February 2000 HEADLINES IN THIS ISSUE:
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A WTR at the WTO, by Daniel Woodham
More Skillful Acts of Conscience: A Chronicle of U.S. War Tax Resistance, by Bill Ramsey
Counseling Notes: IRS Standard Deductions and Exemptions for 2000; Property Exempt from Levy; IRS Reviewed...; ...And Restructured
Legislative Update: Court Case Efforts
International News: Britain's Lobby for Conscientious Objection
Local Group Reports: North Carolina; Milwaukee;
Local Group Reports: School of the Americas; Nevada Desert Experience
Calendar: April 14, 2000: Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (GN)
Calendar: May 6, 2000: Nationwide Action on the Military Budget
Planning Ahead: Eighth International Conference on WTR and Peace Tax Campaigns; July 6-9, 2000 in Washington, DC
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by Bill Ramsey
In this first newsletter of the century, we thought it appropriate to look back at the history of WTR.
War tax refusal is not a one-time act, says Massachusetts resister Randy Kehler. Comparing tax resistance to a spiritual discipline, Kehler points out the ongoing and repetitive nature of war tax refusal and redirection: It has to be done over and over again, "like sending in our completed 1040 form, with no money attached, every April 15th, composing a letter of explanation to go with it, and figuring out which groups we will send our tax money to. And, like [those who practice] yoga or T'ai Chi, we war tax resistance practitioners usually become more skillful over time."
As I reflect on the history of war tax resistance, it seems clear that while some resisters reach moments of high moral drama, what has filled most of the long spaces of history between those moments is the persistence of people who year in and year out attend to the routines that refusal requires. It's also clear -- particularly over the past 50 years, since the Peacemakers Community in Ohio founded the modern war tax resistance movement -- that collectively we have indeed become more skillful over time.
Many of the earliest acts of war tax refusal on this continent were committed by individual Quakers, Mennonites and members of the Church of the Brethren. The earliest one noted in the War Resisters League's definitive manual on the subject, Ed Hedemann's War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, was a collective act: Algonquin Indians refused to pay a Dutch colonial tax to finance improvements on a fort in 1637. In 1755, during the French and Indian War, John Woolman of Pennsylvania attempted to inspire a war tax movement among Quakers. Although a small group rallied to the call, the Society of Friends itself remained neutral on the subject.
Several years ago a phone call from my oldest son Coe reminded me of a 19thcentury touchstone of war tax resistance, "Dad, in my American literature class we're reading Henry David Thoreau's 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.' 1 raised my hand and said, 'My dad does that.' The teacher wants you to come and tell your story. Will you come?" A few weeks later, a flight to North Carolina behind me, I stood before Coe's classes explaining the connection between my resistance and Thoreau's single act of conscience.
In 1847 Thoreau refused to pay a Massachusetts poll tax levied to pay for the U.S. war on Mexico. His act, like most acts of conscience and resistance, would have faded from most memories and landed outside the official histories had he not penned his now-famous essay. My opportunity to share the history of war tax resistance and my own experience with scores of students came not only because of Thoreau's eloquent words, but because Coe had the courage to intrude on the normal course of study with four simple words -- "My dad does that."
In "Walden," Thoreau had urged people to "follow to the beat of a different drummer," but for the next 75 years the majority of those most likely to follow along with him were distracted by the drumbeats of war. During the Civil War principled tax refusal withered on the vine Thoreau had planted as people of conscience fell silent, caught between the urgent need to abolish slavery and their heartfelt opposition to war and killing. But after the Emancipation Proclamation, aroused by the horror of what the war had done to the country, the Universal Peace Union called for immediate disarmament, denounced imperialism, and urged a boycott of war taxes. Members were jailed and had property seized. The union was short-lived, but it demonstrated commitments and consequences that have become familiar to resisters of this century.
The demise of the Peace Union and an end to active promotion of war tax refusal by the three historic peace churches ushered in a period of relative inactivity, interrupted by a brief flurry of resistance around World War I Liberty Loans and War Bonds. With the imposition of federal income withholding tax and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, World War 11 stirred the troubled waters from which the modern war tax resistance movement emerged.
Its founders began with small but steady steps. Ernest Bromley, a Methodist minister in North Carolina, took his first stand in 1942, refusing to display a "defense tax stamp" on his car. Purchasing the stamp would have required that he invest $7.09 in the war effort; instead, he redirected the money to Methodist overseas relief. He was ,jailed for 60 days and lost his church. Like later resisters of the Vietnam era who cut their teeth on the small and specific telephone tax, Ernest and his spouse, Marion, went on to refuse to pay income taxes and then to refuse to file returns. Fifty years ago they were among the founders of Peacemakers, which gained national notoriety for war tax refusal with a 1949 press release entitled "Forty-one Refuse to Pay"
Another Peacemaker, the Cincinnati Presbyterian minister Maurice "Mac" McCrackin, refused to pay 70 percent of his 1949 income taxes. In 1952 the IRS levied his bank account; he stopped filing and closed his bank account. When the IRS summoned him in 1958, his response pioneered the art of complete noncooperation. After he spent six months in jail, the Presbyterian Church removed him from the ministry. With others, he then founded the Community Church of Cincinnati. The consistency of McCrackin's witness and a renewed interest in peacemaking among Presbyterians led the church to apologize and reinstate him as an ordained minister in 1987.
