Your War Doesn’t Fit Into My Budget: Frugal Living As Tax Resistance

I’ve written an article promoting tax resistance for the latest edition of Simple Living News:

Your War Doesn’t Fit Into My Budget:
Frugal Living As A Form Of Tax Resistance

Since I adopted a frugal lifestyle , of all the dumb, harmful, and worthless things I don’t miss wasting my money on, I don’t miss the war on Iraq the most.

, I quit my job and deliberately reduced my income to the point where I no longer owe federal income tax. I transformed my life, concentrating on what really matters, so that I can live within my means without paying federal income tax — honestly, peacefully, and legally.

American households have, on average, spent more than $4,000 apiece on the Iraq war (so far), and that’s just the extra costs of that war above and beyond what they spend to keep the military going year after year (another $5,000 per year per household).

By and large, these households spend this money whether they want to or not, because they don’t think they have a choice. At most, they grumble about “death and taxes” and they wish the politicians were nobler and wiser while they watch their paychecks get whittled down by the I.R.S.

But the times call for more than complaining and wishful thinking. We have to put as much of our effort as we can on the side of our values, instead of allowing so much of our effort to be stolen by the tax man and used to promote the values of politicians and the military/industrial complex.

As it says in Your Money Or Your Life, “when we go to our jobs we are trading our life energy for money.” When we pay taxes, the government is taking our life energy from us. If you live frugally on a low income, the I.R.S. takes less from you — so you can dedicate more to your own priorities.

In fact, when it comes to the personal income tax, about two-in-five American households live “under the tax line” and pay nothing at all. Opponents of the Iraq war and other government priorities would be wise to ask if they should endeavor to become part of this two-in-five.

There’s a long history of frugality being used in the arsenal of groups opposed to government policy — including the American “Founding Fathers”. , John Adams wrote home to his wife, “Frugality, my Dear, Frugality, Œconomy, Parcimony must be our Refuge. I hope the Ladies are every day diminishing their ornaments, and the Gentlemen too. Let us Eat Potatoes and drink Water. Let us wear Canvass, and undressed Sheepskins, rather than submit to the unrighteous, and ignominious Domination that is prepared for Us.”

Maybe it’s not time for another American Revolution just yet, but it’s certainly time for more Americans to put their money and their life energy where their hearts are.

The National Taxpayer Advocate’s office released its annual report to Congress . There’s a wealth of interesting information in there (well, interesting if you’ve got some tax geek in you). Some things that caught my eye:

  • “With regard to IRS’s stepped-up enforcement activity over the past few years, we are beginning to see signs that taxpayer rights are not being protected as well as they have been in recent years, particularly in the collection process. Perhaps this is almost inevitable when enforcement is ramped up quickly and pressure is applied to program managers to show results, but we believe it is important to highlight our concerns and for the IRS to take our concerns seriously to avoid the risk that the enforcement over-zealousness which plagued the agency in will recur.”
  • “In , the IRS reported more delinquent tax dollars as ‘currently not collectible’ than it actually collected on active balance due accounts (TDAs), installment agreement accounts, and offers in compromise (OIC) combined.”
  • IRS studies and external experts in collection confirm that collection cases 24 months past due generally yield less than 15 cents on the dollar and after three years are practically uncollectible.”
  • “Some aspects of the [private debt collection] plans reflect dramatic departures from IRS practice and impact taxpayer rights. We would like to discuss some of the specifics in this report, but the IRS has advised us that much of the information in the PCA operational plans and calling scripts is designated as ‘proprietary information,’ and generally cannot be released without the consent of the PCAs. The operational plans and calling scripts describe such things as belated Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) warnings and psychological techniques used to coax debtors into paying.” (The report recommends that the private debt collection initiative be entirely scrapped.)
  • The IRS has been using an automated process of attaching 15% levies to federal payments to people with tax delinquencies. Most typically, this is used to seize a portion of Social Security payments. The IRS has used this power against people well below the poverty line, although for other sorts of levies and seizures it does take financial hardship into account.

A new website, IRS Forum aims to help the public keep an eye on the IRS and share information about any abuses and problems.