ONLINE Edition of the Fall 1997 Newsletter
|White House To Facilitate Meeting With Tax Officials On Peace Tax
Historic Court Challenge Begins
Peace Tax Fund Bill 1972-1997
My Visit with the IRS
News from the Field
Past Newsletters:Summer 1995, Fall 1995, Spring 1996, Summer 1996, Fall 1996, Spring 1997, Summer 1997.
WHITE HOUSE TO
FACILITATE MEETING WITH TAX OFFICIALS ON PEACE TAX FUND
Legislation Introduced in the House
ampaign lobbyists returned to the White House almost one year after an historic first visit for continued discussions on the Peace Tax Fund bill. A delegation of seven representatives from diverse religious organizations met for an hour with Maureen Shea, of the White House office of Public Liaison for Religious Affairs at her request on November 12. Peace Tax Fund supporters left with a promise to set up a meeting with tax policy officials at the Department of Treasury.
Testimony by Treasury officials was central in defeating an effort to attach the Peace Tax Fund bill as an amendment at a House Ways and Means Committee meeting last June. Campaign and congressional supporters have had difficulty getting a meeting with the Treasury Department. A 1994 meeting with aides to then Sen. Mark Hatfield and the Treasury Department's IRS Congressional Affairs Office proved disappointing.
Campaign lobbyists hope to return to the White House soon. Counsel to the President Elena Kagen, who met with Peace Tax Fund supporters in November 1996, has since been replaced by Bill Marshall. A staff member of the National Council of Churches is a close friend of Mr. Marshall and has spoken with him encouraging some accommodation for conscientious objectors to military taxation. Reportedly, Mr. Marshall is receptive to the proposal.
Campaign lobbyists hope to meet with Mr. Marshall and ask him for the President's help on this issue. Possible options for a Presidential response are to issue an executive order to create a Peace Tax Fund, to request the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service to support the proposal (or at least remove its objection), or to gain the White House's support in Congress.
Saying "The federal government must not force a citizen to act against his or her religious beliefs," Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA) introduced the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act (HR 2660) on October 9.
The revised and slimmed down Peace Tax Fund proposal would create a fund within the US treasury to receive the income, estate, and gift taxes of conscientious objectors. Taxes in this fund would be used at the discretion of Congress for nonmilitary government programs.
"This bill is about addressing the dilemma for a significant minority of taxpayers who with each paycheck are forced to choose between their deeply held beliefs and the law," said Marian Franz, the executive director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.
Based on the experience of the Selective Service from 1970 to 1971, three to seven percent of the population self-identifies as conscientious objectors to war. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee estimates that there are 10,000 conscientious objectors actively resisting financial participation in the military.
Goals for the Campaign in the House in this Congress are to gain support from Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill and influential Republicans. There is also the possibility of another attempt to attach the Peace Tax Fund to a larger tax proposal.
In the Senate, progress is slower. Sen. Harkin (D-IA) and the Campaign are still looking for a Republican cosponsor to introduce the legislation. Hopes to gain Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) as a cosponsor have been dampened by the Supreme Court's ruling against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Sen. Hatch is focusing much of his time on efforts to re-establish RFRA. Lobbyists suggest Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) might be a possibility. It is unlikely Senate legislation will be introduced this year.
Finally, recent Senate hearings on IRS abuse has riveted the public's attention. Some in Congress believe the Campaign can be aided by riding the wave of public outrage about how the IRS operates. Others have said any possibility of attaching the Peace Tax Fund as a rider to IRS reforms will fail because of objections by the administration.
Reform legislation that would set up an oversight board for the IRS, increase taxpayer rights and shift the burden of proof to the IRS when disputes reach the courts has cleared the House Ways and Means Committee. The Senate will take up the measure next year, after it considers the nomination of Charles O. Rossotti to be the new IRS commissioner.
court case that could force the government to expand recognition of conscientious objection to include refusing to pay for the military is under way in a Philadelphia, PA tax court. Lawyers for Priscilla Lippincott Adams of Moorestown, NJ and the Internal Revenue Service agreed to the facts in a lawsuit brought by Adams on October 16. This opened the door for Judge Murice Foley to receive written arguments from both sides on the merits of Adams' claim against the IRS.
Priscilla Adams is a Quaker and an employee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM). As a conscientious objector to war taxes for about twenty years, she has asked PYM, in accordance with its policy, to put the military portion of her tax withholding in escrow. The IRS has taken the taxes, plus interest and penalties many times from PYM's bank account.
In response to a recent IRS deficiency notice, Priscilla brought suit against the government. She seeks, on the basis of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, to force the IRS to remove financial penalties imposed on pacifists who do not pay for the military, and to establish an accommodation for conscientious objectors to allow them to pay their taxes for non-military programs.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993, requires the government to have a compelling interest in order to violate religious freedom and must use the least restrictive means when doing so. This summer the Supreme Court struck down RFRA, saying it infringed on the rights of state and local governments. However, many legal scholars believe RFRA still applies to the federal government. Adams' suit is the first time RFRA has been utilized as a shield from IRS action against conscientious objectors to military taxes.
