Report from NWTRCC Gathering

Discussions and Workshops
November 7-8,
Eugene, Oregon

 

Minutes of the Sunday Coordinating Committee Meeting

Saturday Workshops

Counseling Topics from discussions and workshops

Kathy Kelly at the University of Oregon (transcript coming soon)

 

Thanks so much to Taxes for Peace Not War! and all of our individual hosts and cooks in Eugene!

 

Friday Evening

            The weekend began with a go-round of introductions and stories or comments from each person on something related to war tax resistance (WTR). With about 50 people present, the range of comments included:

            Experiences living in Latin America and seeing U.S. foreign policy in action led to war tax resistance; having a child now we don’t owe any taxes.

            Lived in Mexico for a few years and found how difficult it was to be a resister there.

            As a new resister the main problem has been getting friends to understand why I’m doing this; have had some heated discussions with friends.

            Nuclear issues led into war tax resistance; grateful for local group and national support

            From war tax resistance have moved into alternative/spiritual/economic paradigm and searching the reasons we have war. see Prout Institute.

            As a total resister have had levies and left jobs but now stay under taxable limit.

            Mostly do telephone tax resistance and group redirection.

            After 25 years of resistance have had IRS raid house and office with guns drawn; lawsuits filed and everything was returned; it’s a long story!

            Thought I made up war tax resistance and glad to find others who feel this way.

            Got involved in Catholic Worker and stopped paying phone tax

            First time resistance April 2008: IRS took the money from the stimulus check

            In 1980 refused draft registration and spoke on draft resistance, let to WTR; they said he’d grow out of it but he didn’t

            Lived in Philippines and Iran after college; hadn’t been a regular taxpayer; realized then what the US military was doing; started with resisting military portion then eventually organized life to not owe anything.

            Came here to learn.

            Not someone who is opposed to taxation but most exhilarating part of WTR has been redirection; many benefits of WTR but redirection is the best

            My Ruckus group got a grant from NACC’s alternative fund for their paper so learned about WTR; haven’t been able to resist yet but challenged to figure out how to do it

            Troubled about war as an 8-year-old when US got into WWII; after getting married they wrote first letter to IRS and have resisted ever since. Wish we had the secret to get more people to be honest with themselves and do this.

            New to WTR in last year but got hit with a frivolous penalty after symbolic resistance. Trust that it is going to work out.

            As a high school teacher used Karl Meyer’s essays in the classroom and have refused since 1980; experiences in Middle East sustain resistance.

            Also got a “frivolous return” letter but hasn’t heard from IRS again; expect them to drop it;

            Got below tax line after U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003; IRS after him for self-employment tax; has become a WTR fanatic.

            If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem; Trying to figure out how to reconcile stuff and how to do more.

            Leaflet at PO each tax day but there are many fewer people coming because of electronic filing. Have been hit by IRS many times; work to lower tax obligation and refuse half.

            Have been hit by IRS in every possible way and always found each step to be a step to another way. Methodist Church pension put them above taxable income and Church allowed levy even though the church has a principle against war and to support conscientious objectors. Pay refused money to local government by publicly giving at board of county commissioners meeting.

            Wants to learn all I can.

            Resisted in 70s until about 84 but got married and husband wouldn’t resist, then had financial aid forms for kids, but now things have changed and can resist again.

            Was a nonregistrant for draft in 1948; started to resist and redirect at retirement with help of a financial advisor who helps them keep income low.

            I’m a peace activist because I joined the air force 1972. A special grant of $4,000 started the War Tax Information Project 4,000 in the 80s. If we had more of a movement than a collection of individuals it couldn’t fail.

            Conflicted about paying for war and endless wars; brand new to this; don’t know what we are doing or what we want to do yet.

            Biggest problem with WTR is “being on my own” – in a mixed marriage and a conservative area and despite all his organizing it’s very frustrating that his “wonderful example” has not rubbed off on anyone else there; there’s no group who takes more seriously personal responsibility than WTR folks

            Three years in WTR and every year is a little bit different; having to write the check with this war was too much; impressed by variety of experience in this room

            Hugely influenced by experience with WWII; as young person asked why does there have to be war? Scared by WTR while raising a child, but got a big bill and couldn’t pay it and just stopped being afraid.

            WTR Boycott was very important last year & helped to motivate folks. The redirection in Birmingham felt really good; hopes we continue it; taking social security now.

            Got involved in Food Not Bombs and learned about anarchists and IWW; realized I didn’t really like government and didn’t want to pay for cops to shoot my friends. Good to see younger people and great to be here!

