Alternatives to the Flawed “Peace Tax Fund” Plan

On I noted that the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act would not reduce military spending one bit. On I showed that in fact everyone paying into the “Peace Tax Fund” would be increasing taxpayer support for the Pentagon by doing so. Then, on I wrote about the terrible harm the Act would do to the cause of conscientious objectors to military taxation in the United States.

Today I hope to end this series on an up note by looking at some possible alternatives to the Act that might satisfy its supporters without falling victim to the aforementioned flaws.

First, there’s always war tax resistance as it is practiced today in the absence of any explicit legal protection. Such resistance can be practical or symbolic or both, and comes in many flavors and styles — some of which are even legal. But you probably already knew all that.

Second, if a symbolic gesture is enough for you and all you’re really looking for is some sort of magic spell that will make it seem to you as though your tax dollars were only spent on the good stuff, there’s something you can do about this today that will be every bit as effective as the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act but that doesn’t require that Act to become law:

Stop your withholding so that at the end of the year you will owe money on your tax return. Then, when you file your return and write your check to the U.S. Treasury, write in the “Memo” field: “It is the sense of this taxpayer that these funds be used for non-military purposes only.” It’s that simple!

A third option would be to scrap the current Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill, write a new one that addresses its problems, and work to get the new bill enacted into law. As Ruth Benn and Ed Hedemann reported last month after they attended an international conference on war tax resistance and peace tax campaigns, there are other models for “peace tax” laws that address some of the problems I have identified.

Benn wrote that “many Europeans see the effort to actually redirect military taxes to a fund that is only for peace-building efforts or alternative defense [as] primary to their peace tax fund campaigns.” If taxpayers paying into the “Peace Tax Fund” were thereby contributing to a new civilian-based defense program that might eventually increase public confidence in non-military defense (and increase the public’s ability to defend itself against its own government in the process) — well, that might be something worth supporting!

The issue of NWTRCC’s newsletter, More Than a Paycheck, is out. It includes:

  • The reports from the 12th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns from Ruth Benn and Ed Hedemann that I linked to .
  • Clare Hanrahan’s review of We Won’t Pay: A Tax Resistance Reader:

    “both daunting and encouraging and well worth the considerable reading time… captures in one indexed volume many individual acts and campaigns of conscientious objection to war and of revenue refusal to tyrannical governments… sincere voices and challenging arguments.”

  • Elizabeth Boardman’s review of American Quaker War Tax Resistance:

    “167 intelligent and intense writings on the challenging question of whether people of conscience should pay for war… People struggling with this moral issue today will be guided by the writings in this book and may find some wonderful language to use in their own statements of conscience… a straightforward and compelling book.”

  • Some notes on frivolous filing warnings, new tax laws, and IRS enforcement techniques.
  • Notes about tax resisters Bob Williams, Mike Palecek, and David Schenck, about the trial of two Los Alamos National Laboratory protesters, and about the upcoming New England Regional Gathering of War Tax Resisters and Supporters.
  • A story about long-time resister Thomas Wilson. The state of Massachusetts suspended his dental license 21 years ago when he stopped cooperating with state tax laws because the state, in turn, was acting as a collection agency for the IRS. Wilson kept practicing dentistry without a license, and was able to keep doing so until this year when he was forced to shut down after a competing dentist ratted him out to the state board of registration.

    At 75 Tom is philosophical about closing the door on his professional life and has no regrets about his choices. “In this present economy we’re getting a payback for what the government has been doing and what I haven’t been paying for and resisting all this time. People ask if war tax resistance changes anything. I can’t say that, but it’s helped me put up with what we have to put up with in this country.”