Both Adams and her lawyer Peter Goldberger hope to use this and other cases to expand the rights of all conscientious objectors. Arrangements are being made for similar cases in Connecticut and Vermont.
A decision in the Adams case is expected sometime after January 14.
Act of Conscience Readies For National Tour
An Act of Conscience, the 90-minute feature film about war tax resisters Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner of Colrain, MA, is now available on home video, as well as for local public showings. Director Robbie Leppzer will be conducting speaking engagements with the film as part of a national grassroots tour throughout 1998.
Narrated by actor Martin Sheen, An Act of Conscience chronicles the story of Kehler and Corner's refusal to pay their federal income taxes as a protest against war and military spending. Their farmhouse was seized by federal marshals and IRS agents and later auctioned off by the US government. The film documents the long- term nonviolent occupation that developed as a result of their stand of con-science.
An Act of Conscience received it's world premiere at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival and was nationally broadcast on the Cinemax series Reel Life. Emily Weir, film reviewer for the Valley Advocate, a western Massachusetts arts weekly, wrote: "A superb look at contemporary activism and a thoughtful meditation on nonviolent action."
Turning Tide Productions, producers of the film, is seeking activists, educators, and grassroots organizations to sponsor public showings of An Act of Conscience at local independent movie theaters, college campuses, and community centers.
The film screening can provide a unique organizing opportunity for local grassroots groups to reach out to a wider audience about the issue of conscience. It can also provide insight into how a long-term nonviolent campaign is organized and sustained.
For more information contact Anne Marie Meltzer at Turning Tide Productions, PO Box 864, Wendell, MA 01379. (978)544-8313, email: act@turning tide.com.
Survey Reports Increase in Redirected Taxes
A survey by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) reports that conscientious objectors to war redirected $78,380 in federal income tax dollars last year. This is the highest level of redirected taxes since NWTRCC began the survey four years ago and is up from $45,000 in the previous year, although $10,000 of the increase was simply due to a change in reporting.
During the same period, escrow accounts held $771,132 in taxes from 721 depositors. This is down from $1,091,537 held by 888 depositors the previous year.
NWTRCC coordinator Karen Marysdaughter believes the survey reflects a trend by conscientious objectors to redirect taxes that were held in escrow since the eighties and exceeded the IRS statute of limitations.
NWTRCC also reports an increase in calls about IRS levies. A recent report notes that "after many years of ignoring pension funds, the IRS has started to seize them from long-time war tax resisters... Conscientious employers had also been ignored for a while, but now are facing more IRS activity." Look for further analysis on the state of the war tax resistance movement in the future.
New Resources Now Available
The Campaign announces the release of its newest resource entitled "Stages of Conscientious Objection to Military Taxes." Produced in conjunction with the historic peace church agencies, this four page brochure explores the various steps and possibilities for refusing financial participation in the military. Also available are copies of the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem "Conscientious Objector." See the resources section for information on ordering.
The War Resisters League announces the publication of its 1998 Peace Calendar, "75 Years of Nonviolent Resistance." Black and white photos with captions, quotes and introductory text tell the decade-by-decade story of active nonviolence through changing political scenes. The calendar is available for $12 plus postage from the from the War Resisters League, 339 Lafayette St., NY, NY 10012.
The National Priorities Project
Ever wonder how much the B-2 Bomber costs your state or your town? Now this information and much more is available from the National Priorities Project (NNP). The NPP is a community education, research and training organization that for fifteen years has dedicated itself to making budget priorities something ordinary citizens can understand and shape. Based in Northampton, MA, NPP has an extensive data base of state and local information that illustrates the trade-off between excessive military spending and cuts to community-based programs. For information on how national spending priorities impact your community contact the National Priorities Project, 160 Main St., Suite #6, Northampton, MA 01060. (413) 584-9556, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or www. natprior.org.
Peace Tax Supporter Becomes Member of Parliament
In the United Kingdom, a member of the peace tax organization Conscience has been elected to Parliament. Representing Milton Keynes South West (north west of London), Dr. Phyllis Starkey is a long-time supporter of Conscience who was swept into power with the Labour Party in elections this spring.
A Nobel Gesture
Twenty Nobel peace prize laureates have joined in an appeal to the member-states of the United Nations, proposing that the UN General Assembly declare the first decade of the new millennium, the "Decade for a Culture of Nonviolence." They ask that nonviolence be taught at every level of eduation.
Nominations and Meetings
All members are invited to make nominations for the board of directors of National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund. The board serves as the policy-setting and oversight body of the organization. Board members must be able to attend two meetings a year. New board member will be installed at the annual meeting in the spring of 1998. The deadline for nominations is December 31. Contact the national office for more information.
