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As a symbolic Stand against war taxes and a concrete way to help Colombians working for peace, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. (a NWTRCC affiliate), has invited taxpayers to redirect money from their 2000 income taxes to MCC's Taxes for Peace fund. The fund will go to support Colombian Mennonite peace work. Those who do not want to withhold tax dollars are invited to contribute a percentage oftheir income to Colombian peace initiatives.
The decision to direct withheld taxes to Colombia stems in pert from a letter sent in July 2000 from Colombian Mennonite pastors to the churches in North America. In it, the pastors plead with North Americans to speak out against U.S. military aid and policies that feed the cycle of violence in Colombia.
"We risk you for support to transform this vicious cycle of death and destruclion that military aid produces, into a virtuous cycle of abundant life and peace," the letter states- Taxes paid by church members to the United States, the letter continues, "are economically supporting .. the annihilation of the Colombian nation and people."
About 50 percent of the recent 13S 51.3 billion aid package to Columbia the stated purpose of which is to combat cocaine production, is military aid. Nearly two million people have been displaced in Colombia over the years, and the recent increased violence has sent thousands more streaming into cities and across international borders. Meanwhile, Colombians say, the aid package does little to address the complex roots of their country's fragmentation-economic injustice, oppression of minority groups and a culture of mistrust.
In the midst of the violence, Colombian Anabaptist churches work to build peace and celebrate signs of hope. Justapaz, the peace and justice organization of the Mennonite Church, is creating Sanctuaries for Peace, neutral spaces where all are welcome Justapaz is also involved to national peace negotiations.
Mennonite Brethren churches in Colombia sponsor a peace education program to the-it congregations and school. Mencoldes, the- relief and developrnent agency of the Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren churches, helps people displaced by the violence.
Titus Peachey, MCC U.S. peace education director, suggested that congregations or other groups look for creative ways to support Colombians. "Some may want to join together by withholding enough war taxes to equal the cost of a submachine gun or other weaponOthers may want to reduce their tax liability by giving an additional contribution to the work of peace-building in Colombia," he said.
Rachelle Schlabach, of the MCC Washington Office, encouraged tax resisters to write to their government representatives to explain why they have withheld taxes.
A War Taxes for Colombia packet with background information on the situation in Colombia, and the biblical basis and practical considerations for war tax resistance is available from MCC U.S. To request a packet, contact Titus Peachey, MCC U.S. peace education director at (717) 859-3889 or e-mail email@example.com.
Checks for Taxes for Peace may be sent to MCC at PO Box 500, Akron, PA 17501. Checks should be made out to MCC, with Taxes for Peace noted on the memo line.
Thanks to the MCC News Service for providing information for this article.
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A Legal Way To Avoid Paying War Taxes
by Race Cowgill
There has come to light a new strategy for those seeking to avoid paying war taxes that solves some of the problems of being a war tax resister
As a resister "who made too much money" I struggled for many years with the strain of being a non-filer. I hungered for a legal way to not pay war taxes that could survive the most vicious audit.
There is such a way, and it is far simpler and down-to-earth than some of the exotic strategies Such as off-shore banking and investing that arc being p romoted lately.
It is this: convert most of your personal expenses into business deductions by setting up a home-based business, bringing your taxable income to a very low amount or even zero.
If you have a regular employer, you rnay be tempted to stop reading here, but keep on, because I will explain that this method will allow you to make many thousands of dollars at your job and still pay very little or no income taxes.
This strategy is not the hassle that many people think it is when they first hear about it. Many in the war tax movement like this strategy for a couple of reasons. First of all, it works. In 1999, 1400 people in the United States made over $200,000 and paid no income taxes, not to mention the number who made less than that This strategy is relatively easy: it can take as little as 1 5 minutes a week. This strategy survives audits (see more on this below) And it provides a way to make a little n more money, or a lot more money for those who are interested in that (some resisters are giving considerable money now to the organizations they believe in).
I'll he honest at the outset. This strategy has a couple of drawbacks too. The biggest one for some is that you participate in "the system", even though you aren't paying taxes for war. The other big disadvantage is that you do have to keep records and file forms periodically. Read for yourself if these disadvantages are overcome by how the strategy works.
How the strategy works
1. You choose an activity to become your home-base business. This can be anything. Some simple examples: a hobby such as collecting coins or sewing, farming, daycare, word processing, tutoring, baking, giving advice of different kinds, buying for or distributing groceries to others, walking dogs, etc. Also anything that relates to the "usual" money-making activities or careers: doing research, bookkeeping, massage therapy, accounting, electrical contracting, carpentry, legal work, etc, If it interests you, there is probably a way to turn it into a business.
