“Peace Tax Fund” Harmful to Conscientious Objectors

On I showed how the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act would not reduce the amount of taxpayer funding for the Pentagon. On I noted that it’s even worse: the Act would actually increase taxpayer support for military programs.

But, as the game show host says, “that’s not all.” While the proponents of the Act see it as a way to legalize and protect American conscientious objectors to military taxation, in fact it would be a terrible blow to such objectors.

Here’s how.

Even though the Act would not decrease military spending one bit, and even though every new tax dollar that is paid into its “Peace Tax Fund” would ironically tend to increase taxpayer support for the military, a number of people who are currently war tax resisters would be willing to participate in the Act — under the theory that “their” dollars, at least, would be routed towards less-offensive government programs.

This would have the immediate effect of reducing the number of American war tax resisters. The existing IRS enforcement mechanisms would have fewer resisters to target, and so any individual resister who chose to keep resisting would have a higher chance of becoming a target. In addition, the government would have an additional tool of rhetorical persuasion to use against people who were (or were considering becoming) war tax resisters: “Why don’t you just pay into the ‘Peace Tax Fund’ like those nice conscientious people over there?”

This divide-and-conquer tactic would be so effective that the government would be almost certain to come up with it all by itself if ever the war tax resistance movement in the United States were to become big enough to actually disrupt business-as-usual.* That elements of the war tax resistance movement are themselves promoting this divide-and-conquer tactic on the government’s behalf (though not consciously so) is terribly sad.

The passage of the Act would also send a terrible message about conscientious objectors to military taxation. That message is:

  • They are not particularly conscientious at all, but can be easily bought-off by symbolic concessions and simple sleight-of-hand.
  • They are conscientious enough to check a box on a form, but not conscientious enough to follow through on the ramifications of their actions.
  • They are willing enough to fund war if you can give them a way to deny that they’re doing it.
  • They would rather have a certificate from the government recognizing their officially certified conscientiousness than to actually be conscientious.

I hope that American war tax resisters will come to understand that the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act is not in their interests — that in fact it runs counter to their values.

* It wouldn’t be the first time a government has tried to squeeze money out of the reluctant in this way. Way back in , Pennsylvania governor Benjamin Fletcher tried to get the Quakers in the Pennsylvania Assembly to cough up some money to fight the French & Indians by assuring them:

[I]f there be any amongst you that scruple the giving of money to support war, there are a great many other charges in that government, for the support thereof, as officers salaries and other charges, that amount to a considerable sum: Your money shall be converted to these uses, and shall not be dipped in blood.

Until I can find an earlier cite, I think Fletcher gets credit as the inventor of the Peace Tax Fund design. The Pennsylvania Quaker legislators didn’t fall for it then, but apparently it has become more persuasive since.

I got another letter from the IRS . They’ve finally gotten around to sending me a “we intend to levy” notice based on what I didn’t pay on my tax return.

The reason for the delay, I believe, is because of the strange snafu I reported earlier in the year where they incorrectly “corrected” my return to erase my personal exemption and so I had to file a second amended return to put it back where it belonged. , they accepted my amended return and then their collection process could kick into gear.

For those of you keeping score at home, this was a CP 504 letter, which they accompanied with copies of Publication 594 (“The IRS Collection Process”), Notice 1219-B (“Notice of Potential Third Party Contact”), and Notice 1212 (“Use Our Automated Telephone Service”).

They list my current balance as $4,149.85 which includes $166.28 in penalties and $98.46 in interest. But, as I’ve noticed before when they’ve sent me this sort of paperwork, they have a weird way of figuring this. They seem to wrap the first batch of penalties & interest that they assess into the original balance due, and only count subsequent penalties & interest as penalties & interest. I don’t know why.

In reality, my original assessed tax for was $3,695. Because I didn’t pay this in quarterly installments, I was hit with an additional $168 penalty at filing time. Since then, I’ve been assessed $286.85 more in interest & penalties (not the $264.74 given in the letter).