ACTION ALERT: What Is War Tax Resistance? And How Can You Get Involved?
March 13, 2008
War Resistance League & No War Tax
But before governments can buy weapons and hire soldiers, they must first raise the necessary money through taxes or borrowing. War tax resistance is refusing to pay some or all of those federal taxes that contribute to military spending. War tax resistance is a powerful way to say NO to nuclear weapons and weapons testing, military aid and arms sales, the ludicrous Star Wars missile defense system, covert CIA violence — to say NO to the militarization of the U.S. federal budget.
What Is War Tax Resistance?
“If a thousand men [and women] were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”
—Henry David Thoreau
“The two decisive powers of the government with respect to war are the power to conscript and the power to tax.”
It is impossible to conduct modern warfare without soldiers and weapons. But before governments can buy weapons and hire soldiers, they must first raise the necessary money through taxes or borrowing. War tax resistance is refusing to pay some or all of those federal taxes that contribute to military spending.
Because there is no tax that goes only to the military, war taxes generally mean individual federal income taxes and as well as some excise taxes (e.g., the 3% federal excise tax on telephone service). Though a case can be made to include Social Security, state, and local taxes, these are generally not considered “war taxes.”
In this era of high-priced weapons systems and military aid to regional wars, taxation is the closest war-making link between the government and most citizens. War tax resistance represents a direct way to say “NO!” to military programs which cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $330 billion annually.
War tax resistance is a powerful way to say NO to nuclear weapons and weapons testing, military aid and arms sales, the ludicrous Star Wars missile defense system, covert CIA violence — to say NO to the militarization of the U.S. federal budget. Through war tax resistance you control how your money is spent.
This waste of money and human resources demands strong action from us all. War tax resistance is one direct way to protest militaristic policies. Governments depend on people agreeing with, or at least not actively opposing, their polices. War tax resistance is a personally empowering means . . .
* to withdraw support from the war-making machinery in a way that the government will find hard to ignore;
* to redirect tax money to more productive ventures that meet human needs and promote a more responsible and sustainable relationship with the earth;
* to encourage others to resist;
* to make one’s life more consistent with one’s beliefs.
There are a number of legal precedents that tax resisters have cited to justify their resistance. Notable examples are from the Nuremberg Principles, the United Nations Charter and the United States Constitution. To date, however, no federal courts have accepted these precedents for war tax resistance.
War Resisters League, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012. (212) 228-0450; fax (212) 228-6193. firstname.lastname@example.org
“Believing war to be a crime against humanity, the War Resisters League, founded in 1923, advocates Gandhian nonviolence as the method for creating a democratic society free of war, racism, sexism, and human exploitation.”
War Tax Redirection
A Positive Alternative to Federal War Taxes
People’s Life Fund/ No War Tax.org
Today, even more than soldiers, the Pentagon requires tremendous amounts of money to build both nuclear and conventional weapons systems. The U.S. government continues to collect tax dollars from its citizens to finance high-technology preparation for war. As people realize this, and we make the connection between our tax money and the violence and oppression brought on by military spending, war tax resistance grows.
During the Vietnam war, the number of people who resisted paying federal taxes increased dramatically. At that time, about 60% of our income taxes went for military-related purposes, and the federal excise tax on our phone bill was increased to help pay for that war. Today, roughly 50% of our federal tax dollars are still being used to pay for the activities and debts of the military machine.
Many people in communities across the United States are taking steps to resist the payment of the federal income and/or telephone tax. There are a number of forms that tax resistance can take; more information about this form of civil disobedience can be obtained from the War Resisters League: http://www.warresisters.org/what_is.htm
Over 50 alternative funds have been established in the U.S. to serve as repositories for money which is not paid in taxes to the federal government. A portion of the money in each fund is then given away by its members for a broad range of positive, life-affirming purposes.
By creating alternative funds, we move a step beyond resistance. Through our actions, we determine the priorities for the use of our tax dollars. And by this determination, we not only empower ourselves, but we also provide critical funds for human services that the government is not adequately supplying.
The People’s Life Fund
In 1971, war tax resisters in the San Francisco Bay Area formed the People’s Life Fund (PLF). Each April 15, the PLF makes grants to community organizations working for peace and justice. To provide for a wide range of needs, the PLF is divided into three categories:
1. Earmarked: People earmark their contribution for a group of their choice, and make a check out to that group. The PLF forwards the check with an accompanying letter stating that the contribution is from war tax resistance money. None of the money in category A actually stays with the PLF, but channeling it through the Fund enables the tax resister/donor to make a political statement along with a contribution.
2. Strings Attached: People who resist paying their taxes realize that the Internal Revenue Service has a collection procedure and that the IRS may claim the owed amount through levies on salaries or bank accounts, or, rarely, by seizure of property. Faced with this possibility, the PLF allows tax resisters to “deposit” owed taxes in category B. This money is returned upon request after collection by the IRS, or if collection is imminent, or to pay legal fees. In the meantime, the interest from these deposits is placed in category C.
3. Give Away: This is a granting fund consisting of outright contributions of resisted taxes or other money, and interest from all PLF deposits. PLF members meet annually to give away the money in category C. An amount not to exceed 25% of category C is granted at these meetings to support the work of war tax resistance, both locally and nationally.
The People’s Life Fund strives to deposit contributions in alternative financial institutions, such as credit unions and socially responsible funds, whose goals are compatible with those of the members of the funds.
People’s Life Fund Grants
Grants are made to groups whose work falls within one of the priority areas described below. Preference is given to groups that provide services in the Northern California region.
First Priority: Provision of essential, day-to-day human services (food, health, child care, housing, etc.) combined with educational work aimed at pointing out and changing the root causes of whatever problems the group is addressing.
Second Priority: Provision of essential, day-to-day human services without an explicit, conscious attempt to provide an analysis or eradicate the problem.
Third Priority: Education or action, in a spirit of non-violence, aimed at social, economic, or political change.
Applications for a grant from the PLF must be postmarked by March 14th, 2007. Please download and print the application form, Printable PLF Application Form (PDF file), or contact the PLF office for more details.
Applications are screened and grants are made by any members of the PLF who choose to attend meetings in February and March of each year. Any person who, in the past two years, has made a contribution to category C or has had a positive balance in category B is a member of the PLF. In addition, one may become a member of the Fund by volunteering time or resources to the work of the Fund. Granting decisions are made by consensus of the members involved. An informal evaluation on the use of PLF grants by recipient organizations is made after an appropriate time by the recipient and the PLF.
Loans are made on a limited basis from the People’s Life Fund to organizations whose overall purpose is to provide human services or aid to low-income persons, to promote nonviolent action or education, and/or to promote alternative economic projects and relationships.
If we all placed the money we didn’t give to the military in locally administered funds like the PLF, we could help create models for a future in which people would regain control of their common institutions and effectively end their complicity in government programs they believe to be detrimental to the Earth and living things. We invite you to join us in this work.
People’s Life Fund, P.O. Box 2422, Berkeley, CA 94702-0422. (510) 843-9877