New England War Tax Resistance and Supporters Gathering and NWTRCC Gathering
Two discussion groups on living above a taxable income and living on a low income
Notes taken during the taxable income session:
For purposes of this discussion, a “taxable income” is around $10,000 for a single head of household. Recognizing that war tax resistance brings up many different issues — practical, philosophical, emotional — and this is a large group, what are our urgent questions & observations?
- One must figure out where one is at philosophically, practically, and emotionally before trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of resistance — otherwise things can get confusing and overwhelming.
- One attendee wishes he could live below a taxable income, but he is also grateful that having taxes to refuse allows him opportunities to resist and also to have money to give away.
- WTR above a taxable income brings up possible conflicts with partner or future partners who are not resisters.
- Is there a way that resisters with assets to lose might connect & relate to those losing assets due to the economy (i.e. those whose houses are being foreclosed?). We have a lot emotionally in common with one another.
- It is possible for individuals to fit into both living above and living below a taxable income groups—some may live very simply while also earning above a tax exempt income.
- Some are working on a project to make it possible for people around the world who write personal statements of conscience to combine them. See Conscience Studio for an example of writing statements.
- It is important to be public about WTR, but one challenge is how to keep the issue current in conversations with people who you’ve already been talking to for years about it?
- There exists a constant dilemma between balancing personal safety, security, & convenience with bearing witness to the demands of our consciences.
- Media coverage is an essential element of WTR, particularly when houses are seized or people are incarcerated.
- Practicing WTR while living above a taxable income provides many opportunities to both reduce and increase personal risks — sometimes one does both simultaneously!
- How does one spiritually decide between resisting war taxes and leaving a legacy to one’s children / caring for one’s family? One attendee made a pledge to his daughters that he would stop practicing WTR if it interfered with them pursuing their college educations — luckily it did not end up interfering. One attendee who owns property established a trust, working with a lawyer. This trust owns the property, and allows her to live in her home until she dies. After her death, the trust can be transferred to her children.
- WTR is technically difficult. Being levy-able feels inconvenient, clunky, and stupid at times, but it still feels better than paying taxes.
- How effective is WTR really if money comes out of someone else’s pocket? Would it be better to give away enough money so that taxes are not owed? How to balance resistance to the military with support for taxation for socially-beneficial reasons? Protest is like a grain of sand in the machine. The bottom line is what can one’s conscience live with. Not paying a great amount? Not paying a small amount? Not compromising at all? The impact we have has little to do with the amount we withhold. The most important issue is how public we are about our resistance. People who are public can create “terrible” precedents.
- Direct action & nonviolence is the most effective when you get the word out.
- Some attendees bank with a local bank that does not have branches. One person has received many levies to his account but he has not moved the account. He considers the levies the cost of doing the work he loves (which earns him an above-taxable income) and banking somewhere he likes.
- 15% can be levied from social security and from pensions (i.e. TIAA)
- Another major issue is that of redirection. The government does not need our money to fight wars as much as they need our complicity. WTR is valuable because it removes our complicity. When one attendee realized this, he became less concerned about seized interest and penalties.
- What are we doing with our funds instead? One attendee proposed using them to form a provisional government that would provide compelling proof to people of what their tax dollars could accomplish if not going to the U.S. government. One individual made a donation to her local community center which allowed the center to stay open long enough to regain its footing — powerful example of what redirected money can do.
- Promoting the positive impact of redirected tax dollars is an important part of the WTR outreach and publicity campaign.
- Practicing WTR while living above a taxable income gives you the opportunity to decide how much you pay and how much you redirect.
- Look at our history: taxes started because wars needed to be funded. “War as the health of the state.”
- How to practice WTR is such a personal decision — we must do the best we can in the place where we are with the income we have now and the information that we have now.
- It is a huge victory to refuse giving money to the military. It can change one’s whole life. Remember that accomplishments do not always have to be high profile to have an impact.
- It is impossible to be pure — we pay an indirect tax on imported goods.
- When considering risk, think about the fact that it may be more risky to pay taxes than to not pay them. “You get what you pay for.”
- How do people publicize their WTR? Faith community / singing groups / parties / writing congresspeople as well as IRS / writing to family
- What can we do to make the message better for times we are in? Facebook, etc.
Questions — Some of these were answered in other sessions or through discussions; some may get some response in More Than A Paycheck or other NWTRCC publications:
- How do people publicize levies and other seizure of assets? How can one best make the distinction between tax resistance and tax evasion?
- What are some ways others with assets have managed their money to reduce the changes of levy / seizure?
- Are there risks to those who help resisters?
- How do others with responsibility for dependent family members (children, elderly parents, etc.) make decisions about what financial risks to take?
- What options for WTR are available and what are their associated risks? Which are greater risks and which are lesser?
- What about inheritance? This creates a dilemma both for the person giving as well as for the person receiving.
- What have been the responses others have received from the IRS? Have they all been automated letters or has anyone had personal contact?
Report from group discussing Low Income War Tax Refusal
- The group talked about paying more attention to money and motivations for being resisterS.
Living simply gets one looking at many things, including asking questions about what is poverty and not being poor….
- Keeping income low can mean that we lack saying “no” to IRS. The alternative is that it’s daily, many opportunities to talk about it. Not really suffering or resisting as avoiding and that can feel a little less like confronting the system as floating around it.
- A lot of what we are doing feels very individual. Need more collective action.
- Help newcomers into WTR, and community and community support.
- Attitudes around money tend to carry anxieties about money and support. Good to talk about it openly and analyze.
- Practical issues – how to lower income tax to 0, how to handle large expenses like housing and rent, living a car-free lifestyle, how to deal with health insurance and health care, debt – especially, student loan debt, etc.
- Think of wealth in terms other than money. This led to incredibly rich story telling — thrilling!
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Read about the Friday night session on Dave Gross’s blog and click the forward button for more of his impressions from the weekend.