Alan Emory, the long-time Washington D.C. correspondent for the Watertown Times, penned a dismissive article about war tax resisters for that paper’s edition.
With its quotes and paraphrases of unnamed “officials” and its furious handwaving, it reads to me as a desperate attempt by the government to throw water on a spreading brushfire by means of a cooperative and sympathetic reporter. (Emory’s parents were both in government, and, as a Washington reporter, Emory was about as antagonistic to politicians as a sportscaster is to athletes.)
Protests for Publicity?
Washington — Fewer Americans are using the Vietnam war as an excuse for not paying all or part of their income taxes , according to the Internal Revenue service.
And most of them appear to be making the protest for publicity purposes, officials believe.
Instead, the protesters appear to be more active in using the war as a reason for not paying telephone excise taxes.
In both cases, however, the numbers are relatively insignificant.
Out of 70,000,000 income taxpayers, the IRS says only 275 declined to pay up in full because of Vietnam in and only 520 in . So far, the count shows 93.
As for the telephone tax refusals, “about 4,800” out of 50,000,000 users took this line last year, according to Internal Revenue Commissioner Sheldon Cohen.
The American Telephone & Telegraph company put the figure at 700 in and 1,800 during . The figure included 86 residents of Pennsylvania — out of 3,000,000 telephone subscribers — and 25 in New Jersey out of 2,200,000.
IRS officials say the Vietnam protest first showed up as a tax factor in . Individual ran to newspapers and issued press releases, they said, and filed their returns with a note or letter citing the war protest.
Some groups held protest meetings in front of IRS offices and passed out flyers.
The tax collectors’ problems, however, turned out to be surprisingly small. When, after sending out the normal number of letters to the taxpayer, the IRS sent an agent to his home, he was usually greeted with “We were expecting you,” and the taxpayer then told the agent the bank in which his funds were deposited.
The government either filed a lien or, in some cases, went to the bank with the taxpayer and obtained the money right there.
The IRS found out that many of the protesting taxpayers had not received enough income to require any taxes. Others had enough withheld to cover what they owed. Some had salaries attached.
One taxpayer has consistently shrugged off IRS communications, including those showing he had refunds due.
Cohen says the war protest cases are being handled “under special procedures and we are pursuing them through to collection.”
“If any taxes are due we will collect them down to the last dollar,” he says.
Only 1,500 to 2,000 go to jail for not paying taxes in a single year, though, and very few of them belong in the war protest lists. One official said that 25 per cent of the protest petition signers are “students and hippies.”
When the phone tax problem showed up in , the phone companies agreed to make out lists for the IRS of those who would not pay the tax. Ironically, the paper work involved in making the collection is usually more costly than the money owed.
No jailings have resulted from this situation yet.
The most famous protester on taxes and the war is folk singer Joan Baez, who has been seeking a $36,528 refund on her tax payment of $60,948. Although Miss Baez regularly withholds part of her tax because of Vietnam, the IRS goes right ahead and attaches income, property and bank accounts to pay any tax left unpaid. Last week she said she will withhold her entire tax .
The singer paid $6,000 in penalties and interest for . Government officials consider that a fee for what they call “front-page advertising.” Her taxable income in was $110,000.
The first mass tax protest involving Vietnam came with the publication of a notice signed by 350-odd names, mostly writers and educators, led by Rev. A.J. Muste, a well-known pacifist leader who had not paid any income taxes — well before Vietnam.
Other signers included pianist Anton Kuerti and former Yale Prof. Staughton Lynd, Merrel Lynd, co-author of “Middletown,” and biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgi. In , another protest list was printed in newspapers, and this year a third, with 448 sign…
Here, alas, the reproduction of the article available on-line gives out, and if Emory’s article was syndicated elsewhere in full, I haven’t been able to find it in any of the on-line archives (an abbreviated version was picked up by The Milwaukee Journal).