Tax Refuser Leaves Government Scrambling to Respond

This comes from the Minnesota Daily, and gives some rare insight into the government’s anxiety about war tax resisters at the time, and the difficulty it had in responding to the threat in an effective way:

Tax Refusal Case Could Set Precedent

by Steve Brandt

The case of Carole Nelson, a young Minneapolis woman who refuses to pay her federal income tax to support war, could set an important precedent, Richard Oakes, her attorney, said during an interview .

“The government is kind of flailing around, looking for ways of prosecuting tax refusals,” Oakes said. “They’re exploring various civil and administrative ways to get at this thing.”

Nelson refused to obey a U.S. District Court order requiring her to give tax information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) .

She is scheduled for a court hearing to show cause why she should not be held in contempt of court for refusing to obey the order.

Although Sally Buckley, the first war tax resister to be prosecuted locally, was tried under criminal statutes, Nelson’s case has so far been conducted under civil law.

If Judge Earl Larson finds her in contempt of court, he could order her to go to jail with a six-month maximum term until she is ready to pay.

He could also issue a light sentence, ask her to think her refusal over, and then give her another chance to provide the information or he could give her a straight contempt sentence.

All three actions could be challenged in court, Oakes said.

Although he said issuing a fine is rare in contempt cases, Oakes thinks Larson might impose a fine against Nelson comparable to the taxes he thinks she owes.

Paradoxically, since Nelson has said she has very little in assets, she may own [sic] no tax. The amount she owes cannot be figured until she supplies the IRS with the requested information.

The case is also complicated by the fact that the Washington-based Justice Department lawyer prosecuting the case for the IRS, John Hines, would rather not have to prosecute her.

At a previous hearing, Hines told Nelson, “I want to do this even less than you can imagine. I read Thoreau too.”

“Hines is a decent guy,” Oakes said, noting that Hines could have asked for a contempt citation at that hearing. “He’s got some personal sympathies. I don’t think he’d like to see her got to jail.

“The government is quite upset about this case,” Oakes added. “You can be accused of bank robbery and they won’t fly a guy in from Washington.”

One of Nelson’s friends remarked after the hearing that the cost of flying Hines to Minneapolis probably exceeds whatever tax she may owe.

Oakes said he believes the government’s attention to the case rests on the fact that “taxpaying is basically a voluntary act.

“If everybody quit paying their taxes, the government would go out of business,” he added.

Hines confirmed that the case costs more to pursue than the government expects to gain in tax from Nelson but added that not to prosecute “would set a precedent that we could not afford.

“We have good precedents on our side,” he said. “It’s an important case to us only in the publicity that would come if we lost it.”

According to Ed Hedemann’s list of court actions taken against war tax resisters, Nelson served 10 days for her refusal to turn over records to the IRS. Here is a follow-up on her sentencing from the Minnesota Daily:

War Tax Resister Sentenced to 10 Day Jail Term for Contempt of Court

War tax resister Carole Nelson was held in contempt of court for refusing to obey a court order directing her to provide the federal government with information about her financial status.

U.S. District Court Judge Earl Larson sentenced Nelson to imprisonment for a maximum of 10 days “or until she purges herself of the contempt,” (by complying with the order). Her attorney, Richard Oakes, called the relatively light sentence “nothing short of fantastic.

“I’m amazed. I consider this a victory,” he said.

Nelson was ordered by Larson to present herself to the Internal Revenue Service and fill out a form on her financial status. She did not comply.

Justice Department tax division attorney John Hines had asked Larson for incarceration of Nelson until she complied with the order. The maximum imprisonment for contempt is six months.

Hines said the statute the government was trying to get Nelson to obey was intended to combat organized crime.

“I don’t want her (Nelson) to go to jail. But I’ll do anything to fight organized crime,” Hines, who is involved mainly in organized crime tax cases, said.

In his closing statement Oakes said, “I think the government fears the publicity in this matter more than the consequences. This is not a person who ought to be incarcerated.”

Oakes also argued that the government could get the information it wanted about Nelson from social security and other government records.

In a statement read from the witness stand, Nelson said it was “a perversion of justice to be here to show cause why I should not be charged with contempt of court for refusing to be an accomplice to killing.”

She is basing her refusal to provide the information on her Christian beliefs. She has sworn that she has no assets.

If each person obeyed or disobeyed laws according to his conscience, “it would let every citizen be a law unto himself,” Larson said.

Larson said the contempt citation was the first he has issued in the 11 years on the bench.

Oakes said he expects no further prosecution of Nelson.