What is the Point of Tax Resistance if They Get the Money in the End?

There have been some interesting and thoughtful threads on the wtr-s email list recently. Is it really war tax resistance if you’re pretty sure the IRS is just going to lift the money (with penalties & interest) from your bank account anyway? Is the point of our resistance to register our disapproval strongly with the government, or to actually withhold funds from the war machine?

Re: IRS contact
Carol Moore reacts to news of a recent IRS seizure of a resister’s bank account: “The problem with doing [war tax resistance] when you make a lot of money is they get so much interest and fines, which almost defeats the purpose. Better to do ‘token’ resistance of whatever feels right — be it for you $500 or $2000, or whatever — and make them go through the effort of collecting.”
Randy Belmont says: “I am very puzzled why WTRs use banks. Most banks are members of the Federal Reserve Banking System and if they are not members they are tributaries, in that they must follow all regulations and are beholding to the Fed. Why would anyone who refuses to voluntarily fund war do business with these people? The funding of America’s empirical wars is brought about through the fiat money creation machine known as the Federal Reserve.

“Stealing ones money from a bank account is the simplest and easiest strategy for the IRS. I read over and over the same scenario of funds being stolen from bank accounts. Yet, people continue to patronize these institutions. There is no law requiring one to use banks or keep money deposited in the bank. Please stop using banks!
Re: Banks
Christopher Toussaint responds: “To use a war analogy, in this case for nonviolent resistance, one must sometimes go behind enemy lines, use their infrastructure to infect transformational memes into the dominant society, get a hold of their ‘ammunition’ and use it against them. We are a minority, guerrillas who must be grounded in integrity and street smarts. After all, if we are forced to live in poverty and/or keep our cash in our mattresses, haven’t we compromised ourselves beyond the point of sacrifice, where we become ineffective in changing the greater community toward peace?

“In my case, using the banks to keep small amounts of money to pay by check and debit card, makes my life easier and I am more productive in the work I do on behalf of creating a more just and sustainable society. Its not hard to change banks periodically if you want to do that to keep the IRS from pilfering your accounts since they are often months and even years behind in their collection process. Just make sure you have a good reason to change banks, other than evasion of IRS collections, like the bank service fees are too high or their percentages of interest are no longer high enough or you have moved, etc.

“I am aware of the Federal Reserve fiat money situation and yes, in an ideal world, ‘Stop Using Banks’ and trading in silver and gold coins might be preferred. But this discussion needs to focus more on strategies for keeping our money out of the reaches of the IRS and not on just blanket statements that are not always practical to most WTRs.”
Re: Banks
Heather Snow agrees: “Keeping small amounts in the bank is so much easier to pay bills… all the bills are connected to banks. I mean, living without a bank, is like living without a car. Almost impossible. That’s how the feds want it. I don’t keep all my money in the bank, and enjoy having cash on hand.”
Re: Banks
Dana Visalli adds: “[I]t is possible with small banks that have no branches to have an account in somebody else’s name, or more meaningfully, someone else’s SS#. There can be two signers on the account but they only take the SS# of the first person. Apparently this option does not exist with banks with branches; only dog knows why this is the case.

“When the IRS seized my account some years ago, the bank president came up to the teller window and explained this technique to me!”
Re: Banks
Randy Belmont responds: “Actually, not using banks is really not that hard. Cash checks at the local corner store or bar. You can pay many utility bills directly at local drug stores and purchase money orders for other bills. You can also recycle checks because all checks are drafts for money. Example: You have a bill for $100.00 owed to ABC Co. and a check made out to you for $75.00. Sign and write pay to the order of ABC Co. on the back of the check and purchase a money order for $25.00. Send both of these to ABC Co. and your bill is paid. Additionally, if the check is bad the issuer of the check and not yourself is liable. You can also purchase a pre-loaded debit card for internet purchases etc. at 100s of stores. I understand that we all must use Federal Reserve Notes to survive, but it is not hard to ween yourself from the constant use of banks. If you must keep an account keep very little in it and cash your checks for cash and use the methods I described above. Additionally, you will never have an overdraft or bounced check fee again.”
Re: Banks
Larry Rosenwald: “We keep our money in a local bank (two branches). I love Dana’s story about the bank president! But here’s a question. As noted in an earlier exchange with Carol Moore, I think of war tax resistance as an act of civil disobedience, and in that context — and for other reasons — I am not trying not to be penalized; rather the being penalized is for me part of the civil disobedience. I hate being levied, I should make clear! But I understand being penalized as part of the process, and when I’m penalized, when we’re levied, I take that occasion to publicize what we’re doing. I’m guessing from the responses to this thread, and from other threads, that other readers of this list don’t think of wtr as civil disobedience, or think of civil disobedience in a different way, and I’d be interested in understanding these other conceptual frameworks better, if readers would be willing to comment on them.”
Re: Banks
Dana Visalli again: “Interesting note Larry, thanks. I’m sure it is the case that everyone interprets their ‘resistance’ (I like to think of it as ‘complete refusal’) to pay for the insanity of war.

“For one think it is quite important for me to keep my financial resources away from the IRS because they will use that money to kill people. So, when they did seize my account and get $4000 some years ago, that was a sizable amount that went to war (I know we generally calculate about half goes in that direction). It is a real, literal, tangible issue to me; I don’t want any of my resources to go to war (not to be too pure here, I do drive my car quite a bit… petroleum is quite a war-related problem…).

“It’s certainly an issue that if the IRS does seize a large sum then the mechanics of living become problematic. I’m sure that’s what Diogenes was getting at when he said ‘People don’t own possessions, possessions own people.’ He apparently lived in a barrel in the town square for quite a while. I’m passionate… but not that passionate.

