National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

Frequently Asked Questions

Or, frequently encountered objections

See also: About those frivolous warning letters from the IRS

[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 different results.
If everyone were to pick and choose what taxes to pay, that would be unfair.
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 U.S. government.
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 or car.
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.