Links of Interest to Tax Resisters

Some links that have graced my browser in recent days:

The Satyagraha Foundation for Nonviolence Studies recently came to my attention. It has a few pages that touch on tax resistance, including:

  • An interview with Kathy Kelly. Excerpts:
    Street Spirit
    Did the U.S. government ever press charges against Voices in the Wilderness for violating the sanctions?
    Kathy Kelly
    They would bring us into court with some regularity. It was curious because at one point there was a $50,000 fine. I thought, “What are you going to take — my contact lenses?” I just had to laugh. I mean, I haven’t paid a dime of taxes to the U.S. government as a war tax-refuser since 1980. So there is nothing they could take from me. The people that would go over were in the same boat. So good luck collecting from them!
    Spirit
    But as it turned out, they did fine your group $20,000, didn’t they?
    Kelly
    Yeah, they finally took us into court. And I think Condoleezza Rice inadvertently might have saved us. This is speculation on my part, but this much is true. Chevron settled out of court, acknowledging that they had paid money under the table to Saddam Hussein in order to get very lucrative contracts for Iraqi oil.
    Condoleezza Rice was the international liaison for Chevron while it was paying money under the table to get these lucrative contracts. So when we finally had our day in court, Sen. Carl Levin’s staffers were still digging up this information and it was beginning to become public evidence that Chevron, Odin Marine Inc., Mobil and Coastal Oil had all been paying money for these oil contracts under the table to Saddam Hussein.
    So there were big fish in the pond that broke the sanctions and there were little fish in the pond that broke the sanctions. I think some of the big fish said, “That is one hot potato. You drop that hot potato as fast as you can, and don’t make a big deal because those people are little fish but they’re mouthy little fish.” So they never tried to collect a dime from us. The money was just sitting there.
    Spirit
    Well, what exactly did happen to you when the U.S. government took you to court for violating the sanctions?
    Kelly
    We were found guilty and were fined $20,000. Federal Judge John Bates wrote in his legal opinion that those who disobey an unjust law should accept the penalty willingly and lovingly.
    Spirit
    Unbelievable! A federal judge lectures you about lovingly accepting this unjust fine using the words of Martin Luther King?
    Kelly
    Yes. We said to Judge Bates, “If you want to send us to prison, we will go, willingly and lovingly. We’ve done that before already. But if you think we will pay a fine to the U.S. government, then we ask you to imagine that Martin Luther King would have ever said, ‘Coretta, get the checkbook.’ We are not going to pay one dime to the U.S. government which continues to wage warfare.” At that time, supplemental spending bills appeared every year, sometimes two or three times a year, and congressional representatives and senators continued to vote yes on those spending bills for the military. So we said, “No, we won’t pay a dime of that fine.”
    Spirit
    You have also been a war tax resister for a long time.
    Kelly
    I’m a war tax refuser. I don’t give them anything.
    Spirit
    Oh, you’re not a 50 percent withholder, like many war tax resisters. You’re a 100 percent withholder?
    Kelly
    Yes, I’m a 100 percent withholder. I think war tax resistance is important but I happen to be a refuser. They haven’t got one dime of federal income tax from me since 1980.
    Spirit
    Why did you begin refusing to pay federal taxes entirely?
    Kelly
    I won’t give them any money. I can’t and I won’t. I won’t pay for guns. I don’t believe in killing people. I also don’t want to pay for the CIA, the FBI, the corporate bail-outs or the prison system. But particularly, I began as a war tax refuser. I wouldn’t give money to the Mafia if they came to my door and said, “We’d like you to help pay for our operations.” I’m certainly not going to pay for wars when I’ve tried throughout my adult life to educate people to resist nonviolently.
    Spirit
    How have you gotten away with not paying federal taxes ? Do you keep your income low?
    Kelly
    Many years I have lived below the taxable income. But in , someone from the IRS came to my home. I had in some years claimed extra allowances on the W-4 form. And I just don’t file. I haven’t filed . Now, that’s a criminal offense and they could put me in jail for a long time for that. If I was earning over the taxable income, I would just calculate how many allowances I have to claim so that no money is taken out of my paycheck. It says in the small print on the W-2 form to put down the correct number of allowances so that the correct amount of tax is taken out. Well, that’s easy. The correct amount of tax to take from me is zero, so I just do the math.
    Spirit
    Why do you think they haven’t come after you?
    Kelly
    Well, they have come to collect taxes. But I don’t have a savings account, and I don’t own anything. The IRS is like my spiritual director [laughs]. I don’t know how to drive a car, and I’ve never owned any place that I’ve lived in. I just don’t have anything to take.
    Spirit
    So has the IRS given up on even trying to collect?
    Kelly
    Once they came out to collect in 1998 when I was taking care of my dear Dad, who was wheelchair-bound, and a bit slumped over in the chair. Dad liked to listen to opera and I had a really awful old record player playing a scratchy record. I had been in the back of the house and I didn’t know she was coming, so I ran down to answer the door while the record player was making such a horrible noise. The apartment was fine but it only had a few sticks of furniture.
    The woman asked me if I was going to get a job, and I told her I couldn’t leave my father. Then she asked if I had a bank account, and I said no. She said, “And you don’t own a car?” And I told her I didn’t even know how to drive. Then she just kind of leaned toward me and said, “You know what? I’m just going to write you up as uncollectable.” And I said, “That’s a very good idea.” [laughs] They’ve never tried to collect since. There was just nothing to take! Zero. Nothing.
  • Correspondence between Bart de Ligt and Mohandas Gandhi. Here’s some of what de Ligt wrote in :

    On your side, you state that those who set themselves against Western wars pay, nevertheless, taxes, which are used by the State for war and the oppression of the colored peoples. That is quite true. In fact our anti-militarist struggle also is as yet only something very relative, and it must go on extending. But in any case, we have fixed clear and inflexible borders: we refuse absolutely all direct, personal participation in war and in its social and moral preparation. But several of us employ still other means of fighting against it.… Moreover, a few of us have already decided individually to refuse to pay any taxes, whilst the organization of which I am a member has already several times been the propagandist of collective refusal of taxation. But whereas refusal, even on a very restricted scale, to do military service has been morally and socially efficacious, the refusal to pay taxes by a restricted number of citizens only has so far had very little result, as the authorities, in confiscating property and inflicting fines, take possession of sums much larger than a direct payment of taxes would have brought them. From this point of view, your compatriots have already given some impressive examples of collective refusal, although they also were not able to avoid regular unfair demands of the Government.

    I think “the organization of which I am a member” may have been War Resisters International. Gandhi’s response to this point is an interesting one:

    A non-violent man will instinctively prefer direct participation to indirect, in a system, which is based on violence and to which he has to belong without any choice being left to him. I belong to a world, which is partly based on violence. If I have only a choice between paying for the army of soldiers to kill my neighbours or to be a soldier myself, I would, as I must, consistent with my creed, enlist as a soldier in the hope of controlling the forces of violence and even of converting my comrades.

    You can find more of Bart de Ligt’s thoughts on tax refusal, non-violent struggle, and Gandhi’s campaigns in the essay The Effectiveness of Non-Violent Struggle, also on the Satyagraha Foundation site.

And from the academic and related worlds:

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