War Tax Resister Frank Donnelly Sentenced to Prison

War tax resister Frank Donnelly was sentenced to a year in prison for tax evasion. Federal District Court Judge John Woodcock was unimpressed by Donnelly’s stand, in part, he said, because Donnelly didn’t go public with his resistance and didn’t notify the IRS of his protest. By doing his protest stealthily (quietly not reporting much of his income on his tax returns), he seemed to Woodcock like just another tax evader.

Donnelly rejected the characterization. “I’m a war tax resister… not a tax cheat. You got to stand up for your beliefs… and so I’m going to jail for my beliefs."

I’m actually surprised Woodcock went to the trouble of making such a distinction. Usually, the government’s position is that even if a resister is public with his or her protest, announces it to the feds, and so forth, it’s still just tax evasion and is no more justified than any other sort. Those sorts of distinctions are usually just tactical concerns within the war tax resistance movement. My guess is that what it amounts to is that judges love to pontificate, and sentencing people is much more fun if you can browbeat them too, so judges grab at whatever straws they can find. Criminal prosecutions of war tax resisters are so rare that it’s hard to draw any conclusions, though.

The prosecution had sought an 18–24 month sentence. Donnelly is also required to pay the back taxes, penalties, and interest.

When Vivien Kellems decided to launch a civil disobedience campaign against federal income tax withholding, she chose a very deliberate strategy. Her soundbite message was: I shouldn’t have to do my employees’ taxes for them, nor should I be forced to be the unpaid tax collector for the government. Her tactic was to refuse to withhold taxes from her employees wages, but to also go out of her way to help her employees file their own withholding, as a way of showing that her stand wasn’t about refusing to pay taxes.

Here’s an article from the St. Petersburg Times about her campaign:

Miss Kellems’ Workers Pay Their Own Tax

Because their boss is feuding with the Internal Revenue Department, some 40 employees at Vivien Kellems’ Cable Grip Manufacturing Co. will pay their own withholding taxes .

Miss Kellems who openly defied the Federal revenue regulations by refusing to withhold taxes from wages, said that her “loyal” employees would take time out this morning to even their score with Uncle Sam for the second tax quarter. Her workers, she said, will march to the Post Office, purchase money orders for their withholding taxes and mail them to the collector in Hartford.

Thomas F. Griffin, acting Internal Revenue collector for Connecticut, said the payments will be accepted and credited to the accounts of the individuals.

“I’m not going to act as a collection agency for the tax department,” she said bitterly recalling the government’s lien against her bank account which cost her $1,685.

When Miss Kellems refused to pay first quarter withholding taxes for her employes, the government slapped a lien against her bank account. She cried “outrage” and threatened to sue the bank, but never-the-less the government got its money.

Miss Kellems said she changed her mind about suing the Westport Bank and Trust Co. and indicated that she would soon announce a new course of action against the government.

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote:

Mrs. [Kate] Harvey’s Unbroken Barricade.

The determined stand made by our good friend Mrs. Harvey, in barricading her house, Brackenhill, Burnley, against the authorities who desire to seize her goods in payment of taxes, still continues. The barricade is unbroken. Passers-by read the bold declaration that she refuses to be taxed by a Government that refuses her representation because she is a woman. Her continued resistance has aroused keen interest in the London and Provincial Press, and afforded excellent “copy” for numerous illustrated papers. We rejoice in Mrs. Harvey’s determination, and ask all members and sympathisers who can take part in the demonstration when the goods are eventually sold, to send in their names to the Political and Militant Organiser, 1, Robert-street, Adelphi, London. We must make a brave show to testify to the strong support Mrs. Harvey receives from the League.

Other Resisters: The Growing Movement.

Dr. Elizabeth Knight, our hon. treasurer, and Mrs. Lane, of Ipswich, have again refused to take out dog and trap licenses as a protest against taxation without representation. A waggon was sold recently to recover the amount due. Tax resistance by women is growing in a most remarkable way throughout the length and breadth of the land. Practically every day sees a sale and protest somewhere, and the banners of the Women’s Tax Resistance League, frequently supported by Suffrage Societies, are becoming familiar in town and country. At the protest meetings which follow all sales the reason why is explained to large numbers of people who would not attend a suffrage meeting. Auctioneers are becoming sympathetic even so far as to speak in support of the women’s protest against a law which demands their money, but gives them no voice in the way in which it is spent. Recently a Rembrandt picture, belonging to Miss McGregor, a woman of considerable property, was sold at Arbroath, for £75, and the sale created great interest throughout Scotland. At a demonstration at Balham, after a silver teapot belonging to Mrs. [Leonora?] Tyson had been sold, strangers in the crowd proposed and seconded votes of thanks to the speakers. Keen interest was aroused in Hampstead, when the goods of Miss Lilian Hicks and Miss Constance Collier were sold last week, and at Oxford, after the sale of a gold watch and silver spoons belonging to Mrs. O’Sullivan, a poster parade through the town announced a meeting in the evening at the Martyrs’ Memorial, a novel experience for the University. A special demonstration is being arranged by the Women’s Tax Resistance League of “Modern John Hampdens,” when the new statue of the great tax resister, John Hampden, now on view at Burlington House, will be unveiled in Aylesbury Market Place on .