Two other Peacemakers, Wally and Juanita Nelson, added fresh seasoning to the art of non-cooperation. In 1959 Juanita became the first woman in modern times to be apprehended for war tax refusal. She made her court appearance in the bathrobe she was wearing when apprehended at her home. The Nelsons experimented with groundbreaking techniques for self-employment and living below a taxable level. Now organic truck farmers on a land trust, they are living proofs were the Bromleys -- that the refusal to pay for war can he carried out over time within a family or an intimate relationship.
As the war in Vietnam escalated, three 1965 events propelled war tax refusal from the practice of a few hundred ground-breakers to a mass movement. The first was when the War Resisters League and the Committee for Nonviolent Action, led by A_J. Muste, secured 370 signatures for a Washington Post ad that proclaimed the signers' intention to refuse to pay all or part of their taxes. Among the signers were folk singer Joan Baez, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, WWII resister David Dellinger, Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day, radical intellectual Noam Chomsky, Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, publisher Lyle Stuart, and activist Staughton Lynd.
Then, in the summer of 1965, President l.yndon Johnson asked Congress to reinstate the telephone service excise tax (originally enacted to fund World War II and subsequently used to fund the Korean War) to pay the expenses of deploying a half-million soldiers in Vietnam. Karl Meyer, a Catholic Worker activist in Chicago, recognized the simplicity and directness of urging people to refuse a specific war tax, one billed on a document that arrived in nearly every U.S. household each month. His "Hang Up on War" pamphlet was distributed by national peace groups and became the basis of a WRL national campaign. The telephone tax campaign was broadened in 1969 when Martha Tranquilli, a Mississippi nurse who later spent eight months in prison for income tax resistance, won the right to have her telephone service reconnected despite her unpaid excise tax, making it possible for tens of thousands to cut a direct line between themselves and the killing in Vietnam.
The third 1965 breakthrough occurred when a man named Ken Knudson suggested in a Peacemaker newsletter that employees could inflate the number of withholding allowances on their W-4 forms, opening the way to wider participation in income tax refusal. It is estimated that by 1972 as many as 20,000 people were doing some form of income tax refusal (I was among them). This "W 4 resistance" led to a wave of IRS prosecutions in the early 70s (16 were indicted, six jailed) -- and a concomitant new wave of notoriety for noncooperation. Quaker teacher Lyle Snider's three-day trial for claiming the world's three billion people as W-4 allowances was covered on CBS national news.
Founded in 1969, National War Tax Resistance assisted local groups as they contended with the rapid growth, responded to arrests and indictments, established alternative funds to make grants and loans, and coordinated April 15th actions during the early '70s. Pacifist employers devised payroll procedures that respected their own principles and supported employees. In 1972, responding to pressure created by war tax resistance, Rep. Ron Dellums introduced the World Peace Tax Fund Act, designed to create a conscientious objector status for taxpayers. Guided by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, the act has been introduced by an increasing number of co-sponsors every year since.
In the late '70s, resisters took the IRS to court -- and vice versa. In the middle of the decade, Peacemakers successfully campaigned to retrieve the Bromleys' home after it was seized by the IRS. Philadelphian Robin Harper and Coloradan Donna Johnson challenged levies and IRS decisions. In the heartland, rural Illinois Mennonite Bruce Chisman and Missouri Quaker Richard Catlett were indicted in 1978 for failure to file. The same year, members of the three historic peace churches issued a "New Call to Peace Making" urging war tax resistance. Publications like the Catholic Worker, Sojourners, Fellowship, Friends Journal, Quaker Life, and the Mennonites' God and Caesar chronicled the stories of war tax resisters. (WRLs Win Magazine had devoted regular space to the movement for over a decade.) By the time Ronald Reagan began his military escalation, a reinvigorated war tax movement was lying in wait. The year Reagan was elected, the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign in Seattle established the first national escrow account for resisted taxes. Around the same time, Colorado attorney Bill Durland founded the Center on Law and Pacifism, which issued the manual "People Pay for Peace." Just as the Nuclear Freeze Campaign was focusing public attention on the arms race in 1981, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle issued a statement urging people to refuse to pay taxes for nuclear weapons. In 1982 the War Resisters League and the Center on Law and Pacifism called the national conference that founded the National War Tax Resisters Coordinating Committee.
