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How To Resist The War
Without Hitting The Streets

By James L. Secor

01 April, 2008

Tax season is coming! IRS forms have already begun arriving. It's a good time to discover how you, too, can join in--without necessarily arousing neighborly suspicions. An organization you can turn to for information about war tax resistance and support or for your own questions is The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. The literature list is on the page with the newsletter: Sign up for the newsletter at, where you can get much, much more information than I can give you here.

Who is The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee?

From their statement of purpose:

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) is a coalition of groups from across the U.S., formed in 1982 to provide information and support to people involved in or considering some form of war tax resistance (WTR). . . . We oppose militarism and war and refuse to complicitly participate in the tax system which supports such violence. NWTRCC sees poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, economic exploitation, environmental destruction and militarization of law enforcement as integrally linked with the militarism which we abhor. Through the redirection of our tax dollars NWTRCC members contribute directly to the struggle for peace and justice for all. NWTRCC promotes war tax resistance within the context of a broad range of nonviolent strategies for social change, and is firmly embedded in the peace movement.

There are many people who are refusing to pay for war; others insist that the government create a conscientious objector status for taxpayers. Why? Because about 50% of your taxes go to the war machine. Fifty percent, not the piddling amount George's boys cooked up by manipulating the statistics.

Total Outlays (Federal Funds): $2,251 billion


"Current military" includes Dept. of Defense ($449 billion), the military portion from other departments ($114 billion), and an unbudgeted estimate of supplemental appropriations ($100 billion). "Past military" represents veterans' benefits plus 80% of the interest on the debt. [from Cf., Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, The Economic Costs of the Iraq War,]

What is War Tax Resistance? It is refusal to pay some or all of your federal taxes. War tax resisters not only refuse to pay their federal income tax, they also refuse to pay the federal excise tax on local and long distance telephone service. Didn't know talking to your friends could include developing all types of weapons of mass destruction, did you? But it doesn't have to be this way.

War tax resistance is an act of civil disobedience with a long history, from before the War of Independence when taxes were levied to pay for the French and Indian war through Henry David Thoreau, who said, during the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, "If a thousand [people] were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them and enable the state to commit violence and shed innocent blood" to the historic peace churches--Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren-- Ernest Bromley who became the first modern tax resister in 1942 when he refused payment of $7.09 for a "defense tax stamp" required for all cars to Joan Baez to Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle who urged citizens to refuse to pay 50 percent of their income taxes to protest spending on nuclear weapons.

Many who refuse to pay war taxes believe--some citing international law--this refusal is just. The federal government, however, considers refusal to pay taxes illegal and imposes potential consequences through the IRS collection system on those who don't like war. With the privatization of the IRS, these consequences could get bogged down in red tape. The government does its best to stop this but is hamstrung by telephone tax resisters: there are so many and so little tax owed per person that the IRS loses money every time it makes a collection. Even the simplest IRS paperwork is far too expensive to be worth following up on resistance to war. As privatizers are interested in profit, the result may be a total lack of follow-through.

For most who resist, the dire consequences of voluntarily paying for war are far worse that what the IRS and government threaten to do individually. Imagine, though, using government and corporate logic in your defense: Which crime is greater? Not paying taxes or supporting the killing of hundreds of thousands? Remember. . .Bush and the neocon Republicans made it so the rich pay very little in the way of taxes while the middle class and the working class pay heavily. In paying, we support not only the killing of others but our own. The rich do not serve their country.

Our Congress men and women are far too interested in war and war profits to pay attention to their constituents. Kill, kill, kill seems to be the philosophy of the government.

There have been only three (3) criminal prosecutions since 1980. In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in an attempt to accommodate individual conscience in instances where a person's religious beliefs would be adversely affected by the government's involvement in war. But the RFRA was only cosmetic, like Clearasil.

How To Resist

Resisting war taxes is really very simple--don't pay all the tax due on your annual federal income tax form or don't pay the federal excise tax on telephone bills. . .or both. Summarized below are a few war tax resistance methods gleaned from the NWTRCC website. Please note that the probability of collection or prosecution varies among the methods, all--except #4--are illegal. Consider seriously before embarking on these types of resistance.

1) File and refuse to pay your taxes. This involves filling out an IRS income tax return (e.g., Form 1040) and refusing to pay either a token amount of your taxes or the total amount. Include a letter of explanation with the return.

2) File a blank IRS 1040 income tax return with a note of explanation.

3) Don't file any Federal income tax returns.

4) Earn less than the taxable income.

5) Resist telephone taxes as this tax has historically been the most clearly related to the ups and downs of military spending. To refuse the federal excise tax, simply subtract that amount from your monthly telephone bill and include a note of explanation to the phone company each time you pay the bill. The phone company is required by FCC regulations to credit your bill and report this amount to the IRS, but not to cut off your telephone service. For more information, see the Hang Up on War! campaign to resist telephone tax.

One of the difficulties with resisting taxes is finding the opportunity to do so. Most of us receive our income in the form of wages that are subject to withholding before we even see our paycheck. At is a list of ways to manage this.

Consequences To War Tax Resistance

Direct action for peace often entails unpredictable risks because the federal government is like Congreve's spurned woman: Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell hath fury like a woman scorned (The Mourning Bride). Yet, jail is virtually unknown for war tax resisters, though getting a notice from the IRS is very likely. Thus criminal prosecution is possible, but so rare that the risk is negligible. Since the modern war tax resistance movement began, only one person (in the 1940's) has been jailed for resisting his war taxes. Only about 0.3% of people in the U.S. who have resisted war taxes have even been brought to federal court and convicted. However, please check at for more details.

Many resisters conclude that the positive consequences outweigh the negative. It is a good idea to take resisted taxes and give them away to meet human needs. As such organizations are often tax exempt, you'll have a record of your donation to confound the IRS. Since you wouldn't have the money anyway, you won't miss it by being socially responsible. Your resistance may motivate others to act. You'll feel more powerful in this society that runs on making people feel powerless: I did something! Liberation from such social onus and the personal integrity you'll have gained may compensate for any punitive penalties the war-lusting government may wish to slap your hand with. But. . .please be careful. Check out the list of court actions since WWII at

Jimsecor is an expat writer and teacher currently in China due, in part, to the ruckus he created with his activism on the part of the disability community. He has family in China: three adopted daughters. Jim wrote six entries for Sage Publications' Encyclopedia of Social Activism, published summer 2007. He can be reached at

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