Fourth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Brussels, Belgium 1992

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee 

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PO Box 774 - Monroe, Maine 04951 - (207) 525-7774

THE WAR TAX RESISTANCE MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES 1990 -1992

This report is being prepared by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), a coalition of groups in the United States that work on war tax resistance (WTR) and Peace Tax Fund legislation. Its purpose is to support, coordinate, and publicize WTR by individuals and groups, to be a visible and recognizable national presence, and to provide cohesion to the WTR movement as a whole. In June 1991, NWTRCC's office moved from Seattle, Washington, to Monroe, Maine. The current Coordinator is Karen Marysdaughter.

The Size of the US WTR movement

Currently NWTRCC's affiliates number about 70 groups: there are also about 40 Alternative Funds in existence which redirect refused tax money to meet human needs. A few funds are expressly for the purpose of supporting tax resisters who are in financial need because of government penalties.

After a national survey in 1988, the number of war tax resisters in the US was estimated to be between 3,000 and 10,000 income tax resisters, with perhaps another 10,000 phone tax resisters. This is a very rough estimate. There has been no follow-up to the survey to get current figures. Prior to the Persian Gulf War, when there was a lot of talk about a Peace Dividend in the US, some people started to think they didn't need to do war tax resistance any more. But the Gulf War eliminated any hope for a Peace Dividend, and even with the break-up of the Soviet Union there are no serious cuts in US military spending being proposed. There was a surge of interest in WTR during the Gulf War, which appears to have made up for some loses in the movement due to increased IRS collection activity. Therefore, the size of the US WTR movement is probably about the same as it was a couple years ago. New rends in the US WTR movement remain to be seen, although there is no significant change in US military policy in sight.

National Groups

Two other major national groups, affiliated with NWTRCC, work exclusively on WTR or peace tax fund issues: the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund. NCPTF) and the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign (CMTC). The War Resisters League continues to devote a significant portion of their work to WTR. A few other multi-issue national groups support WTR and/or focus a small part of their work on WTR. The War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund currently has about 750 members nationally who contribute as much as $20,000 in a year to help to war tax resisters with financial penalties. A new international group founded by Mubarak Awad, Nonviolence International, has established its home office in the US and has just published a booklet on WTR.

WTR and Peace Tax Campaigns

Alternative Revenue Service

This is a project of the War Resisters League, cosponsored by NWTRCC and CMTC, which includes a Peace form as an alternative to the Internal Revenue Service's 1040 form, which most people in the US use to file their taxes. The EZ (for easy, copying the name given by the IRS to one of its forms) Peace form has been used all over the country as a way to reach out to new people and encourage them to redirect some or all of their taxes. Last year the ARS distributed about 60,000 forms, and reported $104,000 in redirected tax money. This is the third year of the campaign.

US Peace Tax Fund Campaign

For the first time since the PTF Bill was introduced into Congress 20 years ago, there will be a hearing by a Congressional subcommittee. This is for gathering information only, not yet as a preparation to voting on the bill. It will allow the testimony of conscientious objectors to the payment of war taxes to be in the Congressional record, and as such is a very important step. The hearing will probably be in May or June of this year.

Kehler/Corner House Occupation

The home of Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner in western Massachusetts was seized and purchased by the IRS in 1989. In December 1991 the couple was evicted and Randy sent to jail for refusing to vacate the house. The next day a group of supporters moved in, and the house has been occupied by rotating groups ever since. The IRS later sold the house to local people, who have not evicted any of the occupiers. Randy was subsequently released from jail. This campaign has received national media attention and the support of WTR groups all over the country. People from as far away as California and Oregon have helped to occupy the house. It represents an entirely new level of war tax resistance in the US

Mennonite Taxes for Life Campaign

In the spring of 1992, the US General Conference of the Mennonite Church encouraged members to redirect a symbolic portion of their taxes to support school systems which are under funded because of military spending.

International support of the Innu

NWTRCC publicized this international redirection project over the past two years. As a coalition it did not collect money to send, but individuals and groups in the US contributed on their own.

New developments in the WTR movement

Religious Freedom

A 1990 Supreme Court decision overturned the previously accepted standard of compelling interest necessary for the government to enforce statues that restricted the free exercise of religion. Courts are now free to ignore that standard. Activists are trying to reinstate the compelling interest standard.

Employers War Tax Resistance

In December of 1990, a court case determined that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends must honor a levy to garnish the wages of tax resisting employees. The decision was clearly influenced by the change in the religious freedom standard. This sets a precedent for other employers of conscience.

5th Amendment Victory

Also in 1990, a war tax resister who refused to honor a summons to provide financial information to the IRS successfully asserted his 5th Amendment right to protection from self-incrimination. This is the fourth time in a row that tax resisters have litigated and won.

Phone tax resistance

In 1990 the 3% federal excise tax on long distance phone calls was made permanent. WTR groups have campaigned to resist this tax for many years. The language in the legislation made it sound as if the phone tax was going to support childcare, and there has been much confusion among peace groups about this. The fact is that the tax continues to go into the general fund, of which over 50% supports the military. NWTRCC has worked to clarify this, and to continue the phone tax resistance campaign.

Financial levies on war tax resisters

In the last couple years there seems to be an increase in IRS financial levies against tax resisters, including some long-time resisters who had not heard from the IRS in many years. It appears that as the IRS has computerized its system it has become somewhat more efficient at following up on tax delinquents of all kinds. This does not appear to be a planned strategy specifically against war tax resisters. In general it is more difficult for middle income tax resisters to resist without having the money collected. There has been more focus, as a result, on developing alternatives to mainstream economic life, such as living in community, land trusts, self-employment, etc.

New WTR Resources

War Resisters League Guide to War Tax Resistance

A 1992 edition has just been published. It continues to be the most comprehensive overview of WTR in the US, and includes a section on international WTR.

NWTRCC materials

The WTR Manual for Counselors and Lawyers is being updated this year. NWTRCC recently published a Quick Reference which summarizes basic WTR information for counselors. It has two flyers in its Practical WTR Series: Controlling Federal Tax Withholding and To File or Not to File an Income Tax Return.

Paying for Peace, - War Tax Resistance in the U.S.

This new video was produced in 1991 by Carol Katonik Coney, an independent filmmaker, as a 30-minute introduction to WTR. It is now being distributed through NWTRCC. 

Communities of Conscience: Collected Statements on Conscience and Taxes for Military Preparations

This book edited by Bernd Janzen was published by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund in 1990.

Report submitted by Karen Marysdaughter, NWTRCC Coordinator

April 1992