Throughout the decade, special war tax resistance campaigns challenged U.S, interventions in Central America (as they would again in the Gulf War). In 1989. the IRS went on the offensive, jailing Georgians Don Mosley and Max Rice for 40 days for refusing to give the IRS income information and seizing Randy Kehler and Betsy Comer's home in Colrain, MA. But resisters had learned from the 1975 effort to save the Bromleys' home. With the assistance of groups from all around New England and the nation, a local group, the Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters, mounted a five-year nonviolent campaign to support Kehler and Corner. Alternative bids were offered at auctions. National media coverage. mounted. For months affinity groups occupied the house and land. Two low-income housing units were built with resisted taxes. Randy and, later, other vtgilers on the land were jailed. The Colrain story, including many moments of indecision and disagreement, is best chronicled in Robbie Leppzer's 1997 feature documentary, An Act of Conscience.
In December of 1997, after SO years of war tax refusal (and two years after Marion Bromley's death), Ernest Bromley and "Mac" McCrackin died within two weeks of each other at the respective ages of 85 and 92. Many of us are emboldened by the remembrance of a day in 1990 when Mac and Ernest were arrested climbing the White House fence to head off the impending Gulf War.
If I were asked for the recipe that enabled the growth of U.S. war tax resistance over the past 50 years, the mixture would include both new focuses for our resistance -- nuclear weapons and automated air war, Vietnam and all the subsequent military interventions, cuts in social programs -- and new paths, like the identification of the telephone tax and the creation of W-4 resistance. Individuals of conscience contributed their escalated willingness to go public with both resistance and redirection and an increased awareness of war tax resistance as a tool of collective social change and a vehicle to redirection of resources. Pacifist organizations have provided "howto" manuals, support for employees, and opportunities for collective redirection of taxes, such as the WRL's Alternative Revenue Service Campaign of the early '90s.
The vessels in which all those ingredients were blended were our communities of resistance. Scores of communities urban and rural, religious and secular, intentional and informal, from Peacemakers to the Pioneer Valley Land Trust, have provided the day-to-day camaraderie that has allowed us to stand and learn together. Within these communities we have grown during both the long years of routine resistance and the times of growth and high moral drama. And together we have learned over time to commit more skillful acts of conscience.
This articlee originally appeared in the March/April 1998 issue of The Nonviolent Activist. Thanks to the war Resisters League for permission to reprint it. Bill Ramsey is a WTR from St. Louis, Missouri.
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by Daniel Woodham
What exactly was the WTO protest in Seattle? An opportunity for lively cross-agenda activism? Some days of free reign for regional anarchists? A mass training for the coming apocalypse? A big police training exercise in how to react in case of martial law?
However the mainstream media portrayed the "protest of the century", (as it was advertised on yellow rain ponchos worn by AFL-CIO members), the gathering was historic and I wasn't going to miss it for anything. I went up Monday night, too late to attend the `big' debate. It was headlined by, among others, Ralph Nader and activist Vandana Shiva from India on the one side, and David Aaron, U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade and Scott Miller, head of international trade for Procter and Gamble, on the other. Nor did 1 get there in time to attend the many public forums that preceded the conference. One I would like to have seen was entitled "WTO and the Global War System" on Sunday, November 28th. This forum, hosted by several groups including the Northwest Disarmament Coalition, talked about economic globalization and militarism, and the inequality of national spending budgets for the military vs. social programs. Unfortunately, according to a forum attendee, there was no mention of the concept of war tax resistance.
Other forums occurred during the conference, but I won't talk about those since my time was spent in the activity on the streets. A Monday evening arrival in Seattle wasn't too late to feel that the protesters had already started the successful, effective chain of events that placed the WTO on the list of common household discussion topics later that week. Thousands of people were already present and ready for non-violent action against the WTO. They had already encircled the King Dome with a human chain earlier that day.
Tuesday started pre-dawn: cold and rainy down at the waterfront where people gathered for the Civil Disobedience March. (This is the name the protest was given in the schedule of events listed, quite helpfully, in the Seattle Times daily paper). First light saw upwards of a thousand people, many organized into affinity groups, heading toward the Convention Center and Paramount Theater where the opening sessions of the WTO were to take place. Thanks to my bed-and-breakfast hostess Vivian Sharples, I had the great luck to be part of an affinity group known as the "Red Noses". We all wore red foam clown noses and became moderately known on Tuesday, the Big Action Day, for blocking a back entrance that WTO delegates were using to enter the Paramount Theater for their morning session. About 8 a.m., at the end of the march from the waterfront, we noticed this loophole and quickly closed it with a human chain. As the morning wore on and we refused entrance to all, other human chain blockades formed to eventually enclose the entire conference area, effectively denying entrance to all WTO delegates for that day. For one day, we had helped in shutting down the WTO conference.