2. You choose your business type. Most people choose a sole proprietorship, because there are no set-up forms to fill out and.because tax filings are very easy. Other types are partnership, corporation, S corporation, limited liability, company, and a few others. Each type has some advantages and disadvantages that make them more or less suited to a person's situation If you would like information about the different kinds of business types, there's an information sheet at the NWTRCC office.
3. You set up your business Some people choose to simply begin running their business without doing anything else, which works in many situations Others choose to "follow all the rules", such as opening a business checking account, getting a business license, etc.
4. Many or most of your personal expenditures of money can now become business deductions. Here are just a few of the dozens of deductions you now become entitled to:
5. There are two imperatives with this system: In order to become eligible for these deductions, your intention must be to snake a profit. This means you must regularly and actively conduct business activities. Don't be put off by this: simply telling someone about your business or mentioning your business's name qualifies as a business activity. There are many things most people do every day that qualify as business activities.
The second imperative is you must keep the right records. Once you have your system down, this should take literally only 10 to 15 minutes per week. Here are the records you must keep:
6. At the end of the year, you file taxes. You compute your income and all your other deductions, and then you deduct your business expenses. These business expenses can legitimately run into the thousands, even for someone making only a small income. Many people are able to bring their taxable income. using this method, to below the taxable level
Some common questions:
If you would like to find out more about how to use this strategy for yourself or if you have specific questions you would like help with, please call or email me. Most questions I can answer myself, but if you need very technical information, 1 can help you find a CPA that specializes in this tax strategy.
Race Cowgill is a business consultant based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has been a war tax resister since 1987 and has been using this strategy successfully since 1997. He is neither an attorney nor a CPA: nothing in this article is to be interpreted as legal or tax advice that would make him liable for the misfortunes of those reading this article.
Race welcomes your contact:
Race Cowgill, Principal, Zenith Management Consulting 505/898-4300
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IRS standard deduction and exemption amounts are adjusted annually for cost-ofliving increases. To figure out how much you can earn in 2001 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. Fur example, if you are married and Itling jointly, with two children, you would add X11,600 ($2 900 x 4) to $7,600, equaling a taxable level of $19,200. Below this amount your family would owe no income taxes fur 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||$7,600||$2,900|
|Married, filing separately||$3,800||$2,900|
|Head of household||$6,650||$2,900|
The additional personal exemption for those over age 65 or blind goes up to $9900 for married taxpayers, and remains at $1,100 for head of household or single taxpayers.
The IRS launched its new organizational structure on October 1, 2000. The reorganized agency will now be centered around four divisions-Wage and Investment, Small Business/ Self-Employed, Large and Mid-Size business, and Tax-Exempt/Government Entities
A bill to repeal the telephone tax was made part of the Treasury-Postal Appropriations bill which Clinton vetoed October 30, 2000, for other rcasons While there is little opposition to the repeal of the tax, the outcome is left to the lame duck Congress, The NWTRCC office is snatching, to see what happens with this bill and will keep you posted.
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According t.o, Pedro 0taduy, a wtr from the Basque country, the Spanish army has decided to ruminate compulsory military service starting next year
And in his province of Navarra, 700 of the 900 young people called to military service this ycar became conscientious objectors.
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Newport and the Navy ... Not!
A true collective effort became a reality for two days this past October- A group of people from three states representing peace, religious and political organizations came together October 14-16, 2000 to create the Newport Peace Festival, a New England wide event designed to draw attention to the existence of the Naval War College, located in Rhode Island. PeaceFest blended a day of arts with a social justice theme. a parade and a Peace College. A political discussion among four of the U.S. presidential candidates was to have taken place on the first evening. As expected, just the Socialist Party candidate, David McReynolds, spoke. Afterwards there was general joy, celebration and dancing.
The next day, there was a walk to, and vigil on the Navy base before the main War College bridge. The following day two participants, a mother and her daughter, felt moved to walk onto the bridge, where they were promptly arrested.
About 500 people attended the festival over the course of the weekend. The festival opened with a parade through Newport. Performers and musicians led the group with lots of fanfare on a glorious warm fall day Longtime wtr Juanita Nelson, the keynote speaker, focused on the connection between our individual lifestyle choices, paying taxes and financing the war making establishment. Theater and music were performed by regional artists all day while festival goers perused tables and stopped in at Peace College classes. Myself and Tom Wilson, another wtr from Massachusetts, held a workshop on basic war tax resistance, which generated a rich discussion.
It was a wonderful opportunity to see friends, meet other folks working on peace and introduce others to nonviolence. The Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters (PVWTR) had a table which resulted in more than 15 people expressing an interest in a local discussion on WTR. A Providence based WTR agreed to facilitate a follow-up meeting on WTR. The PVWTR Alternative Fund provided $500 to cover planning expenses for the event.
