War Tax Resistance in the U.S., circa 1985

The magazine In These Times had a couple of short newsbriefs about the American war tax resistance movement in their edition:

Hungry generals

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) estimates that from 10,000 to 20,000 citizens won’t be filing U.S. income tax this year — not because they don’t have to, but because they refuse to pay. Larry Bassett, a Long Island peace activist, has been a tax resister because, he says, “60 percent of our taxes goes to the Pentagon,” and he doesn’t want to help the Reagan administration build more nuclear bombs or aid Central American dictatorships, writes Susan Jaffe. He has refused to comply with a court order issued by Federal District Court Judge Jack Weinstein requiring Bassett to submit financial information to the IRS.

The IRS wants to know where Bassett’s savings account is. And where to find any other assets so they can take the money he owes — $1,300. If Bassett is found guilty of violating the court order, he could be sent to jail indefinitely for being in contempt of court until he agrees to cooperate or until the judge decides his imprisonment serves no purpose.

Bassett realizes that $1,300 is not a lot of money, but that’s not the point. “No general is going to bed hungry because I didn’t pay my taxes,” he says. “I’m aware of that. But it’s a political statement that the government can’t ignore. And they are obviously not ignoring it.” Instead of sending his money to the IRS, Bassett contributes an equivalent amount to peace groups and needy friends, often victims of Reagan’s budget cuts. So even if he hasn’t inconvenienced the Pentagon, Bassett says, “it makes a difference to the people I’ve helped with my tax resistance money. And it also makes a difference to me: what I’m doing makes me feel that my life is more consistent with what I believe. I’m living what I believe in as many ways as I can: this is one of them.”

Tax resistance is also his job. He is a staff member at the NWTRCC. So instead of being intimidated by the IRS and the courts, Bassett issues press releases about his case and organizes supporters to send letters to the judge and demonstrate at the courthouse. For more information on tax resistance, contact the NWTRCC at P.O. Box 2236, East Patchogue, NY 11772; (516) 654‒8227.

IRS hits jackpot

The IRS didn’t have too hard a time locating war tax resister Karl Meyer’s assets: they seized a small trailer he owns and a station wagon he leases, both parked in front of his Chicago home. Then they handed him a bill for $20,000 in penalty fines — and Meyer informed them that their figures were way too low because he had already received notices in the mail for $135,000. Meyer a 10-year tax resister and long an innovator in tax resistance circles, was being penalized for what he calls his “Cabbage Patch resistance.” Every day in he sent a return to a different IRS office somewhere in the country (see In These Times, [which had a newsbrief reading: “War tax resister Karl Meyer was recently fined $135,000 by the IRS for ‘frivolous tax returns.’ Meyer, a freelance carpenter in Chicago, sent IRS offices across the country a daily report of his income (averaging $38 a day) with a declaration of refusal to pay.”]). He included a handwritten statement of his resistance to military buildup on each and an invitation to IRS officials: “I invite each of you to resign from the collection of military taxes and to join in working for a disarmed world. If you want to talk about this, call me evenings at…”

Though Meyer’s scheme has not netted any converts among the IRS, he sees it as a way of shaking up a complacent public. Some of his earlier tax resistance innovations have taken hold across the country, including the boycott of the telephone excise tax that he helped popularize and the practice of claiming large numbers of dependents to beat the employee withholding tax.

Meyer refuses to pay a cent of the penalties he owes and may soon be summoned to court. The threat of jail doesn’t deter Meyer — he’s already spent months in jail for tax resistance and for civil disobedience. And though he misses using the trailer and the station wagon for his mobile demonstrations, his pragmatic side allows that the wagon was “only worth $75 anyway” — a lot less than the monthly upkeep has cost lately.