The annual membership meeting for the Campaign will be held May 8 and 9 at the national office in Washington DC. All Camaign members are invited. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee will gather in Newton, Kansas on May 1 and May 2. Contact the national office for more details.
ith these words Steve McFarland of the Christian Legal Society affirmed the work of the Campaign at the twenty-fifth anniversary commemoration of the first introduction of the Peace Tax Fund bill held in Washington, DC on October 23. Sixty congressional aides, representatives of organizations, and Campaign members gathered for an evening of speeches, storytelling and recommitment. Peace Tax Fund supporters from around the country helped fill a scrap book with good wishes for the future. Thanks to everyone who participated in making this commemoration a success. Excerpts from speeches and selected notes are available on the Campaign's website.
n July 7th, I had a meeting with an IRS collection agent in Charlottesville, Virginia. I haven't paid federal taxes for 10 years. Each year I file a tax return and pay only the social security taxes that I owe. I include a letter with my return explaining that I'm a conscientious objector to war and its preparations. I refuse to pay federal taxes because such a large percentage of the federal budget is used for military purposes. I was a conscientious objector to military service and, in the same spirit, I cannot allow my tax dollars to be spent for war. If a legal alternative, such as the Peace Tax Fund bill, existed for conscientious objectors, I would use it.
The meeting in July was the first face-to-face encounter I've had with the IRS since I started my war tax resistance, so I was a bit apprehensive. Much to my benefit, I had just spent a week with over 2,000 other Quakers at the Friends General Conference gathering in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I left the gathering feeling spiritually centered and prepared for my witness at the IRS.
At the beginning of the interview in Charlottesville, the agent stated that he found my case to be refreshing due to the conviction expressed in my letters to the IRS. That set the tone for a very positive experience. I said that I was dismayed that the IRS continues to oppose any legal remedy to my and others' dilemma regarding paying for war.
The purpose of the interview was for the IRS to determine the nature of my assets, presumably in order for them to seize them. Thus, we discussed the income-sharing nature of Twin Oaks, the thirty-year-old egalitarian, secular, income-sharing intentional community where I live. Vehicles and other major assets are collectively owned at Twin Oaks and members receive no wages. Our room, board and other essentials are provided in return for our labor. Twin Oaks is legally classified as a 501(d) organization (similar to a monastery). It became clear during the interview that I had no assets for the IRS to seize.
The interview lasted an hour. Near the end the agent said that he had gotten all the information he needed and that he would make sure that I no longer receive notices from the IRS for back taxes owed through the 1996 tax year (the total owed, including interest, was nearly $8000). I thanked him for his courtesy and emphasized that I want to pay federal taxes, but can't because of my conscientious objection, and that I have nothing to hide. In addition, I reiterated that the IRS needs to know that it won't be able to collect from me and other individuals with similar beliefs as long as there is no legal alternative to paying military taxes. I said I was saddened that our country, with all its wealth, continues to spend so much of its resources on war and the threat of war. He thanked me and said that he knew he couldn't change my mind.
I was relieved and thankful that the visit went so well. I came away from the visit feeling more empowered as a war tax resister and grateful that I am in a living situation that makes my taxes uncollectible.
Shortly after the meeting in Charlottesville, I wrote to the commissioner of the IRS in Washington, recounting the visit. My letter included the following: "I very much want to pay my taxes. I am unable to do so for reasons of conscience. It distresses me to learn that the IRS continues to oppose legislation in Congress that would directly address my dilemma. The Peace Tax Fund bill, if enacted, would allow me to pay my federal taxes in good conscience. Please explain to me why the IRS continues to oppose this legislation. I urge the IRS to seriously reconsider its position. This bill, if enacted, will allow me and many others in similar situations to pay federal taxes without violating our consciences. Conscience is a very powerful force in my life; I do not intend to ignore it. As long as I have no legal way of paying federal taxes I, along with others will remain uncollectible in the IRS's eyes." I have yet to receive a reply.
Compelled by Conscience: Why We Need a Peace Tax Fund. A 20-minute video to rent $10.00; to purchase. $15.00 Communities of Conscience: Collected Statements on Conscience and Taxes for Military Preparation, 2nd edition. $7.95
War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, 4th edition edited by Ruth Benn. $12.00
Questions that Refuse to Go Away, by Marian Franz. $5.95
Downwardly Mobile for Conscience Sake, ed. Dorothy Andersen. $10.00
Why I Am a Conscientious Objector, by John M. Drescher. $4.95
Handbook on Military Taxes and Conscience by Friends Committee on War Tax Concerns. $8.
What Belongs to Caesar? and The Tax Dilemma: Praying for Peace Paying for War. Two classics by Donald Kaufman. $4.95 each or $7.95 for both.
Peace & