Ammon Hennacy on How He Gets Away with Tax Resistance

As a follow-up to my review of Ammon Hennacy’s autobiography from ’s Picket Line, here’s the text of a leaflet he handed out while picketing the revenue office in :

How do I get by with it?

I don’t know for sure.

I have picketed thirteen days in here in Phoenix against war, the draft, and paying taxes for all this. I have been detained by the police and released four times, and been called to the tax office often.

I was a conscientious objector in both World Wars. In I refused to register for the draft and resigned from a civil service job in Milwaukee where I had been a social worker for eleven years. As I do not believe in shooting I have since then worked on farms where no withholding tax is taken from my pay, so I do not buy a gun for others to shoot. The tax man has tried to garnishee my wages; now I work by the day for different farmers and if necessary am paid in advance in order that no garnishee is effective.

I believe in the idea of voluntary poverty somewhat after the pattern of St. Francis, Thoreau, Tolstoy and Gandhi. I have no car or anything the tax man can get. I make a true report of my income but openly refuse to pay a cent of tax.

I am a non-church Christian. I believe in the Sermon on the Mount, especially because it is more revolutionary than opportunistic Communist tactics. I do not put my trust in money or bombs, but in God.

I am an Anarchist who believes that all government exists not to help people but to continue in power exploiters, bureaucrats and politicians who keep us on the run with their continual depressions and wars.

If you believe in capitalism and war and think you get your money’s worth in paying taxes that is your business. My message is to those who are beginning to question the idea that preparing for war brings peace. It is also to those who believe somewhat as I do but who are afraid to stand up and say so.…

…If you are ready for my message here is a starter:

REFUSE to become a soldier
REFUSE to make munitions
REFUSE to buy war bonds
REFUSE to pay income taxes

STUDY the Sermon on the Mount
STUDY Gandhi’s non-violent methods
STUDY Jefferson’s idea of life on the land
“STUDY war no more.”

“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” A Christian Anarchist does both.

“We can refuse to make munitions, to buy war bonds, to register for the draft, or to pay income taxes.” ―Ammon Hennacy

Fred Ecks reports: “I filed my taxes yesterday. Total federal income tax: $0.00. Total state income tax: $0.00. This makes without paying a dime in income tax. Ever since the ‘retirement savings contribution credit’ went into effect as a bone thrown to the poor as part of the tax cut for the rich in , I’ve lived below taxable levels. I strive to maintain this as a form of protest against the actions of the federal government in recent years.”

“This is another way in which my lifestyle and my values work together in harmony.” ―Fred Ecks

Tax resister Jeff Knaebel spoke on at the Gandhi National Memorial in Pune at an event honoring the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth. A transcript of his speech is on-line. Excerpts:

I left my country almost 15 years ago in order to start a new life in Sacred India, so as to be no longer an accomplice to this systematic murder by my payment of income taxes into this ruthless war machine. One of the waypoints that crystallized my decision was a visit to the Museum at Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. The Temple of Death at the Mother Mandir of the Science of Total Annihilation. How could I ever again be sweat at law in an economy whose best and brightest produce this abominable machinery of mass murder, with my tax support? I joined the river of the dispossessed, the disenfranchised. How can we call this a “civilization” — this mindless Corporate State War Machine — in the service of which so many children go to bed hungry, so many shattered lives are lived in silent, burning fury?

Gandhi wrote, “The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from the violence to which it owes its very existence.” There was a recent movie Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, with theme “We have murdered Gandhi” (by disregarding his message of nonviolence). I left the American Corporate Warfare State Machine in order not to be among those who murdered Gandhi.

was my first day this year working at the VITA program in San Francisco, helping people with lower incomes file for tax refunds and credits. In the course of helping pull a few thousand dollars out of the U.S. treasury and give it to a handful of San Franciscans, I naturally thought tax geekery thoughts, and one question came to the fore:

Is it possible for a single person with no children, like myself, to reduce my total federal tax burden (counting income tax and FICA) to or below zero by using the (refundable) Earned Income Tax Credit?

I’ve long been curious, but I was sure that even if the answer was “yes” the income at which this would be true would be very low, and so I’d never actually tried to run the numbers until yesterday.

It turns out that the answer is no:

Earned Income FICA paid EITC Sum
$1,000 $153 −$78 $75
$2,000 $306 −$155 $151
$3,000 $459 −$231 $228
$4,000 $612 −$308 $304
$5,000 $765 −$384 $381
$6,000 $918 −$399 $519
$7,000 $1,071 −$361 $710
$8,000 $1,224 −$285 $939
$9,000 $1,377 −$208 $1,169
$10,000 $1,530 −$132 $1,398
$11,000 $1,683 −$55 $1,628
$12,000 $1,836 −$0 $1,836

(This data presents a simple case where all income is earned income and assumes that the recipient has no federal income tax.)

As you can see, at no point does the earned income tax credit exceed the amount of FICA paid, so the government comes out ahead at every income level.

This is not the case, though, for people who aren’t childless. People with one child will get more back from EITC than they paid out in FICA if they brought in about $15,000 or less ($16,000 if they’re married and filing jointly) — you take the most away from the government at an income of about $8,000. Add a second child, and you come out ahead at about $20,000 (or $21,000) and below, with the peak at about $11,000. This does not include the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit which would likely also be available to such filers:

a graph of E.I.T.C. versus FICA for various earned income levels and filing categories shows the windows in which some filers get more back in refunds than they paid in taxes

(The vertical left axis of the chart represents the total amount of money you get from the government, or, if negative, the total amount you pay to the government, by adding your EITC refund and subtracting your FICA payments. “0” means no children; “0J” means no children, and married filing jointly; etc. Again: this data assumes a simple case in which all income is earned income, federal income tax is zero, and no other refundable credits are applied for.)

So it is indeed possible to have the government pay you more in tax “refunds” than you paid to it in taxes.