Survey Asks Peaceniks Why They Pay War Taxes. Here’s How They Answered.

About , NWTRCC started conducting a survey to learn more about war tax resisters, former war tax resisters, and people who are part of the anti-war movement but who have never before resisted taxes.

In part, this was designed to gauge how much support there might be for an organized, large-scale, one-year tax strike in the anti-war movement. A proposal for such a tax strike is pending at ’s United for Peace and Justice National Assembly in Chicago.

Bill Ramsey, of the St. Louis Covenant of War Tax Resisters, took the lead on developing and deploying the survey, and has recently also tabulated the results.

Three varieties of survey were distributed — one for current war tax resisters, one for former war tax resisters, and one for those who had never done any war tax resistance.

People were surveyed at tax-resistance conferences, and at such anti-war events as the United for Peace and Justice march in Washington, D.C. and ’s School of the Americas vigil. This was not a random sample of tax resisters or of anti-war activists, so read the results with that in mind.

How many were surveyed?

1,486 surveys were collected, which included:

  • 286 present war tax resisters
  • 94 former war tax resisters
  • 1,106 activists who had never done war tax resistance

I’ll summarize some of the results from the third set, of those who have never before done any war tax resistance:

Why have they never resisted taxes?

Those people surveyed who had never done any war tax resistance were asked to select “Which reasons best explain why you have not done WTR” (they could choose as many from the list as they felt applied). Then they were asked which one of the reasons they cited “is the most important reason you have not done WTR”. These were the results:

ReasonsMost important
Fear legal consequences42.9%23.1%
Need more information38.8%18.5%
Fear personal financial consequences27.6%9.1%
Never heard of it24.1%16.4%
Never understood it19.6%5.9%
Want to pay taxes for services17.1%3.9%
Want to obey the law10.8%2.0%
Fear employment consequences10.6%2.8%
Don’t think it’s effective7.0%2.8%
Too complicated6.7%2.2%

This strikes me as very good news. People who don’t know much about war tax resistance tend to exaggerate the potential legal consequences, so this is a fear that can be easily assuaged. And “Need more information” is a concern that the war tax resistance movement is well-equipped to address, if people know whom to ask.

The fact that nearly a quarter of the non-tax-resisting anti-war activists who were surveyed had “never heard of” war tax resistance is surprising. About one-in-six claimed this was the primary reason why they had never before resisted! If this is true, it seems like a little outreach could go a long way.

What consequences do they imagine?

The non-resisting respondents were asked “What are the two most likely consequences of WTR”. This is how those who had never done war tax resistance imagined the likely (legal) ramifications:

Collection of taxes52.1%
Seizure of property43.2%
Loss of credit28.2%
Loss of job10.0%

Although about a third of those who responded assumed that war tax resisters are likely to be imprisoned, in reality, you can almost count on your fingers the number of people who have done any time behind bars for war tax resistance in the United States in . Former war tax resisters, who might be expected to have more understanding of the consequences, listed jail as a likely consequence on only 6.4% of their surveys.

Would they consider a one-year tax strike?

This set of activists was asked: “Would you consider participating in a one-year commitment to refuse a portion of your federal income taxes and redirect your taxes to a humanitarian cause if thousands joined you publicly?” Almost two-thirds (66.2%) said “Yes.”

They were also asked “Which resources would help you decide to participate?” (they could choose more than one). These were the results:

Clear idea of likely consequences54.6%
Written guides to WTR40.5%
Knowing the action will be publicized38.5%
Knowing others are also doing it36.2%
Group discussions options & methods27.7%
Participation in collective alternative fund25.2%
One on one counseling20.1%
Participation in the planning10.9%

In I’ll review the other two sets of survey responses.