Income Tax Payment Refusals Increasing Over Vietnam War

The Panama City, Florida News-Herald published the following editorial :

Income Tax Payment Refusals Increasing

What with objections to the war in Vietnam, there appear to be some increase in the number of persons refusing to pay all or part of their federal income taxes.

Refusal to pay income taxes has been going on for a long time. Some individuals object to the idea of the income tax as theft of one’s earnings. Others object to the things the politicians are doing with their money.

Then there are individuals like Austin T. Flett of Chicago. Flett for 12 consecutive years has filed a blank income tax return as a protest. He demands he be taken before a jury and tried so he can show that through “interlocking subversion” certain persons in government have violated the Constitution by favoring privileged groups. He contends such groups as cooperatives, labor unions, and religious organizations “unlawfully escape, each year, the payment of a great many billions of dollars in federal income taxes.”

A former insurance man, he has contended that the taxes he previously was forced to pay in effect subsidized certain mutual-type, tax-exempt competitors.

Most of the people like Flett have been shrugged off by the bulk of people as “odd,” although some have expressed a grudging admiration for the man who has virtually dared the Internal Revenue Service to take him to court.

Now, however, the Wall Street Journal reports, a group called the War Tax Resistance has opened offices in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia and plans to open other offices to coordinate a campaign to spur mass refusal to pay at least $5 of some federal tax. The main targets are the income tax and the 10 per cent excise tax on telephone service. The objective is to compel withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam.

The Journal says there have been 1,025 persons who refused to pay all or part of their tax because of the war in , compared with 592 for . The total number of persons refusing to pay the telephone tax in had been running at about the same rate as in the previous year.

We recently heard of some people in California who were refusing to pay their state income taxes because of what has been happening on the campuses of the University of California and the state colleges. The number apparently has not been great.

We are less concerned with what people do with their tax money, pay it or hold it, than why they do so. We think a person who refuses to pay tax on reasonable showing that the revenue is converted to immoral use, including fraud and initiated force, stands on just grounds. On the other hand, a person who like a communist believes in initiating force against others has no principle to stand on; he simply refuses to pay because he hopes for some expedient gain. So the same action can come from different causes. What is important, we think, is for more people to understand that taxation of its very essence is the taking of property against the consent of the owner, and institutionalized form of theft. When this one idea prevails, the governmental authorities will not have so much power to perform immoral acts.

The Biblical command to render tribute to whom tribute is due and to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s cannot be construed so far as to command knowing participation in immoral government acts. After all, not everything that Caesar claims is Caesar’s; neither are you under any obligation to render tribute to whom tribute is not due.

Austin Flett died in , still defiant. He claimed to have spent some $200,000 fighting the IRS, but didn’t turn over any tax or fill in his tax returns for the last 13 years of his life.


From the Chanute, Kansas Daily Tribune from :

Fishermen On Strike.

They Refuse to Pay Tax Demanded by the Government.

 — A fishermen’s strike against the war profits tax has been declared here. Stirred by the tax collector’s demand of a share in the remarkable earnings they have been pocketing for many months past, the Ymuiden fishermen refuse, as they term it, to risk their lives until they have obtained the certainty that a great part of their hard-earned wage will not be requisitioned. It is no unusual thing just now for an ordinary fisherman to earn $150, $200, or $250 a month and skippers as much as $400 to $800, so high are the prices readily paid for their products by foreign and home buyers.


“Rebecca” by this time had become a sort of catch-all license for mayhem, so it’s difficult to determine whether the things described below were really the work of bona fide Rebeccaites. From the Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser:

Incendiarism.

Ten or a dozen stacks have been destroyed by fire, on the farm of Mr. Prime, about seven miles from Leicester. There is great reason for supposing it to be the work of an incendiary. — An act of incendiarism has been perpetrated on the property of the Rev. H. Tollemache, at Harrington, Northamptonshire. A reward of £100 has been offered for the offenders’ apprehension. — Property to the amount of £250 has been destroyed in the vicinity of Bristol. — A wheat rick belonging to Mr. Thomas Cave, of Lye court, Hereford, has been wilfully destroyed. — In Essex, on the 29th instant, three fires broke out simultaneously. — A reverend gentleman, residing about six miles from Hereford, has received a threatening letter, signed, “Rebecca,” communicating the menacing intelligence that nine incendiary fires will take place in his parish and neighbourhood within a month. Shortly afterwards a fire broke out in the neighbourhood, and much property was destroyed


Before Oklahoma was absorbed into the United States as a state, it was known as “Indian Territory,” and was run by Indian governments. Some U.S. citizens didn’t much like being subject to their taxes while doing business there, and would occasionally resist, in the hopes of getting the U.S. government to take their side in the disputes. Here are a couple of examples.

From the Fort Scott, Kansas, Daily Monitor:

Merchants Refuse to Pay Tax.

 — A clash is imminent between the merchants at Davis and the Indian police on the refusal of the merchants to comply with the federal laws and consent to pay the one per cent. tax levied upon non-citizens doing business in the territory. One merchant’s business house was closed by the police. He will be ejected as an intruder. The excitement is high.

Next, from the Palestine, Texas, Daily Herald:

Refuse to Pay Tax.

Muskogee Merchants Send a Committee and Attorneys to Washington.

 — At a meeting of business men a resolution was adopted pledging every man present to resist the payment of the Creek tribal tax. Over 600 of the leading business men of the city were present, and not only did they declare against paying the tribal tax, but subscribed liberally to the fund being raised to defray the expenses of the case now pending in the United States supreme court. They are confident of winning this case, and will send a committee of five with attorneys in the case to Washington to appeal to Secretary [Ethan] Hitchcock to defer collection of the tax.

Action at Tulsa.

 — The Commercial club of this city has raised a fund of $200 to go into the common fund raised over the Territory, which will be used in resisting the collection of the tribal tax, imposed by the Creek council, when the nation was under control of that body. Pending decision, tax has not been collected for this year.

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