Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation

The Austin Chronicle has a write-up today on the Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation:

“We’re all war-tax resisters. We do it in different ways,” said ACOMT member Susan Van Haitsma. Resisting taxation , she intentionally lives below the taxable income level. “Others in the group are self-employed. There are people who file, people who don’t.” The small organization, counting teachers, doctors, and veterans amongst its ranks, was successful in organizing the Austin Taxpayers for Peace action, where protesters withheld $10.40 from their 1040 tax payments. On , the resulting $2,600 was split between Nonmilitary Options for Youth and the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker-affiliated group assisting civilians in Iraq.

While withholding only $10.40 is described as “low risk” by the ACOMT, some members have been punished. In the Statesman’s op-ed pages, ACOMT volunteer Andy McKenna reveals that “after 11 years of inaction,” the IRS began garnishing his wages of all but the federal monthly poverty level. Still, Austin tax resisters soldier on undeterred. “The war takes money, and it takes bodies. And they have to come from somewhere,” says Van Haitsma. “And that’s what I’m opposed to.”

The Statistics of Income Bulletin gives us a look at the personal income tax returns filed for . Oh, come on, you know you’re interested. Some highlights:

  • Taxpayers filed 130.1 million individual income tax returns for , down from 130.3 million the previous year
  • 38.2 million of these (29%) had an adjusted gross income under $15,000 (which is what I aim for in order to stay below the tax line), and 39.1 million of the returns (30%) showed zero federal income tax for the year
  • Total adjusted gross income was just over $6 trillion, 2.2% less than the previous year
  • Taxable income dropped 4% to $4.1 trillion
  • Total income tax fell 10.2% to $797.0 billion (“This was the largest percentage decrease .”)
  • 103.5 million returns (80%!) came from taxpayers who had overpaid their taxes and were due a refund (meaning they gave the government a free loan during the year)

From this last point, it seems to me that those of us who thrill in seeing money taken away from the government might do well to simply encourage people to rejigger their W-4 withholding so as not to be giving this interest-free loan to the treasury. There’s a powerful self-interest / common-sense argument for this that’s probably more broadly influential than the idealistic arguments for tax resistance.