How To Resist War Taxes

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. Detailed descriptions can be found in WRL’s War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military and through war tax counselors. Contact the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) for counselors in your area. The probability of collection or prosecution varies among the methods; all — except #4 — are illegal. Serious consideration must be given 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 small amount of your taxes (e.g., $1, $10.40, $100), some “military” portion (approximately 1% for nuclear warheads, 4% for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 30% for current military spending, 50% for current and past military spending combined — see WRL’s pie chart for the latest percentages), or the total amount (since a portion of whatever is paid goes largely to the military). Include a letter of explanation with the return.

2)  Don’t file any Federal income tax returns.  Read “To File or Not to File.”

3) Earn less than the taxable income. However, it is important to organize and speak out on war tax resistance in order to publicize why you have choosen to keep your income low. Also, write letters to the IRS, newspapers, politicians, friends, and relatives.  Read “Low Income/Simple Living.”

4) Resist excise taxes. A number of federal excise taxes are also included in the Federal Budget. These include tobacco and alcohol taxes, which can be refused by not purchasing either or by rolling or brewing your own. The federal telephone tax has historically been the most clearly related to the ups and downs of military spending, but it is limited to landline local phone service now. 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 should credit your bill and report this amount to the IRS, but not cut off your telephone service. It may take some follow-up with phone companies to make sure they credit your bill properly. For more information, see Hang Up on War! to resist telephone tax.

Stopping the Withholding System

One of the difficulties with resisting taxes is getting the opportunity to do so. Most people receive their income in the form of wages that are subject to withholding before an employee even sees the paycheck. Listed below are some ways to minimize the problems posed by withholding.

1) W-4 resistance. Each employee must fill out a W-4 form with her or his employer. The W-4 form determines the amount of money to be withheld from each paycheck. The more deductions (you, dependents, anticipated itemized deductions, etc.) claimed, the less withheld. You can change your W-4 form anytime, and your employer should not question your calculations. See this flyer for a simple formula, IRS regulations, and risks.

2) Self-employment. You have more control over your tax payments as a self-employed worker because there is no withholding. It is entirely the individual’s responsibility to file quarterly estimated tax payments, as well as the 1040 itself. Read “Self-Employment: An Effective Path to Tax Refusal”

3) Special jobs. Certain jobs, such as domestic service, day labor, ministers, agricultural workers, among others are exempted from the withholding system.

4) Courageous Employers. Though rare, there are a few employers — notably the War Resisters League, as well as Quaker meetings and church congregations — who have honored employees’ wishes not to be withheld from and have refused IRS levies.

Sending a letter of protest with whatever tax payment you do make is one way to express your discontent with budget priorities. Writing a letter to your local newspaper communicates your concern more broadly. Send copies of these letters to Congresspeople, too.

More information and resources on War Tax Resistance: