On a local Friends Meeting held a workshop on tax resistance that I attended. I was pleasantly surprised at the large number of people who attended (given that the workshop was held during the distracting week between Christmas and New Years), and I was delighted at the amount of interest expressed and the quality of the conversation.
One San Francisco Quaker is skeptical about “easy, low-risk,” “symbolic” tax resistance and issues a challenge:
Scenario: The federal government has instituted a 50-cent-per gallon gasoline tax to cover expenses related to the war in Iraq.
For embellishment, imagine it’s and an entirely new Presidential administration that you voted for in has just assumed office (I don’t care which party as long as you think it was a good choice). We could imagine the new administration is being fiscally responsible and making up for past as well as ongoing deficits, and is exhibiting integrity by tying the tax directly to its use.
Question: What would Quakers do?
Would they continue to behave the same as usual?
Would they always pay in cash and withhold the extra charge for the war tax? If so, would they submit to being arrested for nonpayment of taxes — or maybe even theft — if the station owner called the police? How long would they stay in jail before paying the tax and any accumulated fines?
Would they pay by credit card but modify the receipt to withhold payment of the tax before signing?
Would they carpool? Or join carsharing groups?
Would they sell their cars?
Would they refuse rides in privately owned vehicles?
Would they move to the country and buy a horse?
Would they just buy a Prius?
Before doing any of the above, would they consent to wait expectantly together in meeting for business, to ask the Inward Teacher what on earth they should do?
I think it’s useful, from time to time, to contemplate such hypotheticals. What would your response be if the government enacted an explicit war-tax on something you enjoy or require. What if the government did enact a “Peace Tax Fund” designed to make people feel like their tax dollars were being spent peacefully?