Ken Knudson Defies the Internal Revenue Service

On , Ken Knudson wrote the following letter to the director of the IRS:

Dear Sir:

I shall add an act of fraud to the list of my many “crimes.” I will go to my employer, the University of Wisconsin, and claim ten dependents on form W4. I am claiming seven more dependents than I’m legally entitled in order to avoid the withholding tax and, ultimately, the income tax.

I have, as you know, avoided paying taxes in the past by holding two jobs and limiting my income to $112 per month per job — thus I was able to make a taxable income and have nothing withheld from my salary. Then when April 15th rolled around, instead of filing form 1040 I was able to picket your office, demanding an end to taxes in general and to war taxes in particular.

I no longer find this method of tax refusal convenient. It’s a pain in the neck to make sure your income doesn’t exceed the $112 limit imposed by law. I have therefore decided to circumvent this law by breaking another.

The reasons for my tax refusal are two-fold. First, as an anarchist I am dedicated to the overthrow of all governments and therefore cannot finance this one. Second, and far more important, I cannot as a pacifist conscientiously give my tax dollar to you knowing that more than 70¢ out of each dollar will go for the sole purpose of killing people. This is morally wrong — far worse than an individual act of “fraud” — and, therefore, I cannot and will not support you and the system you represent.

Yours for Peace and freedom,
Ken Knudson

In , The Libertarian Forum noted that Knudson’s protest seemed to be catching on:

Four years ago, Ken Knudson, a member of the pacifist Peacemaker Movement, pioneered in a new form of tax resistance: the idea of claiming enough exemptions on the Form W-4 Employee’s Withholding Exemption Certificate so that no tax can be withheld from one’s wages. Last fall, on , at Lincoln Park in Chicago, a dozen people gathered to form the first tax resistance group based on the Knudson method. All the members adopt the Knudson approach and claim the exemptions; then they take the money which would have been paid into the U.S. treasury and pool it into a cooperative association, the Chicago Area Alternative Fund, which uses the funds for constructive, as well as voluntary, purposes.

A wire service report from read:

A 25-year-old Madison [Wisconsin] man burned his $500 check and tore up an income tax form in front of the Internal Revenue Service office . He said he was demonstrating his opposition to military spending and the war in Viet Nam.

But the demonstration quickly backfired against Kenneth Knudson.

The shredded tax form had scarcely touched the sidewalk when a police officer ordered Knudson to pick it up under threat of a $25 fine for littering.

Knudson complied but his troubles weren’t over yet. Another officer served him with a warrant for failing to pay overtime parking tickets amounting to $15. Knudson borrowed the money from several other demonstrators marching with signs that read “No Money for Murder.”

Knudson said the $500 check represented the amount he owes in federal income taxes.

Tax Collector Sheldon S. Cohen commented: “The government has never lost a case in which a taxpayer refused to pay on the grounds he disapproved of how the money is spent.”