War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund Strengthens Anti-War Movement

I’ve got a feature article up at Waging Nonviolence on how the War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund strengthens the anti-war movement by making it harder for the government to discourage resisters with financial penalties: “Protecting war tax resistance strengthens antiwar movement.” Excerpt:

Many people think if you refuse to pay taxes you’ll end up behind bars, but this is actually very rare. Of the tens of thousands of people who have resisted war taxes over the past 75 years, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, or NWTRCC, knows of only 30 who have done time.

Although [Peter] Smith has refused to pay for over 40 years, he said he’s never faced jail or criminal charges because of it. “The IRS would just as soon collect the money and sock you with fines and interest,” he said.

That’s where the Penalty Fund comes in. It fully reimburses resisters for penalties and interest, thereby taking the sting out of IRS reprisals.

The IRS often fails to collect penalties, interest, or anything at all from determined resisters. Some resisters live lives of voluntary simplicity and have nothing for the IRS to seize (or owe no income tax in the first place). Others hide their assets. And sometimes the IRS drops the ball and lets the statute of limitations expire without attempting to collect. An informal poll at a national gathering of resisters in found that the IRS had taken only about a quarter of the hundreds of thousands of dollars those resisters had refused to pay over the years.

On , in a 2–1 ruling in the Court of Appeal, it was determined that the Education Act does not compel county councils to pay for the cost of religious education in taxpayer-subsidised religiously-backed schools (the question of whether county councils may pay for such religious education was not decided).

With the election of an overwhelming Liberal majority, the introduction of a new education bill in Parliament that would overturn the offensive parts of the Education Act, and this new ruling, the nonconformist passive resisters were justified in feeling like they had the momentum.

The following article comes from the Dundee Evening Telegraph:

Passive Resistance Vindicated.

Dr. Clifford and Mr Birrell.

In an interview Dr. Clifford said that ’s judgment of the Court of Appeal was a splendid vindication of passive resistance. “The question, of course, presents itself,” said the Doctor, “whether or not we are entitled to claim damages. I should myself say that we certainly were. Whether or not we shall do so is another matter. As to the Government’s attitude, I should imagine that Mr Birrell is quite satisfied with the judgment. It runs on a line with his own Bill. The theoretical object of Mr Birrell’s Bill is to get rid of paying for denominational teaching out of the rates and taxes. What Mr Birrell has been aiming at is accomplished by this judgment. We shall make a great protest against any further concessions under the Government Bill or against any reversal of ’s judgment.”

In fact, the judgment would be appealed to the House of Lords, a panel of which reversed it unanimously on . Birrell’s bill would pass the House of Commons but would also be obstructed by the House of Lords.

These premature signs of victory would threaten to weaken the passive resistance movement.