U.S. War Tax Resisters Gather in Las Vegas

I wrote up some of my impressions of of ’s NWTRCC meeting in Las Vegas.

I took notes on-and-off through and I’ll write up those things I remember that might be of interest.

The New Pamphlet I’ve Been Working On

I was at the meeting in part to present a first draft of a new edition of NWTRCC’s “Practical War Tax Resistance” pamphlet #5 on low-income / simple-living as a war tax resistance technique. On night we distributed a few copies of this draft and over the course of I had a chance to sit down with a number of people and listen to their suggestions for improvement. (If you would like to review the document, send me email and I’ll send you a copy of the draft.) I’m aiming to have a final draft ready in , and with any luck we’ll have our new edition back from the press .

Not Much Evidence of a Tax Resistance Groundswell

Despite the growing anti-war sentiment in the country, there has been no evidence of a corresponding groundswell of interest in war tax resistance. For the most part, people reported that their local groups were treading water in terms of membership and outreach. There was more resignation than frustration expressed on this point, as most of us have become used to being, as we’d characterize it anyway, well ahead of the curve on this. Many people also expressed that they often hear about lone-wolf tax resisters who for whatever reason never feel the need to align themselves with tax resistance organizations, so that the actual number of tax resisters is hard to gauge.

Survey in Progress

, NWTRCC started conducting a survey, informally, often at rallies, protests, and other activist events, to get a feel for what makes people choose or avoid tax resistance, and to do some concept testing of a possible large-scale one-year tax resistance campaign.

Of the few hundred people who have responded to the survey thus far, 47% are not doing any tax resistance now, and of that group, 61% would “consider participating in a one-year commitment to refuse a portion of your federal income taxes and redirect your taxes to a humanitarian cause if thousands joined you publicly” on a particular date.

All this sounds pretty good, and we plan to continue the survey , but even if we find a potential for this sort of tax resistance avalanche, NWTRCC alone doesn’t really have the resources to organize and launch it. My hope is that we can package these persuasive survey results along with offers of our own specialized expertise and sell the idea of such a campaign to one of the larger national anti-war groups who could launch a campaign like this in a heartbeat if they cared to. My own feeling is that this sort of thing is exactly the sort of sustained nationwide civil disobedience campaign the peace movement has been looking for; they just don’t know it yet.

Phone Tax Resistance Going Out of Style

Phone tax resistance has been a useful way of getting potential resisters to take the first step. It’s pretty easy to do, and the risks are very low, and so many tax resisters have gotten their feet wet in this way. However the proliferation of phone companies and phone plans, and the recent abolition of the phone tax on long-distance, have muddied the waters a bit. There’s a pretty good chance that the excise tax on local service is on the way to the trash heap as well, so NWTRCC has begun to deemphasize phone tax resistance and the Hang Up On War campaign. We’re still looking for the next “gateway” resistance tactic — any ideas?

Dan Jenkins Tries to Get the Courts to Recognize COMT

Briefly mentioned was Daniel Jenkins’s court appeal in which he is asserting a right to conscientious objection to military taxation under the 1st Amendment and 9th Amendment to the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The case strikes me as a long shot, but Jenkins seems to be putting a lot of good work into it, and his research into conscientious objection in early American law is interesting.

Better Video Offerings, and a Contest

Some folks are trying to improve NWTRCC’s multimedia educational and persuasive offerings. This is a good thing (our local tax resistance group still uses a slide show made during the Reagan administration, complete with a tape recording that goes “beep” when you’re supposed to flip to the next slide). Alas, I was in a different workshop when this was being discussed, so I didn’t learn as much about this as I could have, but the project also includes a video contest — anyone can enter by producing a short video on the topic of war tax resistance — with cash prizes for the winning entries. I’ll post more details on The Picket Line when the contest officially launches .

A New Flyer on W-4 Resistance

NWTRCC’s produced a new flyer on W-4 resistance (adjusting the withholding allowances on your W-4 form so that your employer sends less of your paycheck to the IRS) that may be helpful to folks who would like to resist their income tax but who find themselves with nothing but a refund to resist when April 15th comes around.

Tax Resisters and Student Financial Aid

A preliminary fact sheet was distributed that covers the implications for war tax resisters who are participating in student financial aid programs, or whose children are. It’s not ready for publication just yet, but looks like it will be a useful resource when the time comes.

A Report from the International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns

We also got to read Larry Rosenwald’s report back from the International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns which was held in Woltersdorf, Germany . He was struck by the differences between the tax resistance movement in the United States and its counterparts in the rest of the world (Europe in particular).

In Europe, the movement is focused more on using the law and the courts (national and international) to legalize some form of conscientious objection to military taxation, and less focused on civil disobedience and forms of extralegal conscientious objection. They find it confusing that in the United States there’s both a Peace Tax Fund campaign and an organized war tax resistance movement.

Dave Ridley, inspired by Russell Kanning’s attempts to leaflet the IRS office in Keene, New Hampshire, followed in his footsteps in Nashua (see The Picket Line ). He reports: “Nothing happened for two weeks, but after my article about this encounter appeared in the KFP, a Homeland Security officer attempted to cite me. The charge was ‘Distribution of Handbills.’ ” He has a court date .

New Hampshire protesters remember the fifth of November at the IRS office