So, why the Naval War College? Even though I have worked for peace actively in one way or another for more than 20 years, I had heard of the School of the Americas but not the Naval War College. Perhaps I've had my head in the sand but I suspect not too many folks have registered that there is a Naval War College and that it is located in New England. According to a Rhode Island WTR, the college brings the military elite from all over the world to train at the college. These are the people who go back home and issue the orders for others to carry out.
According to research done by Rev. Jonathan Rehmus, the War College graduates 600 students annually. With over 75 countries represented there, the international presence over the last five years focuses primarily on NATO Japan interests, and secondarily on the spread of American allies and naval bases (for example, Thailand, Chile, S. Korea and Australia). Overall, the complex of commands has an annual economic impact on Rhode Island in excess of $714 million. The Navy is the second largest employer in the state. Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jay Johnson describes Newport as a "focal point." This is in part because the Newport and Southern New England complex as a whole has a submarine emphasis. Submarines are an important ingredient in continued U.S, expansion in intelligence capabilities. Tridents are being used as launch vehicles in policing missions of the U.S. (in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, for example.)
War gaming is near the core of NWC's mission. NWC expresses pride in the fact that WW 11 victories in the Pacific against the Japanese were produced from war game blueprints generated in the 1930s. According to their web site, it took three war game scenarios of the Persian Gulf War to produce one with a strong chance of winning. Recent games have considered crisis scenarios all over the globe as well as the increasing importance of economic factors in "the national security equation" (their words.)
Research did not produce any suggestion that the officers at NWC are being prepared with important peace related values (that of recognizing, working with, and sustaining nonviolent leadership and movements on one hand, and of promoting a fully internationalized peace keeping force on the other). A solution ultimately lies in the hands of mobilized citizens empowered with nonviolent strategies. This suggests the need for leadership directly applied by the peace movement to NWC (as opposed to merely legislative and lobbying strategies).
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Local Group Reports:
Forty to fifty people attended the 15th Annual New England Regional Gathering of War Tax Resisters at the Woolman Hill Conference Center in Deerfield, MA, November 17-19, 2000. This year's focus was more "free forth" than usual, with the focus being on just being together with kindred spirits and getting support from compatriots. The weekend started Friday evening with a song by Sweet Honey In The Rock, which follows the journey needed to be made to make a cotton shirt (from cotton fields, to a factory in Haiti, to the mill to S. Carolina, to Central America to be sewn, and back to the US to be sold at a cheap price.) The song ends with the question, "are my hands clean?" This led to a rich discussion about our complicity in "the system" and what we can do about it, individually and collectively. This theme continued throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, workshops were offered, with a talent show rounding out the evening. Sunday morning, wtr Evaline MacDougall wowed us with her creativity by coming in with lyrics that she had written about wtr the night before, sung to the tune of Amazing Grace. Next year's gathering will be held in conjunction with NWTRCC's fall meeting. Thanks to the
Visiting her parents was just an excuse for NWTRCC Coordinator Mary Loehr to travel to Austin on her way back from the Albuquerque meeting in November and meet the Austin war tax resisters. They had a pot luck in her honor followed by a go-around in which folks talked about their war tax resistance journeys. It was a fun filled evening with delicious food.
It was a wet and cold weekend at the School of the Americas the weekend of November 17-19, 2000, in Columbus, GA, but spirits were high when it was all over. Ten thousand people rallied, 3,600 risked arrest and 2,000 were processed by the Army in an attempt to shut down what some call The School of Assassins. The SOA trains soldiers from around the world, and graduates have been linked to some of the worst massacres in Latin America. Wtrs gathered to table and to give people information about how they could "cross the line" everyday by doing war tax resistance. A leaflet of "funny money," jointly created by NWTRCC and the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, was handed out in the thousands.
Andy McKenna, who traveled from Texas, spotted 25 known wtrs, as well as, in his words, "many dozens of punks, hippies, Catholic Workers, et al who are de facto wirs but don't even know about N WTRCC."
David Waters of Birmingham, AL, brought two large helium balloons which wafted over the crowd with messages of wtr in big letters. Next year he is thinking of bringing many small balloons to hand out. to children.
An article about NWTRCC was written and posted on the web by indymedia, with a focus on David Waters and Robert Randall.
Thanks to all whip crossed the line, organized the table, and leafletted!
The Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance reports that a literature revision project is in the works. OCWTR nembers have been busy updating and -evising their pamphlets and brochuresThey're hoping to have this project done n time for Tax Day 2001.
