviolent Studies Institute, 912 East 31st St., Kansas City, Mo. 64109. Eds. note.)

The Peacemaker Movement’s position statement on tax nonpayment says:

“The federal income tax is not only the chief source of monetary support of the war system but it is the chief link connecting each individual’s daily labor with the tremendous buildup for war. A breaking of this link is important both as a stoppage of war supplies and as a real, personal commitment to peace. To break this link it is necessary for an individual to withdraw totally from the taxing of incomes federally. This means that one does not pay taxes either directly or through the withholding system, nor turn over the taxes of workers in his/her employ. Only after settling the withholding matter can a person be in command of his/her income and choose where the money goes. Therefore, the Peacemaker position is one of nonpayment of federal taxes, including excise taxes such as the telephone tax. Ways to participate in nonpayment of federal taxes are (1) Refuse to pay taxes legally owed, (2) Live on an income low enough to be nontaxable.”

Limiting Income

One person can earn up to $2350 a year before owing income tax. A person with one dependent can earn up to $3100. Three exemptions allow one to earn up to $3850; four, $4600; five, $5350; ten $9100. A person over 65 years of age is allowed an extra exemption; so a married couple over 65 can earn $4600 before owing tax.

Some people would rather not put a self-limit on their income, as they feel this would be taking on a standard of living dictated by government. Others would rather limit their income than break tax laws; some welcome an opportunity to live more simply, withdrawing further from the war economy. A religious calling to voluntary poverty impels many more. Those who follow this intentional low income form of nonpayment often find living collectively is more economical and usually seek part time work, short term jobs or limited self-employment.

Declining to Pay

Some people prefer to live at least a little above a no-tax level so they can add an act of open refusal to their position of nonpayment. Others find, after totaling their yearly income, that they are inadvertently above the no-tax level; and then go ahead with an open refusal also. Many earn more money and have larger amounts to refuse the government.

Any money legally due the government at tax deadline can be openly refused, the refuser deciding whether or not to file a tax return. Some people prefer, when making their refusals, to write IRS or the President; others prefer to write their local papers and to hand out their own prepared leaflets.

Withholding-Free Income

People wanting to refuse war taxes are often hampered by the withholding tax, as almost everyone works for an employer who takes out tax money from each paycheck. Unless a person corrects this situation, nonpayment of taxes cannot take place. Either the taking-out must cease, or the employee must quit.

Withholding Form W-4E may be signed by any employee who had no tax liability for the previous year and expects to have no tax liability for the current year. This form authorizes the employer to pay the full salary or wage without withholding taxes. It is meant for students or others who work only part-time. It must be signed anew in each calendar year of employment.

Some people notify their employer that they object to paying such taxes — having them withheld. In lieu of other possibilities, one can request that each paycheck be just below the figure where withholding starts. That figure is $39.99 weekly for one exemption, such as a husband and wife can each claim when both are employed.

The withholding Form W-4 permits two exemptions for a single person or a married person whose spouse is not also employed. Such an employee can earn $53.99 weekly without having any taxes withheld.

A married person whose spouse is not employed, by claiming the spouse as a dependent, for example, can thus take three exemptions, and be paid $67.99 per week without withholding. Four exemptions brings the figure to $83.99 weekly. Six exemptions permits the withholding-free weekly wage to be $109.99; ten exemptions brings the withholding-free weekly wage to $169.99.

Concerned employers have sometimes found creative ways to make up the monetary loss to the employee. After lowering their weekly pay in this fashion, some people have raised their hourly rate by working three or four days, instead of five; this also opens possibilities for other income.

People are legally entitled to claim as exemptions any persons who are members of the household for the entire year, who earn less than $750 a year and who receive more than half support from the wage earner — relatives need not be members of the household to qualify. A parent may claim as dependent a child who earns above $750, provided the child is a full-time student or is under 19, and is given more than half support.

Jobs Outside Withholding

Agricultural labor, domestic service, newspaper delivery, and services performed by a minister in the exercise of his ministry are three types of work which do not come under the withholding rule. Some people pick apples, for instance, or do caretaker-type maintenance, without withholding. (Although exempted from withholding, such jobs are not exempted from tax, so people in these jobs have prime opportunity to refuse to pay.)

Some people find it possible to work for an employer and still not be on that employer’s payroll. They are, instead, on the payroll of an “employment service” of their own which supplies their services along with a weekly bill, and receives paychecks made out to the employment service. This Manpower-type employer then pays the employee the full earning with nothing withheld. Some have felt it important to make this service a partnership — every member a partner. There is then no legal obligation to withhold tax.

Doctors, dentists, lawyers, music teachers, tutors, therapists, counselors, and others who have a private practice do not get involved in the withholding system. Self-employment can also be found in the arts: writing, illustrating, performing as musician, entertainer or lecturer. People with duplicating skills have opened their own print shops, binderies, mimeograph and addressing services. Messenger services and parcel delivery services are also in this category of personally-owned and operated businesses. People with skills as decorators, hairdressers, barbers, bakers, woodworkers, upholsterers can open small businesses where they are self employed and/or work as partners.

House builders have found self-employment by taking on the responsibility of constructing the entire building. In the same way, house painters, plumbers, electricians have gone out after their own jobs. Mechanics, engineers, architects, and people with other skills have become consultants in their fields. They have a practice, work for customers, go out on special jobs for these customers. People with mechanical skills have opened fix-it shops, garages, paint and body shops.

