Hundreds of Pittston Township Residents Refuse to Pay Wage Tax

Here are a few more contemporary news accounts that concern the wage tax strike in Pennsylvania in . This comes from the Sunday Independent of Wilkes-Barre:

400 Oppose Wage Tax Levied in Pittston Twp.

Refuse to Pay on Collection Days; Musto Joins Opponents

Upward of 400 wage-earners in Pittston township carried out their threat to strike against the “wage tax” as an effort was made during the by the township school board to collect the one percent tax levied two months ago.

About 100 persons made payments to the school board during the two-day period designated for the collection of taxes due in . More than 1,000 post cards were sent out informing the people that taxes were to be paid at the Wilson school.

Names Omitted

The notices sent the populace into turmoil. Adding to the criticism was the manner in which the cards were mailed. They were sent to “occupant” at each of the township residences, giving rise to claims that the school board did [not] know the names of those who were being taxed. No wage tax collector has been named to date by the school board.

The striking taxpayers were bolstered by the report that Representative James Musto may support their stand. Rep. Musto had attacked the adoption of “tax-anything” legislation in the state legislature in . In , when an amendment was passed to exempt corporations from such taxation, Rep. Musto heatedly opposed the continuance of only the wage tax and amusement tax, calling them “poor man” taxes.

Group Formed to Oppose

Pittston Township Taxpayers’ Association, organized when the wage tax was adopted, is leading the drive to resist payment of the taxes. Its contention is that the wage tax is not needed and that sincere efforts to collect the per capita tax have not been made. Members also point out that their district is unique in that it derives about $12,000 annually from an amusement tax, which they claim is equivalent to the net wage tax receipts collected in nearby Avoca, a large community.

To solidify opposition to payment of the wage tax, the taxpayers circulated a petition among wage earners in the township a few weeks ago. More than 400 names were obtained in the Cork Lane section of the township alone.

On , the same paper reported:

Wage Tax Again Political Issue; Arrests Made

Delinquents Make Wisdom of Tax Basis of Appeal

The wage tax, as a political issue, once again has erupted in the Pittston area.

Last week, 16 persons were hauled before a justice of the peace in Pittston township for failure to pay the levy, adopted .

In Avoca, the delinquents are being warned to pay their back wage taxes by or they too will be prosecuted.

Opinion Differs

In the township, the 15 delinquents were released on bail, set at $250 per person. They pleaded that they “did not think that the wage tax was justified at this time.”

Supporting their stand were several prominent taxpayers, including Harry Corcoran, Joseph Pupa and Arthur Lussi. They were the bondsmen.

Trial Falls

The township GOP school board only issued summonses to 15 of the more than 400 persons who refused to pay the tax. One school director said at the meeting that the others were not summoned because, “We wanted to see if these 15 would pay.”

In the heat of the wage tax battles is the significant question, “What will a local squire do to his neighbors who refuse to pay the wage tax?” This question still remains unanswered despite last week’s hearing at Pittston Township.

Justices Restricted

Previously, delinquents could be hauled to squires in nearby towns where the fines could be slapped on the taxpayer without fear of political repercussions. But a recent court decision stated that a delinquent must have a hearing before the “nearest” justice of the peace.

The three bondsmen for the township delinquents admitted freely following the hearing that they blundered in attempting to find an answer to this question.

“We should have put bail for only 12 or 13,” one of the bondsmen said. “That way — we’d be able to see how far the school board would go.”

The bondsmen hinted that they are ready to battle this all the way up and down the courts.

Finally, there’s this article from the issue. I included this in my book as an example of tax resisters cleverly using paperwork and legal technicalities to thwart tax enforcement:

Wage Tax Enforcement Has Officials Stumped

Provisions Exist for Enforcement But Officials Hesitate to Use Them; Prosecution Becomes Major Problem

The wage tax may soon be called the “age tax.” It is causing many officials in the Pittston area to gray a little faster than nature had planned. Enforcing the wage tax is the big problem. What to do when a segment of the population refuses to pay the levy?

This problem is being met head-on in Avoca and Pittston Township, two of the five communities in the Pittston area are with the tax on its books.

The solution being worked out involves hitting the delinquents who refuse to pay a cent. Usually the borough ordinance or school district resolution carries a $100 penalty for failing to pay. Each month that a person “is on strike” he can be cited for a violation, which is half-civil, half-criminal. Therefore, a person can be fined $1,200 in the course of a year or shoved in the clink for 360 days.

On prosecution of such violations by a squire, it is the opinion of some legal minds that without good cause the court would deny any appeal and the taxpayer is hooked.

However, the flaw in this effort is that should John Doe pay 50 cents to the wage tax collector, prosecuting him will become a major undertaking.

He can’t be cited for being an outright violator. It will be up to the taxing body to prove that his earnings were of such amount to warrant a higher tax payment. This could be [a] long and dreary legal procedure for a school district or council, especially if there is more than one such delinquent.

Therefore, many residents are beating the wage tax levy by simply clunking a single coin on the tax collector’s desk. This has been true in recent days in Avoca.

In Pittston Township, eight were arrested recently by the school district for failure to pay the tax. Failing to take an appeal, the taxpayers are now at the mercy of the school district. The school district can seek payment of the fines if the directors choose. Had the taxpayers made a token payment, they probably would have given the school district a rough time in prosecuting.