War tax resisters in the United States are preparing for another round of civil disobedience with the deadline to pay taxes coming this week.
Activists in dozens of cities worldwide will protest military spending this week, including at U.S. post offices, army bases and the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 U.S. citizens will also refuse to pay all or certain parts of their federal taxes to protest military spending
Ruth Benn of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee told teleSUR she's seeing increased interest in antiwar organizing in the United States, despite the distraction of a presidential election. Military spending hovers at about 45 percent of federal income tax, she noted, rising sharply under President Barack Obama’s watch in 2010 and 2011 and falling slightly since.
“Even when they say it’s going down, it’s so tiny and incremental that it’s still so huge,” said Benn. Military spending is also hidden in departments other than "Defense," including the State Department and the CIA. Take those into account and the number is even bigger. “I think we’re missing a big chunk of money."
No taxes are directly routed to the military — spending comes from a general fund that also pays for services like education and government — preventing wider resistance. Because many war tax resisters support non-military government services, some refuse to pay a symbolic amount; others don’t pay the entire amount, deducting the percentage allocated to the armed services; while others send a statement of protest along with their tax return.
“I am psychologically unable to write a check to maim and kill,” said Kathy Labriola, a conscientious objector, in a press release.
Low on enforcement funds, the IRS is more concerned with major financial fraud than a sparse group of tax resisters. It does not recognize conscientious objection to taxes, but resisters are pushing forward a bill to change that. In the meantime, most who object to paying for war say their civil disobedience goes unpunished.
The IRS used to confiscate property, which spurred public protests, but now it only occasionally seizes money from bank accounts, which is “a little harder for us to publicize,” said Benn.
“If you put a bunch of tax war resisters in a room and ask how much we’ve resisted and how much the IRS has gotten, it always shows we resisted more than how much was taken,” she noted.
The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee encourages resisters to put the money they save on their taxes toward “groups that don’t kill people,” but “care for people in the world.” Some local groups have organized a pool of alternative funds to donate to those neglected by government services. Other popular beneficiaries include alternative media outlets, local libraries, anti-war education and programs for war victims and the poor.
As coordinator, Benn encourages connecting causes. The coordinating committee “sees poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, economic exploitation, environmental destruction and militarization of law enforcement as integrally linked with the militarism which we abhor,” according to its website.