Frequently Asked Questions
Or, frequently encountered objections
[The information below is also available as a PDF — Click Here]
- Taxes are good; we shouldn’t refuse to pay them — I support some of the
things taxes pay for, like education and human services.
While some taxes may be neutral, those that contribute to killing are not, and
that’s half of the discretionary federal budget! Nevertheless, most war tax
resisters don’t simply refuse taxes, thus putting the burden of society’s
expenses on the shoulders of others. Rather than keep resisted taxes, they
redirect that money to programs most in need of
attention. Also, many war tax resisters do pay taxes they feel are not related
to military spending.
- It’s wrong to break the law, and that includes the tax law.
The ability to openly withdraw consent is essential in a free society if we
are to resist oppression and tyranny. Nonviolently breaking laws has had a
long and honorable tradition in the U.S. If
Thoreau hadn’t refused to pay his taxes as a protest to slavery and the
Mexican-American War, he would never have written
his essay on
Civil Disobedience. If protesters concerned with women’s suffrage, labor,
civil rights, Vietnam War, and gay rights, among other movements hadn’t
committed civil disobedience, those movements might well have had very
- If everyone were to pick and choose what taxes to pay, that would be
If people are willing to nonviolently resist taxes for whatever cause and deal
with the consequences, that’s their decision. War tax resisters are not
shirking their civic duty by refusing to pay the
IRS Most redirect their taxes
into programs hurt by the military spending and misplaced priorities of the
- I would rather work within the system so we can have some influence. War
tax resistance is alienating and marginal and will cut me off from the
circles of influence that affect real change.
In trying to make fundamental changes, it is sometimes necessary to do things
that others feel are alienating or extreme in order to get the attention of an
establishment that chooses to ignore injustice. In a movement for social
change, there are many complementary roles to play. Among them is the role of
agitator, which aids in getting attention and raising issues. As Martin Luther
King, Jr., once noted, “Nonviolent direct action
seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which
has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks
so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
- War tax resistance is too complicated.
It can be complicated, depending on how you resist the taxes and what your
personal situation is. But it can also be as simple as doing what you do now
except to refuse a token amount of money. In any case, there are counselors
who are willing to help explain the techniques and issues.
- I never owe anything; the IRS
always sends me money.
Chances are money is being overwithheld from you with each paycheck. You can
correct this by claiming at least one additional allowance on the W-4 form
that you file with your employer. This will mean that less income tax will be
withheld, and you may owe money to the
IRS at the end of the year,
putting you in a position to refuse payment.
- But I’ll go to jail.
This is unlikely to happen — at least not for refusing to pay war taxes. Of
the couple dozen war tax resisters jailed in the last 60 years — out of tens
of thousands of resisters — the reason has not been for refusal to pay taxes,
but rather because they persistently refused to give information to the
IRS or they “falsified” their
tax forms. Only one person was actually jailed for war tax resistance itself
and that was in the 1940s . Three war tax
refusers sentenced to prison in 2005 got
IRS attention at their small
business for not withholding the taxes of other resisters.
- With interest and penalties, they’ll end up collecting even more.
If the IRS collects, it probably
will add interest at the prevailing rate, in addition to penalties. However,
the penalties and interest usually do not offset the
IRS’s costs of collection.
Though some war tax resisters just accept this as one of the burdens of war
tax resistance, others have joined the War Tax Resisters
Penalty Fund which allows them to recover money seized as interest and
penalties, or to contribute to reimbursing other resisters.
- The IRS might take my house
The IRS can seize property whose
titles are held by war tax resisters. This, however, is very rare (from 1992
to 2002, the IRS seized only one
house and two cars from war tax resisters), and the resister will be given
opportunities to pay up and stop the seizure, or may be able to redeem the
property from the buyer after it is sold. There are many ways to protect your
property. For example, some war tax resisters have put their property in the
name of close friends or relatives. Also, if your resisted taxes are in an
alternative fund, you could retrieve that money to help pay for the recovery
of your property.
- Tax resistance will hurt my credit rating.
This is the intention of the IRS
But despite IRS liens and
levies, war tax resisters have been able to get credit cards, loans, as well
as make purchases on credit.
- I would have to change my lifestyle.
Some war tax resisters go out of their way to be uncollectible and
consequently change their lifestyle, perhaps adopting one of more simple
living. As mentioned earlier, however, many war tax resisters find they can
fit this resistance into their current lifestyle.
- It’ll call attention to me, and the
IRS may audit me and
invalidate my deductions and credits.
War tax resisters are rarely audited, because the
IRS usually chooses to send
resisters’ returns directly to the collection division. However, many war tax
resisters welcome the attention of the government so they can educate
officials about why the taxes are being refused.