60 use taxes to protest military spending
Seattle — While Seattle Catholic Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen may be the best known, the Internal Revenue Service estimates there are 60 persons in Washington state who withhold a portion of their income tax to protest U.S. military spending.
Carolyn Stevens has been withholding at least 50 percent of her federal income tax as part of her personal protest.
Stevens worked as a clerk at the Seattle Public Library. She wasn’t earning a high income nor, as a Quaker, did she have extravagant tastes.
Shortly before , Stevens said the IRS seized the majority of her library paycheck for non-payment of taxes. The government subsequently placed a federal lien on all her property or property she might acquire.
For Stevens, the path was clear. Rather than pay taxes that went to the military, she quit her job and began living a life of frugality.
“I had to change my lifestyle so I didn’t need much income, since it could be seized. The lien has deterred me from purchasing valuable capital goods, like a home or car. As a Quaker who believes in a simple lifestyle in order to feel closer to God, I’ve been challenged very directly to live in accordance with my beliefs,” she said.
Other war-tax resisters may be more subtle than Stevens, deliberately keeping their incomes below tax levels or through a variety of other devices.
A new batch of resisters may join the fold this year. At a war-tax resistance seminar at the University Friends Center over , more than 75 people showed up, and nearly half of them said they are thinking about withholding their taxes for the first time.
JoAnne Washington, a Seattle accountant, said she could no longer support the use of her tax dollars to build nuclear weapons. Though she hasn’t made up her mind definitely, she is leaning toward tax resistance.
“I’m very afraid. I own property. I have a good job. If my wages were garnished, that would not be looked upon favorably by my company. But I don’t approve of the way the government is spending our money (on the military),” she said.
Dick Wightman, public-affairs officer for the IRS in Seattle, said the IRS follows a standard procedure in tax collection cases. First the agency sends out a series of letters informing the taxpayers they are behind in paying taxes.
After the final notice is sent and no payment is received, collection action begins. It could range from levies against bank accounts or wage sources — the employer — or liens could be placed on property. In extreme cases, said Wightman, the government could sell the property, collect the tax monies from the sale, and return the remaining proceeds to the property owner. The entire notification and collection process could take 18 months or more.
Tax-resisters at conference revealed elaborate cat-and-mouse games they play with tax collectors.
Joe Marinello, a Quaker and a war-tax counselor, said some people in the [sic] have changed jobs periodically to make it more difficult for the IRS to keep track of them.
Others have worked out arrangements with their employers so that they aren’t salaried, but rather work as self-employed consultants.