Recent Tax Resistance News of Note

Some tax resistance links that have scrolled by in recent days:

  • Did you miss the national gathering of NWTRCC? Catch up by reading this blog report on the gathering, videos of panels and presentations, photos, reports from the various workshops, and coordinating committee business minutes.
  • I noted that a chapter of one of the largest political parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had called for a tax strike against the Kabila autocracy. That call has now been joined by organization Lucha, based in North Kivu, which is asking citizens to stop paying taxes, utility bills, fees, royalties, and licenses until Kabila steps down.
  • Departing IRS chief John Koskinen, in his final news conference, warned that continuous budget cuts have pushed the agency to the breaking-point. A catastrophic malfunction of the agency’s decrepit information technology “is not a question of whether, simply a question of when,” he said. In addition, budget cuts and personnel losses have reduced the agency’s ability to credibly deter tax evasion. “If people think that many others are not paying their fair share or that they’re not going to get caught if they cheat… our voluntary compliance system will be put at risk,” Koskinen said. “A 1% drop in the compliance rate translates into a revenue loss of over $30 billion every year.”
  • Howard Waitzkin, in Monthly Review looks at some of the prospects for would-be revolutionaries in “the Global North,” including the potential for tax resistance as a revolutionary activity. Excerpt:

    Besides direct action, revolutionaries can change what we do with our money, especially in the realms of taxes, investments, and local economic activities. Such changes can disrupt, undermine, and create space for further revolutionary actions. We in the 99 percent persist as the main funders of the capitalist state, which passes our money on to corporations that exploit workers, destroy nature, raise the earth’s temperature, and keep us in permanent war and perpetual inequality. We need to change our habits of giving up our money, and if enough of us do so, the capitalist state no longer will be able to prop up the capitalist economy for the benefit of the ultra-rich.

    Tax resistance can take several forms. For more than a century, pacifists in the United States have resisted taxes that pay for war, some eventually going to prison but the vast majority, like me, suffering no substantial harm as a result. As a card-carrying conscientious objector, I openly resisted half of my income taxes for more than a decade during and after the Vietnam War. If one honestly declares one’s income, there is nothing illegal about claiming a war deduction of 50 percent, which is the approximate percentage of the federal budget that pays for past, present, and future wars. Later, with a young daughter, I was starting to feel inconvenienced and a little bored by appeal procedures inside and outside the Internal Revenue Service because of open tax resistance. So I reluctantly made the same decision that Trump and his ilk make, to avoid taxes through loopholes rather than resistance of conscience.

    The problem with either explicit or implicit tax resistance is that we number in the thousands rather than millions. “Death and taxes,” the two inevitabilities, as we are taught, seem hard to resist, but corporations and rich individuals understand very well that at least taxes actually are not inevitable. In Latin America, tax resistance usually proceeds according to the Trump model for corporations and the rich, but ordinary people can succeed in massive tax resistance through non-reporting or under-reporting of income. During the dictatorships in the Southern Cone, the autocratic governments had trouble raising sufficient tax revenues, despite extensive attempts through bureaucratic and police surveillance, and tax resistance became one of many tactics to bring down those regimes. Ironically, a major motivation in Cuba for allowing expansion of private small businesses involves a perception that private-sector business activities were expanding anyway, along with rampant tax evasion; if permitted officially, small businesses could generate substantial taxes for social programs. Even in Cuba, tax resistance has interacted with political organizing in Poder Popular and community-based organizations to enhance popular participation. As a revolutionary strategy in the United States, tax resistance must flourish, so millions of us stop functioning as the main financiers for the capitalist state.

  • John Stoner, at Mennonite World Review, invites Mennonite taxpayers to find the courage to be a conscientious objector. Excerpt: “In the United States, conscription has ended and we as persons are not conscripted for war. But war goes on unobstructed, because our money is conscripted. We could be conscientious objectors to war by being conscientious objectors to taxation for war. So, why aren’t we conscientious objectors to taxation for war?”
  • Businesses in Tunisia have responded to surprise tax hikes by vowing not to pay.
  • 10 million American taxpayers were hit with penalties for failing to pay their quarterly estimated taxes on time. This number has risen 40% since the beginning of the decade. The IRS seems to believe this is because of an increasing number of people working in the “gig economy” who aren’t aware that they are legally responsible for making these quarterly payments.
  • Michael Goldstein brazenly commits a federal crime by urging people to refuse to pay the federal taxes that purchase our next nuclear war. It’s also a crime to incite tax resistance in Italy, apparently, but La Legge per Tutti can help you find the contours of that prohibition.
  • Unicorn Riot has posted a series of articles on Alternative Economies & Community Currencies in Greece. And Commons Transition has published an in-depth study of the Catalan Integral Cooperative.
  • I’m going to try to wait to comment on the tax bill oozing through Congress until something actually becomes law, but Calvin H. Johnson couldn’t wait. He says that the proposed tax cuts will push the U.S. federal debt past the point where it threatens the stability of the fisc. And not a moment too soon.

Finally, this interesting data point on American politics destroys the polis:

Using smartphone-tracking data and precinct-level voting, we show that politically divided families shortened Thanksgiving dinners by 20–30 minutes following the divisive 2016 election. This decline survives comparisons with 2015 and extensive demographic and spatial controls, and more than doubles in media markets with heavy political advertising. These effects appear asymmetric: while Democratic voters traveled less in 2016, political differences shortened Thanksgiving dinners more among Republican voters, especially where political advertising was heaviest. Partisan polarization may degrade close family ties with large aggregate implications; we estimate 27 million person-hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse were lost in 2016 to ad-fueled partisan effects.

Another reason why you should ignore the presidential elections.