Nurses have taken private cases in hospitals and homes, thus becoming their own employers. Taxicab drivers and truck drivers who own or rent their vehicles are self-employed. Likewise those who own or rent power machinery (tractors, mowers, tree saws). Some have sold articles on commission and escaped the withholding system. Some have sold insurance without withholding. Others have established routes for fresh eggs, or some other repeatedly-purchased food items.

Alternative Funds

Any money held out of government use can, of course, be devoted to something else — notably to something which encourages life and counteracts war. In several areas, people refusing payment of income and telephone taxes have formed alternative fund groups, pooling the money and deflecting it into constructive uses: to reimburse members from whom the government has collected refused taxes; to give financial help to members who have become unemployed, imprisoned or otherwise dislocated because of nonpayment. Some groups have used these funds for supporting or initiating agreed-upon peace actions, or for their community.

Some people will have to make a change in job, life style, place of living. Some people feel that making such changes has been difficult, at least at first; and that they have made sacrifices for their beliefs. Others find such changes relatively easy, and seem pleased with having had to make the changes.

Both those who limit their incomes to a nontaxable amount and those who refuse legally-owed taxes have found that their situations lead to conversations with neighbors, friends, strangers — to dialogue on war. This personal interaction is felt at times to be more significant than the act itself of denying a few dollars to the war machine.

That issue also included this note:

War Tax Resistance is starting an outreach project to counter the American war budget. To help raise funds for this project, W.T.R. is selling Edmond Wilson’s “The Cold War and the Income Tax,” for $2.95. Order through War Tax Resistance/NYC, 339 Lafavette St., NYC 10012.

, The Catholic Worker published a letter to the editor from Chuck Quilty regarding his criminal tax case (one I hadn’t encountered before in war tax resistance literature — he’s not listed at NWTRCC’s War Tax Resisters Taken to Court list, for instance.):

Tax Case

2733 8½ Ave.
Rock Island, Ill. 61201

Dear Dorothy,

Here is the latest information on my trial () and my sentencing ().

The charge was two counts of filing false information (i.e. W-4E withholding form). The trial lasted only one day with Judge Morgan, in effect, denying me a trial by jury. The judge, in his instructions to the jury, told them that the only fact they had to decide was whether I had signed the W-4E, something I had already admitted. All personal motivation and beliefs, questions of international law, and constitutional issues were considered irrelevant.

At the sentencing Judge Morgan surprised everyone by reading a prepared speech which was very complimentary, and stated that he wasn’t even going to fine me because I freely gave of my time and money to help those less fortunate than myself. He gave me 3 years probation on each count to be served concurrently.

We have decided to appeal the decision, not because the sentence was unacceptable, but because of the issues we feel can still be raised. One remote possibility is that the appellate court would overturn the decision. More likely, they could rule a mistrial, and we would start over again. The government might then drop the charges or they could try me again. This time my personal convictions would be considered relevant and testimony to support my contentions on international and constitutional law would have to be allowed. Both my lawyer and I were forbidden to mention these during the trial.

The points we feel can be raised by the appeal and/or another trial are:

  • Signing a W-4E form represents making a legal judgment as to tax liability. People should not be made criminals for making a legal judgment.
  • International law. i.e. U.N. Charter, S.E.A.T.O., Geneva, Nuremburg, is binding on U.S. citizens via article six of the U.S. constitution.
  • The right to practice religious conviction includes tax refusal.

My lawyer has been very generous with his time and is charging me much less than he is entitled to. Still the expenses come to slightly over $3000 for the trial and appeal. If any groups can help a little with the expenses it would be greatly appreciated. We expect Appellate Court decision by .

Love to all!
Chuck Quilty

A National Catholic News Service dispatch dated mentioned in passing “Dr. John Kelly, a Chicago physician who with his family moved to Ireland to protest tax supported welfare programs providing abortions.”

The Catholic Worker printed another letter-to-the-editor from the Ammon Hennacy House in Portland, Oregon, in its issue (this one signed “Mufti McNassar et al.”). Excerpts:

After years of doing family hospitality, tax resistance and piece-work peace work we’ve finally got a kitchen going as of .

The House of Hospitality still consists mainly of Patrick, myself and our three children. has proved somewhat of a watershed for us. A brief but sweet reunion with Daniel Berrigan on was a gift. And with the babies weaned and the kitchen going well, the signs seem to point to a more concerted and visible resistance on our part. I can speak only for us now, but tax resistance seems to have grown organically out of war and draft resistance as the mandate for these times. We said as much to Mr. Short of the IRS in a tax day statement . In the eight years we’ve been together, Patrick and I have lived below a taxable income, refused to file (but once) and refused to pay social security. We have not incurred a tax debt, partly as our commitment to voluntary poverty, but mostly to keep our means consistent with our ends: if you make the money, it seems to us, the IRS will get it somehow, and it’s always been our first consideration that they get as little of our money as possible. We support ourselves mostly by manual labor — 11% of which the government claims as social security. Even this money is not set aside for the elderly and disabled, but filtered through the general fund. Legally to work — a natural right and an integral part of being human — one must pay into the death machine. And so we’ve begun to say no more loudly than before.

It’s always been our belief and an essential part of any small witness that we’ve given, that two people with small children can choose to be poor, can open their home to strangers, can resist openly. There are times when one is forced to seemingly “hide and watch" — e.g. when the actual survival of another is totally dependent on one’s body or one’s time. And even tho’ it may seem that we’re not “doing" anything then, the sheer vulnerability of the position forces one to come face to face with fear and with the future: the nuclear family as paradigm for humankind. The Pacific Northwest is dotted with monuments to death. To refuse to worship at the idol of nuclear power means risking some comfort in the present to offer the world a future. We own nothing and therefore have little to lose.