The I.R.S. Offers 5,000 Tax Enforcers Early Retirement

Some bits and pieces from here and there:

  • The decay of the federal government’s tax enforcement arm continues. I recently noted the IRS offering early retirement to 5,000 employees, mostly from the tax enforcement division. Now, the Department of Justice has lost 30% of its tax prosecutors.
  • How big is the federal government? It would be a mistake to use the size of the budget as a proxy. Much of what the federal government does comes from manipulating the tax code through targeted tax preferences, rather than through outright taxing and spending. But the effect of these manipulations amounts to much the same thing. If you use the size of the budget, or the amount of taxes coming in as a proxy for government size, you may be fooled into opposing the elimination of targeted tax breaks under the mistaken impression that such a move would increase, rather than decrease, the size of government.
  • Ed Agro begins a series on war tax resistance at Engaging Peace.

The following excerpts come from the article “Taxation Hesitation” by Clark Norton, from the Mother Jones:

At some point in the last 215 years or so, the rabble-rousers blew it. We allowed right-wing curmudgeons to seize Americans’ favorite gripe — taxes — as their own. It’s time to recapture our birthright and shout it from the rooftops: We hate taxes, too.

That does it, you say; I’m fed up. I want to resist taxes, too — as a matter of principle, of course, rather than greed — but I’m not Hewlett-Packard. How can I mount my own mini-tax revolt, with a conscience? The options range from safe, even socially sanctioned private gestures to daring clenched-fist proclamations of public defiance, with increasing elements of risk.

…you can move to the next rung of resistance: refusing to pay all or part of your taxes. One long-standing method of resisting war taxes is to simply not pay the federal excise tax on telephone service — a tax first imposed just before World War Ⅰ, restored during the Vietnam War, and then raised in 1983 from two to three percent to help finance Reagan’s military buildup. Carolyn Stevens, program coordinator of the Seattle-based National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, estimates that 100,000 Americans refuse to pay the phone tax each month. This isn’t legal but, according to veteran resisters, probably won’t even get your phone disconnected.

Another five to ten thousand, Stevens says, register their objections to military spending by withholding all or part of their federal income taxes — anywhere from the 10 percent that the War Resisters’ League estimates goes toward nuclear weapons to the over 50 percent they say funds the entire military, including the interest on past expenditures. Small “deductions” may not elicit a peep from the IRS. But if the agency does come after you, expect to pay stiff fines and interest penalties (which, ironically, will ultimately increase federal coffers). If you write some words of protest on your 1040 itself, the IRS may well slap you with a $500 fine for filing a “frivolous” return, even if you quote Camus.

If you persist in refusing to pay, the IRS may ultimately garnish your paycheck or seize your property. One piece of good news: Stevens says that only 18 war-tax resisters have gone to jail since World War Ⅱ, “and if you’re eventually prepared to pay, you can avoid it.”

Many resisters redirect the tax money they withhold from the government to one of about 80 “alternative funds” across the United States that help finance peace and human welfare projects. Several, such as the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign in Seattle, have collected and disbursed up to hundreds of thousands of dollars each. (To locate the alternative fund nearest you, contact the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee at PO Box 85810, Seattle, Washington 98145, or telephone (206) 522‒4377.) Meanwhile the Washington, D.C.-based National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund is lobbying for legislation that would allow conscientious objectors to earmark a portion of their taxes for such funds. As of the last congressional session, only 3 senators and 49 representatives favored the bill — so for the foreseeable future resisters are on their own, guided only by the limits of their conscience and their guts.