            Great local group in Eugene and have fun doing it.

            When the U.S. government began air war in earnest in Vietnam I couldn’t look at my new baby and at the same time pay for bombing of other children so he resisting. Have been touched to find that I’ve influenced others without knowing it at the time. Many spoke of these moments of being influenced by others and giving inspiration to others.

 

           

Saturday Discussions and Workshops

 

New NWTRCC Literature: WTRs and IRS, Basic WTR brochure, Telephone Tax brochure, Praying for Peace brochure – all updated. We will post readings on money on the NWTRCC website within a week. Individuals and groups who have NWTRCC lit in stock should make sure they have the latest versions of Practicals and other list. Contact the office to check dates!

 

War Tax Boycott discussion: After background to campaign these comments were made:

            1 year too short timeframe to judge; many may have had withholding so didn’t owe; get people with refunds to redirect; need to build on experience from first year; set 3-5 year time frame.    

            We can’t wait until we see what Obama is going to do; we have the work behind us and can expand and make it better. Eugene group was very inspired by 2008 Boycott. They did both individual redirection and to the groups listed. We’ve seen other campaigns that didn’t keep going; this is national and we started on it so we should keep going.

            Often you start somewhere and thru committee it changes but you do something that turns out fine. Redirection was impressive and we should keep building on it. Takes people a few years of saying they’d do it to do it.

            Clearly some disappointments; 500 participants was low; Code Pink locally did not help at all; following up on pledges is difficult to figure out how to handle; we should have a way to go after unfulfilled pledges.

            Definitely worth continuing; probably Obama will effect this but more time needed to take off further. SOAW can be a next push point.

            There seems to be energy around this; did similar effort with redirection from lawsuit in Seattle; had high hopes that everyone would participate but only a small amount of what could have been done was given away. The question is how to continue to improve it than whether. Palm cards are not enough.

            There is a disconnect between WTR and peace people in general. There’s a jumping off point where the vigils aren’t enough, and we have to better communicate to those who are at “then what.”

            Didn’t realize I could sign up with my own redirection; the cards are too small and might need more explanation. Needs something more visible. As far as public sign-on, people were afraid of being on some IRS list; card could say you can sign up anonymously;

            Can we compile a list of what was most effective; 500 signers out of 20,000 cards given out is a good return.

            March 10, 2010, is Obama’s timeline to get out of Iraq so that’s a date to consider.

            The financial meltdown can be a revolutionary moment; Pentagon may not get all their money, and out-of-the-gate the peace movement has to push for 50% cut; there’s some potential to say kill the Pentagon budget.

            Should add something about if you switch your W-4 you are participating.

 

Sunday meeting notes have further discussion and decision.

 

 

Post Election Strategies for Peace and Justice Session

Lou Enge facilitating

 

Lists were made on issues and strategies and colored dots were used to highlight ones that we each thought most important. This list is presented with the ones marked most at the top.

 

** Support 8 Steps taken from Obama’s statements. Voices for Creative Nonviolence is promoting Camp Hope, Jan. 1-19, 2009, calling on Obama to takes these 8 steps during his first months in office: 1) Withdraw troops from Iraq by 5,000 each month and cease offensive combat operations; 2)take all nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert; 3) Close Guantanamo, eliminate military tribunals and allow detainees access to the U.S. court system; 4) suspend deportation of immigrants and stop raids; 5) submit     Kyoto Protocol to Congress for ratification; 6) develop policies for full employment; 7) Issue 90-day moratorium on housing foreclosures; 8) develop policies on Universal Health Care. See www.camphope2009.org.

** How to promote nonviolence and pacifism;

** Focus on people of Iraq and Afghanistan

** Redirect taxes to alternatives to military jobs/funding for education

** Link our military spending to economic priorities/woes

** Stop Afghanistan War

** Economic Justice

** War tax resistance and peace groups

* Poverty

* Support Vets Against War and parents of soldiers

* Overcoming resistance to war taxes

* Keep peace on table

* Cut pentagon budget

* Engage more youth

* Resist the idea that we can relax now that Obama’s in

* Counter recruitment

* Be more visible; Grow; Move into social/political space that is open now

* Department of Peace

* Climate change

* National infrastructure development

* Support each other as we work on different issues

* Fighting racism/sexism/homophobia

* Transition – strategy toward new direction/new administration positive focus

* Cultural diversity

 

