Tax Resistance in “The Catholic Worker” 1996–97

Today, some excerpts from The Catholic News Archive concerning tax resistance in .

The following letter, published in the Catholic Worker, shows that a broader set of concerns than war and militarism were motivating some tax refusers in that milieu:

A Tax Resister’s Letter

Garden City, NJ

To: Internal Revenue Service,

On , I addressed a memo to you acknowledging receipt of your notice and explaining why it is not possible for me to fulfill the time requirements according to the law.

I have written three letters to the Internal Revenue Service explaining why I was not willing to pay taxes. The first letter would have been around , the second in , and the last one in . Let me try to explain my position a little more at length.

I recognize the right of a government to impose taxes. Any system of taxation, however, must be eminently just. It must distribute the responsibility to support the work of governing according to the ability of people to pay. Our system of taxation places an undue burden on the poor and the lower middle class. The economically capable have always been well protected from the imposition of a truly proportionate share of economic responsibility for governing and have been, as well, the objects of special benefits in the distribution of monies and services. The injustices within the system are sufficient, I believe, to call the system itself unjust, and, for this reason, I have said in a previous letter that I am even unwilling to file or cooperate in any way in the system. This position is not as clear to me as it seems in this statement, but it is certainly the direction of my thought.

The uses of tax money by the government are quite troublesome, as is the failure to use tax money for quite obligatory purposes. Another way of saying this is that the actual priorities of government impel me to support policies and programs that I consider immoral, if I pay the taxes required. Outstanding among these policies is the continuing enormous expenditure to support the planning, development and manufacture of arms for war. Related to this is the continuing encouragement of the sales of arms to foreign countries through tax credits and other means to facilitate these sales. I will not participate in this policy or in any program related to it. If I should subtract from taxes due the proportion that supports the government’s policy on arms, as has been suggested to me, this simply means that the same proportion of whatever I might pay would still go to the support of those policies, since there is no way that I can direct where my money might go.

A significant enough proportion of tax dollars now goes to murder unborn children through abortion. I simply refuse to participate in this, and the same problem presents itself to me as above. I cannot subtract a proportion of my tax dollar since the same proportion of whatever I might pay would still go for legalized abortions.

As a whole, our country is not particularly generous to those in need, neither in our own country nor in other countries. In our own country, there are substantial subsidies for the rich and even for the very rich, but the poor are not given the assistance necessary. This is true not only of the economically poor but also of the needy in other aspects. The drug addict, for example, who wants to turn his or her life around has great difficulty finding a program that will help since the government has allotted so little for this type of program. And the list of similar problems is rather long, I suspect. Likewise, among the developed countries, our own, the richest, is at the bottom of the list in terms of the proportion of our budget that goes for aid to underdeveloped countries. Given these two realities, I decided long ago that I would use the money I was not paying in taxes to help the poor in the places where I have worked and in other areas as well.

I am not refusing to pay taxes in order that I might get rich or be better off. A little investigation will show that I am far from rich. I cannot tell you what proportion of my income goes to help the poor, I suspect it is at least 40–50%. I can’t prove that and I have no desire nor interest in proving it. I do not keep records of this and I could not even conceive of looking for a tax deduction if I were going to participate in the system.

I recognize that my position may be somewhat extreme. I have been told that I have to take that opinion into serious consideration. It seems to me, however, that there is no other route for me. I am not asking the government to bless my position and grant me a pardon of taxes due. I simply wait for the government to do whatever it feels it has to do in this case.

Andrew P. Connolly

Another IRS property seizure targeting war tax resisters was the subject of a Catholic Worker letter:

We Can Take This Stand…

Canton, Maine

Dear friends,

On , two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents came to our home and delivered a notice of seizure of all our real estate. This includes our home, a small woodlot across the street, our blueberry field of 13 acres, and, finally, another woodlot of 21 acres. They said it would be offered at a public sale within 30 days.

The IRS figures we owe $62,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties for the years . But we have not filed tax returns for much longer, Elizabeth not , and Arthur not or so. Twice, in New Hampshire, IRS agents came to visit, once around and again around . Probably, they concluded we had nothing much worth taking, and, perhaps, were not subject to much tax anyway. After we came to Maine, earned a bit more and began paying the state income tax, the IRS must have obtained data from these forms in order to prepare their demands.

Our reason for non-cooperation with the IRS is a reluctance to support war preparation, especially nuclear weapons, and the export of arms and military forces to many places around the world. A large part of income and social security taxes goes to pay for these things. It seems necessary that someone stand against them as distinctly as possible, without using violence. We can take this stand, while continuing our family life, farming, and volunteer work for various causes. Our kids seem to be thriving. Elizabeth is active in church and the school board. Arthur works on organic certification and the coming clear cutting referendum.

Of course, it will be a major jolt to lose our home, after living here for ten years. We have made progress toward fixing the roof, foundation, chimneys, etc. Our blueberry field, too, is a pity to lose.

Our property is valued by the town at $64,000. It will probably bring less than $35,000 at an auction. Real estate is very depressed in price around here, and very few properties are sold.

If the buyer is willing, we would hope to enter into a long-term lease, so that we could continue as before. If not, we will have to look for another place to rent. Obviously, we will not want to own any more real estate. The blueberry field is likely to be leased to us no matter who owns it. It needs constant work to remain productive, and no one else wants to do that work.

So far, the neighbors and friends we’ve told have been supportive, offering us places to stay and help with figuring out what is best to do. Yesterday, we met with some of them, including other Maine war tax resisters, a couple from our church “family," neighbors and representatives from Quaker City, NH, where there is a land trust we could join. Since most of you could not be at that meeting, we would appreciate your prayers, even if you don’t agree with us, and your ideas and reflections. [RFD, Canton, ME 04221. (207) 388‒2860.]

Elizabeth Gravelos, Arthur Harvey, Emily and Max.