War Tax Resisting

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Dear Western Friend,

I am a war tax resister.  After careful consideration, and prayerful meditation, my conscience could no longer allow me to pay for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.  For me, paying for war has become an immoral, unethical act.  At a time when social safety nets for the downtrodden and under privileged are being unraveled - with more Americans becoming homeless and hungry - it has become increasingly clear for me that this spending is unconscionable and irresponsible. It is important for me to stress that I am not a tax evader; I am resisting war taxes.  I want my tax dollars to go to domestic spending and international humanitarian programs designed to end poverty and famine.    

I have not always held this conviction.  During the war over Kuwait in 1991, I believed we had a civic responsibility to “support the troops,” which included paying war taxes.  I was twenty-one and wrapped up in the “we must heal from the Vietnam War” sentiment that permeated the media at the time. 

When the current wars started, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, I went to antiwar marches and went on television to extol the rationale for why war is not the answer and to plead with our elected officials to consider other paths.  During the course of 2003, I realized deep down that marches, particularly legal, permitted weekend marches, do nothing to impede the machinery of war. Then I encountered a discussion of war tax resistance at a College Park Quarterly Meeting in late 2004. The discussion that weekend really got me thinking seriously about just how involved I was in funding these wars. 

Now I’ll be the first to admit that my resistance is pretty symbolic. Most of the taxes I “owe” are paid through withholding by my employer. I just refuse to send the balance (about $200-$400/year).  I send the IRS notes explaining that I cannot send them money knowing what the money would be used for.  Instead, I donated that money to groups like Right Share International, my local food bank, and even my monthly meeting. 

I honestly thought the IRS would have collected the money owed from 2007 by now, but so far they have not.  After doing my own research and talking with fellow war tax resisters, I have discovered the IRS would very likely just levy my bank account to collect the money owed.  There is no probability of going to jail or my losing my house, cars, or other assets.

Many people have asked me, “So what?”  When the government does decide to levy the amount I owe, they will get the money anyway, with penalties and interest added.  But you know what? It will be money they have to work to collect and I have not willingly contributed to the cost of the wars.

Being a war tax resister is more than a symbolic action to protest military campaigns waged by the United States Military.  War tax resistance is an important part of my constitutionally-protected right of free exercise of religion and is my way of honoring the Peace Testimony.  Acts of civil disobedience are an important part of our American heritage to achieve social change when apathy and public opinion are against us.  In the words of Albert Einstein, “Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.”

Shane Piccinini

Member, Reno Friends Meeting