“The IRS has a huge collection
process that lasts for years and at every stage of that collection process,
the war tax resister has a choice about what to do. So that’s why I believe
that it’s really a one step at a time kind of thing, and that imagining the
worst possible consequences before you even begin the process is paralyzing.
And it doesn’t let your conscience struggle with doubts one by one.”
—Bill Ramsey, from Death & Taxes
Consequences of War Tax Resistance
Direct action for peace often entails exposure to unpredictable risks.
War tax resistance is no exception, and some of the most common risks include:
- Receiving a stream of tax due notices, which include notices of civil
penalties up to 25% of the unpaid tax, plus compound interest.
- Seizure of wages, bank accounts, or other property after the
IRS sends a “final demand”
- If the IRS catches up with
nonfilers, they will be told to file for any number of years and may face
- If the IRS suspects a false
or inflated W-4 form, the agency may require the employer to adjust it to
the minimum allowance so as to allow for the maximum withholding.
- Returns that claim an unallowable deduction, blank returns, or returns
with political messages written on them may lead to an additional
“frivolous filing” penalty as high as $5,000. Sometimes even a letter of
protest enclosed with a tax form can generate a “frivolous” warning letter
from the IRS.
(Click here for more information)
- Federal prosecutions — whether civil (e.g.,
IRS v. Hedemann) or
criminal — are possible, but for war tax resisters they are so rare that
in most cases the risk is negligible.
- Being ignored or overlooked by the
The consequences of war tax resistance can vary by which method you choose,
individual circumstances, and the whims or inconsistencies of
IRS procedures, resources, and
abilities. A rule of thumb is that “what they can do and what they will do”
can be two very different things. One of the beauties of war tax resistance is
also that at any point you can adjust your method of resistance or “bail out”
by paying up if circumstances change.
(See Resisters Taken to Court or Jailed and Property Seizures against Resisters since World War II.)
Many resisters conclude that the positive consequences outweigh the
- Resisters often redirect their resisted taxes to meet human needs.
- Resistance may motivate others to act, or may provide new opportunities
to communicate your beliefs to others.
- Feelings of empowerment, liberation, and personal integrity may themselves
compensate for any penalties.
More information on consequences and dealing with consequences can be found