On Refusing Federal Taxes

Here’s another look at the American war tax resistance movement of yore, this time in the form of an article from the D.C. Gazette:

On Refusing Federal Taxes

by Bill Samuel

Tax refusal is an old American way of making a protest. Religious pacifists refused taxes during the French and Indian Wars, large numbers of colonists refused unjust taxes imposed by the British prior to the Revolutionary War, and Henry David Thoreau refused to pay taxes to kill Mexicans. The practice has enjoyed a rebirth in the last few years. Sickened by the Indochina War, growing numbers of Americans began refusing federal taxes. A national organization, War Tax Resistance, was formed which spawned more than 150 local centers around the country. The movement did not go away when the Administration declared the war over. People continued to resist, protesting continued involvement in Indochina, the spending of 60% of the federal administrative budget for military-related purposes, the lack of representation for DC residents and a host of other reasons.

Hang Up On War

The government used excise taxes on telephone service to help finance World War Ⅰ, World War Ⅱ, the Korean War and the Indochina War. But it wasn’t until the Indochina War that large numbers of people began to refuse to pay the tax. It is a good target for refusal, not only because of its historical association with war but also because it is easy to refuse. It is clearly marked on the phone bill, so one just has to deduct it from the total and enclose an explanation when paying the bill. The telephone company is merely a collection agent and is forbidden, by the Federal Communications Commission from penalizing the telephone subscriber for refusing to pay it. The company merely passes the information along to the IRS, which may eventually try to collect it from your bank account. It costs the IRS far more to collect than it gets for its troubles.

Don’t Be An April Fool

The phone tax may be the easiest to refuse, but the income tax is the most important. Growing numbers of people are refusing part or all of their federal income taxes. The tax resistance movement has developed several good techniques, and IRS sometimes accepts claims made by resisters. One technique is to claim a tax credit which one may call “a war tax credit.” Another is similar and involves taking a miscellaneous deduction among your itemized deductions sometimes called “a war tax deduction.” People whose tax has not all been withheld may simply refuse payment of the remainder or a portion thereof. Some people file a blank return with nothing but their name and perhaps their address on it, relying on the Fifth Amendment to protect their right (conceded by the IRS) not to provide financial information as it would be evidence one had committed a crime (willful failure to pay tax). Some refuse to file a return at all. No matter which technique is used, the IRS has followed a practice of not prosecuting those who have openly submitted an explanation giving conscientious reasons for their actions. The IRS may assess the refuser and attempt to collect, but there is a long appeal process that can stave off collection for years.

Some people, not quite ready to refuse outright, pay their taxes but simultaneously file for a refund. They use Claim Form 843 (available from IRS) for “Refund of Taxes illegally, Erroneously, or Excessively Collected.” This form gives the taxpayer space to explain why he/she is asking for a refund.

Protect Your Salary

The chief deterrent to massive income tax refusal has been the withholding system. People never see their tax money normally. But this is not so difficult a problem to get around, since the amount of one’s withholding is based on a form (Form W-4) each employee files with his/her employer. On the W-4, the employee merely lists a total number of withholding allowances without giving any justification for them. The employer is required by law to accept this form. To prevent withholding from one’s salary completely, one merely files a new W-4 claiming a number of allowances at least equal to one’s annual salary minus $1300, divided by 750. If one then uses the “war tax deduction” method of refusal on one’s 1040, the W-4 is completely legal since one is allowed to claim withholding allowances based on one’s expectation of claiming a large amount of itemized deductions at the end of the year (the validity of the claimed deductions is irrelevant for purposes of W-4).

At the very least, you should be sure that all allowances to which you are normally entitled are claimed. In addition to allowances for yourself and any dependents, you are now also entitled to an additional Special Withholding Allowance unless you hold more than one job simultaneously or have a spouse who works. If you don’t claim it, you will be loaning the government money at no interest.

WAFFL — Food for Life

In an effort to make the positive witness of war tax resistance clearer, more than 55 alternate funds have been established around the country to put refused taxes to good use. In the DC area, the Washington Area Fund for Life (WAFFL) was established last summer. The Fund collectively makes decisions on the use of money and retains rereserves to provide mutual aid to members if needed. The Fund provides financial support to two South Vietnamese children whose fathers were killed in the war. It has also made grants to the United Farm Workers Union and the Washington Peace Center. It holds regular monthly meetings.

For more information about tax resistance and WAFFL, contact Washington War Tax Resistance, 120 Maryland Ave., NE, DC 20002; (546‒8646 or 546‒6231).