“Also, if one can retain one’s resources, one can redistribute them. Some years ago I gave $1000 to the town community center for their new roof; when I handed the cash to the manager I stipulated that I was going to point out in a letter to the editor why I could afford to give away a thousand dollars when I don’t have a lot of money. I would like to get up to giving away ¼ of what I make (total taxes are about ¼ of income), but I’m not there. It is however a real pleasure to give $100 here and $100 there; if the IRS got at my funds that would be impossible

“I’m 61 and I think I can get social security next year. Surprisingly, they are offering me something like $600 a month (I’ve paid very little into the system in my life). My favorite idea is to take the money and then donate it to groups working on the aftermath of American war-making, or the many exemplary groups I met in Afghanistan when there in March, trying to educate street children or take care of old people with almost zero resources (speaking of this there are two good essays at CommonDreams right now by Kathy Kelly and her co-workers, who are in Afghanistan as we speak). I know not everyone could afford to do this, but in my case I think I can make some money until I’m at least 70 selling at farmer’s market and doing other work.

“So… I had no intention of ending up an anarchist, but the Politics of Obedience are too much for me.”
Re: Banks
Ginny Sсhnеider adds: “Aside from the Federal Reserve tie, imagine how the banks are investing your money! Likely these investments uphold the military-industrial complex — just what you are working to overcome. Credit Unions and newer, socially-responsible bank like institutions might be better alternatives even while you wait for the IRS to seize your money from an account.”
Re: Banks
Ed Agro says: “I think I’m somewhere else entirely. This isn’t surprising; I think if 100 resisters-refusers-redirectors got together & beyond our standard slogans, there’d be 100 different reasons.

“I do know I’m not as attached to independence as Dana; but on the other hand I can’t quite see Larry’s putting up with seizure as civil disobedience.

“If we cannot point out a palpable relationship between making the collection of taxes difficult and a turn away from war, where is the salience of the disobedience? Is it even civil if it’s an individual or a small-group action with no hope of provoking change? We cannot show the salience theoretically, and worse, our experience over our years of refusal don’t show it empirically. It’s not at all obvious that even were there a mass refusal of ‘war taxes’ (which would mean at the very most half of the population, as it has been shown over & over that at least half of our fellow citizens love the government’s wars) that the government would be less inclined or less able to wage war. The draft resistance movement in the 1960s and ’80s were successful enough to worry the military-industrial complex; so now they buy their soldiers, and as we see there are plenty who will take them up on it. This is just to say that consumer capitalism’s genius is its ability to absorb and commodify almost any dissent, particularly when that dissent expresses itself as dissatisfaction.

“I’m not saying that either Dana’s or Larry’s different conceptualizations of citizens and subjects are not worth following to their deedful conclusions, but only that perhaps neither of these are resistance. It’s been interesting and very useful for me to note and remember that their different actions both result in a very good thing: conversation with neighbors, co-workers, officials… There, perhaps is the nub of what we’re doing. It’s the most we can expect out of WTR, and it’s not a small thing in these timid times.

“Long ago I took a job precisely so that my WTR could be as ‘effective’ as possible in that the substantial risk of seizure at least would give the resistance a voice, and for years I enjoyed sticking it to the IRS with many an antic scheme. (I particularly enjoyed taking as business losses the time I spent in antiwar work.) In the end, though, the thing that I cam away with wasn’t the accounting of who was ahead, or the best way to protect my money. (Though I have to agree with Dana: without a very good reason to let the IRS get much more than I refused, I could get really bummed out.) Rather I finally came to see that this was indeed a species of tilting at windmills since except insofar as I wrote to various presidents & secretaries of state — and even then with no apparent effect — the IRS was if not a windmill, at least a coffee mill into which my resistance was soon ground up. The occasional agent who looked with sympathy on my stance — really, I could’ve gotten more mileage for my ideas with less work by way of a letter to the editor.

“I don’t know how I’d feel about all this were I still in the labor market, though I like to believe I’d still be happily reckless. But this feeling that WTR is less than cogent has had one good effect. It’s led me to thinking over the years about why, exactly, civilization is so screwed up. This in turn (and I have to admit, helped along by a good social-security situation) has led me to a preference for a frugal life.

“Yet… Maybe a disadvantage of a frugal life is that it turns not to include tax liability. Though the relationship isn’t as ‘functional’ as we like to believe, ‘war’ taxes are associated with state violence; so I do miss (or think I miss) the occasion to refuse them. For that reason I find myself inordinately attached to refusing the phone tax, the only one to which I’m liable and to which with a certain amount of mental gymnastics I can associate with war. Why do I bother, after these long-winded arguments for ineffectiveness? The only reason that makes sense to me is that I enjoy the ritual. Like voting, which ritual I also enjoy even though in the large it apparently doesn’t accomplish anything meaningful either.”

Batting around ideas like this is even more fun in person, so if you have a chance, you should swing by the 25th Annual New England Gathering of War Tax Resisters and Supporters and National War Tax Resistance Gathering and Coordinating Committee Meeting in Boston .

I wonder if this sort of thing is still going on (from the Ocala Star-Banner):

Tax Resisters To Face Agents

The Internal Revenue Service is sending agents to Montana taxpayer meetings to collect names and run tax checks on many who attend, says IRS district director Frederick Nielson.

Nielson said he authorized the monitoring program “some time ago” as tax protests intensified across the state.

The agents focus on speakers who encourage audiences to challenge the federal income tax, but they sometimes compile names of all persons present, Nielson said .

“Those are open, public meetings and our position is that we have as much right to be there as anyone else,” Nielson said. “We feel that if people are bragging about not filing returns, it’s our obligation to identify those people, pull their returns and see if they are filing.”

An IRS spokeswoman in Washington acknowledged such monitoring, but it was unclear how widespread the practice is nationwide.