Dialogue & pro war people – open that dialogue

Focus on our soldiers

Keeping national guards at home

Bridges between antiwar and environment

Enlarge on positive happenings

Distribution of wealth

International informative development

Abolition of death penalty

Reproductive rights and population issues

           

Other comments:

Talk about how tax resistance works within the ideas; This is harder time to organize with Obama coming in and also all these grassroots people he has motivated - we have more power than we’ve had before because we’ve been really on the outside; Reuse anti-globalization; It hasn’t exactly been easy to organize since 2003 – focus on war doesn’t work & support the nonviolence network in Iraq ; Security will come when people can live dignified lives, when we help to reconstruct Iraq/Afghanistan and put money into our own country - push Obama on other approaches to security, a different way of looking at these issues; Do sister Camp Hopes; Brainstorming is frustrating and exciting; Organize around supplemental spending bill coming up soon to fund Afghan and Iraq.

 

   

Honesty and Empathy: Questions for Collaborators

Kathy Kelly facilitating

            This workshops presented anecdotes and simulations to help us build empathy for people directly affected by U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan followed by a discussion of responsibility and accountability of ordinary people whose wealth and productivity bankroll U.S. wars.

 

Kathy’s thoughts after skits – Slow down and think about how to not collaborate, how to do what we can do. How do you not collaborate with it all? I’m greatly relieved that war tax resistance is an option.

 

Counseling Topics from discussions and workshops

 

Frivolous Return Letters and Penalty

A couple who resisted a part of their tax bill for the first time in April 2008, filing normally and enclosed a letter explaining why the check was not for the full amount. In late summer they received a warning letter from the IRS “frivolous” office in Utah saying the might be subject to the $5,000 fine each if they did not pay up and re-file. So they did, and a couple months later received an IRS letter from Fresno imposing a $5,000 fine EACH! This was certainly misapplied by the IRS but was quite a shock and required further back and forths with the IRS and questions of what else could be done. The couple called the Fresno office, contacted the Taxpayer Advocate and also their congressperson’s office. At the time of our gathering all this was in limbo, but after the gathering the couple heard the fine had been lifted.

 

Someone in the room referred to the above fine for a low level of resistance to “Cutting down a dandelion with a chainsaw.”

 

Others had received the warning letter in the last year or two  but not responded and had not heard from the IRS again. One person sends in a form with a message against paying for war written on the form and has never received a “frivolous return” letter – according to IRS policy this action is subject to the penalty, as opposed to sending an honest return with a letter enclosed. Some spoke about being unwilling to cooperate no matter what the IRS threatened.

 

Questions arose as to whether the IRS was targeting first-time resisters, but we have no particular evidence of that.

Question about whether to publicize this case. Some favored (assuming individuals are willing) and some thought it just draws attention to what the IRS can do and makes people afraid. Would publicity about the frivolous penalty and its misapplication and random application be good or bad? This question remains open but probably depends on individuals and the cases as they arise. The Des Moines Register did a story about Mike Palecek in Iowa who got the fine. We will ask him about any reactions. Generally IRS doesn’t like to have their actions publicized in a critical way.

 

It seems unlikely that the IRS use of frivolous letters is deliberate to new resisters or in response to anything in particular as many of us do the same thing and do not receive the letter. Seems more that some employees processing returns randomly or for their own reasons send some on to the Utah office. Perhaps some frivolous letters are generated because of the IRS’s rules agains appeals based on “frivolous arguments,” but this is unclear also.

 

One person pointed out that this sort of IRS activity is one reason why the peace tax fund bill is needed.

 

Property Seizures

            Once again it was emphasized that the IRS is doing very little in the way of house

seizures, the last of war tax resisters that we know of being in the early 1990s. It is very labor intensive and was also cut back after the 1998 Congressional hearings that resulted in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

 

Question about government jobs & WTR –

            We don’t have much experience in this area, but risks probably depend on the contract and any contractual items that could lead to job risk if you break the contract. In taking a job read any related rules and requirements that go with the job.

 

Random comments:

 

When you take action and it causes consequences, you invite the best out of people.

 

Publicity can bring support from places that you never expected.

 

Do we use publicity about the federal budget in our work?

            Robert Randall talked about how we hand out the WRL pie chart and other info on the federal budget on tax day or many are involved in groups that work on these issues. Also we take the steps to change the budget in our own lives by the way we handle the tax issue. Gary Erb encouraged us to learn more about government debt and how it is handled (or not) in budgets and pie charts.

 

Minutes of the Sunday Coordinating Committee Meeting