By now we have all heard of the mix of people present in the Seattle WTO protests. Union members, environmentalists, human rights seekers, anarchists and others formed the multi-issue melting pot of protesters. But significantly missing was the overt presence of war tax resisters. After all, there is only a one letter difference between WTO and WTR. In order to seek better working conditions in the factories around the world, to stop the devastation of the planet's last remaining resources, to work for recognition of human rights in all peoples and groups, and to try to develop a world where there isn't such a vast difference between the rich and the poor, we also have to be vigilant about where we spend our money This means deciding which companies and corporations to support and which of the government's programs to support with our tax monies. For it is with our tax monies that we directly participate in supporting the society in which we live. A war-like society is supported by taxes paid to the military. And what would a peace-like society look like? Perhaps this is what the solidarity in the Seattle streets was reaching for as people chanted, "This is what democracy looks like!"
Many people are too afraid to resist paying their taxes or even a portion thereof. Most view the system as too big to take on and too powerful to change, thus resigning themselves to paying their taxes to support it. Yet it was not without risk that our "forefathers" threw the tea into Boston Harbor and decided to disobey British rule, including taxation. Nor were WTO protesters in Seattle without fear when the riot police charged and fired off tear gas, concussion grenades and rubber bullets. These actions were committed, even with fear and risk-taking, because the importance of carrying out the action was bigger and more important than the fears that came up. These people were motivated by CONSCIENCE. They were unable to sit still when injustice and inequality was happening around them,
It is the idea of more thoroughly following one's conscience that we must cultivate in our brother and sister activists around us. To those who are already taking action, and to those who are thinking about working for justice in the world, we must communicate the message that it is not consistent to "work for peace but pay for war". We must teach about the real risks of doing war tax resistance Charles Gray, Eugene Oregon activist for the homeless and proponent of living on a "global minimum wage", was educating people in the WTO protests. He distributed flyers that pointed out that of the 100 wealthiest entities in the world, 66 are corporations and 34 are governments, As a war tax resister himself he advocates living simply to stay below the taxable income level and to he in solidarity with the majority of humanity that has less monetary wealth.
We must also foment community in doing actions and WTR. That is why affinity groups are so important. People have much more power and inner strength as a group than as individuals. This was evident in Seattle when the tear gas began to make downtown seem like a war zone. Individuals wondering which way to escape the gas and rubber bullets were constantly approaching our group looking for direction and safety Community is very important in activism and in life in general.
Charles Gray referred to the WTO protests in Seattle as being "significant" and possibly beginning a "new social movement to change the economic structure". May we include as fundamental parts of this movement a growing sense of community and the sharing of our convictions based in conscience.
Daniel Woodham is a war tout resister from Portland, Oregon, and an alternate on NWTRCC's Administrative Committee.
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IRS standard deduction and exemption amounts are adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases. To figure out how much you can earn in 2000 before owing income taxes, identify your category and multiply the personal exemption by the number of dependents you can claim, including yourself, then add your standard deduction. For example, if you are married and filing jointly, with two children, you would add $11,200 ($2,800 x 4) to $7,350, equaling a taxable level of $18,550. Below this amount your family would owe no income taxes for the year. It is also the amount of income the IRS needs to leave you to live on during the year if they are garnishing your assets. Note: this formula does not apply to Social Security taxes.
|Married, filing jointly||$7,350||"|
|Married, filing separately||$3,675||"|
|Head of household||$6,450||"|
The additional personal exemption for those over age 65 or blind remains at $850 for married taxpayers, and goes up to $1,100 for head of household or single taxpayers.
The value of property exempt from levy for personal use may not exceed $6,360 in 2000 (up from $6,250 in `99). The value of property exempt from levy of books and tools necessary for the trade, business or profession of the taxpayer may not exceed $3,180 for levies issued in 2000 pup from $3,125 for `99).
The Joint Committee on Taxation has released the official record of the first joint Congressional review of the IRS. The review, which assessed the strategic plans and budget of the IRS, is required each year through 2003. The transcript of the joint review is available on the JCT Web site at www.house.gov/jct
The IRS has announced the immediate unification of customer service operations at its existing Service Center and District sites into one management structure. Headquarters for the new Customer Service Center will be in Atlanta, and will include a national call management center. Responsibility for overseeing submission processing activities at the ten IRS Service Centers will remain in Cincinnati.
The Customer Service sites will specialize in assisting taxpayers. The Submission Processing sites will specialize in issues involving tax processing, including tax forms, payments and deposits. Telephone operations formerly managed by IRS District offices will be unified in the Customer Service organization. The IRS believes the realignment is a major step toward modernizing the IRS business structure.
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