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Last updated November 24.

Feb. 16, 2009 issue

War-tax resisters seek to owe nothing but love

By Susan Miller For Mennonite Weekly Review

War-tax resisters believe a consistent witness for peace includes refusing to pay for war.

Goshen, Ind., area war-tax resisters: standing, from left, Tim Godshall, Anne Meyer Byler, Virginia Showalter, Karl Shelly, Luke Birky, Mary Ellen Meyer, Mark Byler, John Driver and Stan Liechty. Sitting: Ruth Liechty, Bonny Driver, Verna Birky. — Photo provided by Anne Meyer Byler

Goshen, Ind., area war-tax resisters: standing, from left, Tim Godshall, Anne Meyer Byler, Virginia Showalter, Karl Shelly, Luke Birky, Mary Ellen Meyer, Mark Byler, John Driver and Stan Liechty. Sitting: Ruth Liechty, Bonny Driver, Verna Birky. — Photo provided by Anne Meyer Byler

“I realized it made no sense for me to pay for others to do things that my conscience wouldn’t let me do,” said Tim Godshall of Goshen, Ind., who has resisted paying war taxes since 2002. “Resisting war taxes has been a meaningful place for me to start making my life more consistent with my beliefs.”

So how can anyone keep from paying war taxes? One way is to live with less than a taxable income.

“As one who seeks to follow Jesus, I see inherent good in lowering my earnings and learning to share more and depend on others for my security rather than my earnings and savings,” Godshall said.

He monitors his income and pays Social Security taxes on the total amount but reduces his taxable income — most years to zero — by contributing to an IRA and taking the federal tax credits available to low-income workers.

Willard and Mary Swartley of Elkhart, Ind., kept their income low throughout their working years at Bethany Christian School and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. To lower the taxable amount of their earnings, they asked their employers to withhold money from their paychecks to donate to projects at the schools. A consequence of this is that their Social Security payments were also lowered, so that now, in retirement, their income is still below the taxable level.

According to the War Resisters League, 54 percent of the 2009 federal budget (not including dedicated trust funds such as Social Security) goes to pay for current and past military expenses. That percentage includes $390 billion interest on the national debt due to military spending in the past.

War-tax resisters — sometimes known as WTRs — who refuse to pay the full amount of their taxes redirect the unpaid portion to humanitarian causes or put it into escrow accounts that allow them to withdraw their principal if faced with IRS collections. The War Tax Resister’s Penalty Fund receives donations and gives money to WTRs to lighten their financial burdens due to penalties and interest on resisted taxes.

Peace-tax fund

Typically, conscientious objectors to military taxation who owe federal taxes send letters to the IRS, legislators and newspapers about the dilemma of being forced to choose between obeying tax law and following their conscience.

continued on next page »

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