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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

Many ask legislators to support peace-tax legislation efforts led by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund. The campaign seeks to “restore the rights of citizens whose conscience does not permit physical or financial participation in all war.”

This legislation would provide conscientious objectors the right to do alternative service with their tax money, just as drafted COs have had alternatives to military service since World War II.

In a letter asking his senator to support the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill, Ray Gingerich of Austin, Texas, depicted the dilemma as “like being required to pay taxes for a hospital which gives medical care to half its patients and butchers the other half.”

The IRS tries to collect from WTRs who’ve refused to pay a portion of their assessed taxes. Garnishments from checking accounts, wages and Social Security payments have caused some WTRs to pay more than twice as much (when penalties and interest are added in) as the amount of taxes originally assessed.

To avoid such loss and still state their opposition to paying for war, some WTRs redirect a smaller percentage or a symbolic amount of their assessed taxes.

Last year Harold A. Penner of Akron, Pa., withheld $90.04 — an amount equal to one dime for every billion dollars in the 2007 U.S. military budget, as computed by the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Resisting payment of the federal excise tax on telephone services, a tax that historically has been tied to paying for war, is a low-risk way to object to paying for war.

Information about this and other war-tax resistance actions, including the 2009 war-tax boycott, can be found on the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee Web site.

Principled disobedience

Whether living below a taxable income, lobbying for peace-tax legislation, redirecting refused tax money to charitable causes, or signing public pledges to refuse to pay for war, WTRs seek to witness and stay true to their conscientious beliefs.

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