We art like to read about each other's successes and challenges, wild ideas and brainstorms about war activities- Keep More Than A Paycheck in mind when you Lave a wit event in your area. Try to take a picture it possible. Call or write the office with a short report. And make sure we're on your mailing list. Thanks!
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by John Kefalas
Much of living folly and honestly has to do with making choices rooted in your convictions and aking risks based on how you want to we your life. With war tax resistance, me must ask a fundamental question. low much risk am I willing to accept in my life-long efforts to be as consistent with my values and faith as possible? To his question, there is no simple answer because our circumstances change over time acid our culture imposes a dimension of complexity that is difficult to defy. War tax resistance is part of the complete package for doing justice, showing mercy, causing no harm and being well with others while living softly on the earth. Few of us are a complete package, but that's fine. We can be thankful for who we are and what we do, and most of its work damn hard to improve this world.
l am 46 years old, a father, a husband and a Christian Pacifist. I make my living working for a nonprofit organization, anti my job is to advocate for fair social policies and to help empower people. I'm blessed to have a job that l enjoy, a family that 1 love and a home that gives me shelter, My older son joined the army in 1999, which was hard on me and required much letting go and unconditional love. My younger son is a teenager, and my partner plays piano and teaches for a correspondence school. Currently, my war tax resistance includes refusing to pay the federal excise tax on our phone bills, limiting our tax liability through legal means, and writing letters to the IRS when we submit federal taxes.
I started war tax resistance m 1980 after returning from my Peace Corps assignment in El Salvador about a month before militarists killed Archbishop Oscar Romero. The El Salvador experience transformed me because I glimpsed a different truth-one of staggering violence and poverty, and it became clear that the United States is too often on the wrong side of history. Once I figured this out, there was no turning back.
Since then, I've always refused to pay the telephone excise tax, and during the '80s and part of the '90s, I either paid a portion of my federal income tax (based on calculations for military expenditures) or not paid at all (knowing that when 1 paid half of my federal tax liability, those funds would still go to the U.S. Treasury (or military purposes). I've done W-4 resistance (claiming more exemptions to reduce the payroll deduction), and have always submitted letters explaining; my actions to the IRS. Over the years, there have been interesting encounters with the IRS, not to mention wage garnishments and liens. 1 have done these things and accepted minor hardships from the tax collectors as a matter of conscience. It made moral sense to transfer my tax dollar support from the military-industrial complex to life sustaining programs.
Near the beginning of this journey, my wife and I agreed not to pay our federal income taxes since our beliefs and passions were similar regarding this type of peace witness. We would submit the 1040 with no check far sometimes a check for half the amount) and a letter explaining that we were redirecting the money to organizations chat create rather than destroy. So we either donated the money to worthy causes or placed it in an escrow account. Most years we received certified letters in the marl showing the amount of principle and interest that we owed and demanding payment.
Some years, the IRS got portions of the money by not returning our tax refund, but most of the time we received went after my wages, which they did on and off well into the '90s. Thank goodness for the folks who manage the war tax penalty fund because that fund helped us deal with over $500 in penalties and interest. 1 am also thankful that we avoided the "frivolous" penalty.
One of our encounters occurred one summer afternoon in the mid '80s when we received a personal visit from the tax woman who came to our house alone, which is not normal procedure when they go to collect. She explained that she felt comfortable with us because of the demeanor of our correspondence that espoused nonviolence. Well, sitting around the kitchen table with the warm sun shining through the windows, she tried convincing me to pay up. I responded that in good conscience, I couldn't willingly pay, and so she left with a little more understanding.
About the time George Bush got elected (I mean the other one), 1988, we were in the market for a home, but with a lien against us, the mortgage companies wouldn't grant us a loan. At the time, we owed about $108, and after consulting with a friend who actually worked with the IRS, I decided to pay the money in order to remove the lien and buy a home. It was a painful but smart decision because we could never afford to buy a house now. In the '90s, we continued this relentless back and forth tango with the IRS, but over time my wife lost some of her enthusiasm for this dance, and she indicated that if I wanted to continue, we would have to file separate tax returns. In the spirit of maintaining household harmony, I agreed that we'd pay our federal taxes under protest.
In summary, my resistance is faith based, and I strive to live simply and nonviolently, but because of family responsibilities, I choose not to live in voluntary poverty -- below taxable limits. In the meantime, I contribute where I can, participate as a community activist locally and globally, take time to breathe and smell the flowers, and give thanks to you who continue the good fight of eliminating the military-industrial complex by not paying for it. As for the telephone tax, it is a wonder to me that not all people of goodwill refuse to pay this onerous remnant of the Vietnam War.
John Kefalas is a war tax resister living in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
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