War Tax Resistance in Friends Bulletin

Here are some more tidbits about war tax resistance from back-issues of Friends Bulletin:

The issue had a fiery letter to the editor from John J. Runnings of University Meeting (excerpts):

Speak Truth to Quakers

A threshing session concerned with the morality of tax support for the arms race was held by the University Meeting. At that session it was revealed that some Friends still see the balance of terror as the only alternative to the repressive advance of Communism. They are caught in a bind between their revulsion to their complicity with the war machine and their fear of the repressive attributes of the Soviet power structure and the consequences of our failure to deter it.

It would be un-Quakerly and unkind to suggest that these excellent people take this position to avoid facing the uncomfortable issue of their complicity with the mutually assured destruction posture of their government. We must suppose that they have an inadequate knowledge of the theory of non-violent struggle.…

Quakers are understandably deeply concerned about the enormous amounts of money they contribute to the war machine and to the development of ever more abominable means of extermination, and they would like to withdraw their support if there were only some comfortable means of doing so. If thee were only a law that would allow us to pay our taxes according to our religion — but since it is a matter of violating the law or violating our religion, most Quakers feel more comfortable violating their religion.

In a society so devoted to comfort, it is not surprising that Quakers, except for a few mavericks, have managed to remain law abiding through the Vietnamese war and through the development of the nuclear arsenal to its present level of civilization-destroying capability. And there is little hope that they will not remain law abiding until the world becomes a radioactive wasteland.

Perhaps the most telling repudiation of the theory of non-violent civil disobedience as an alternative to war is that even Quakers in the present moral extremity remain civilly obedient.

We haled non-violent action through civil disobedience as an excellent method for winning independence for India or for winning civil rights for black people; but so far as most Quakers are concerned things are not yet desperate enough to try to stop the arms race by responding to the Spirit and breaking the law.

The issue included minutes from the Intermountan Yearly Meeting, including item #8:

Meeting approved a minute of concern that members be encouraged to consider seriously the refusal to pay war and military taxes, or that part of their taxes which their conscience dictates, and to consider placing these funds in an escrow account. Further, that members encourage and support war-tax resisters with spiritual, emotional, and financial support and that we examine our fear of excessive government intervention in our lives which hinders our ability to act upon our moral decisions. Friends were also urged to support and actively work for the World Peace Tax Fund.

Also in that issue was a report from Boulder Friends Meeting (excerpts):

In , a group of Boulder Friends met seeking constructive ways to promote peace and to address the shift of government funding from human services to military programs. We were particularly concerned with the large percentage of our tax dollars that we were personally paying for war preparation.

Initially we considered two courses of action: (1) symbolic, illegal refusal of military taxes, and (2) creating legal tax shelters. While some individuals as a matter of conscience are pursuing a course of tax resistance, as a group we felt that our energy should focus first on constructive action, developing a method to legally divert our tax dollars from military uses. Our goals were to minimize individual tax contributions to the military and to involve our Meeting more deeply in an expanded peace witness.

After considering numerous options, we found the idea of augmenting the work of the Meeting by employing a staff person especially attractive. Current tax laws mean that the federal government effectively subsidizes gifts to the Meeting by those who itemize deductions. For example, for a person in a 30% tax bracket, a $100 contribution to the Meeting means $30 less tax due. So the taxpayer is giving $70 of her/his own money and $30 is coming from money which would otherwise have gone to the IRS. (Beginning in every taxpayer will be able to deduct at least a portion of such contributions.) This approach also enables Friends with larger incomes to divert money to a person in a lower tax bracket and frees this person to devote energy to vitally important community service.

The edition noted that the Walla Walla Meeting had also established an “Account for Undesignated Special Projects” as a way for people with war tax concerns to more easily take advantage of a tax deduction for charitable donations.

The issue included a note about an unnamed Australian Quaker to that country’s Commissioner for Taxes “explaining why the writer intends to divert the percentage of income tax which would be applied to defense projects, either to a Peace Trust set up by the Australian government, or to some other suitable institution, such as a Peace Research Institute.” That issue also gave an update on the Pacific Yearly Meeting’s “alternative fund for war taxes not paid to IRS” which had thus far collected over $3,000.

A brief in the issue noted that the “San Fernando meeting has decided not to pay 70% of the meeting house telephone bill tax, the portion that goes for war activities.” A similar note in the issue read: “Santa Monica Meeting has refused payment of the Federal Excise Tax on telephone service, a tax ‘long associated with war expenditures, beginning with the War Revenues Act of … our financial support of armed conflict would be unconscionable… We are also aware of our obligation to our fellow citizens and do not take this step lightly.’ ”

I got another letter from the IRS while I was away last month (it was certified and so I had to go down to the post office and sign for it). Nothing too exciting, just the usual “notice of intent to levy” they send out every year after I send in my tax return without a check to cover the taxes due.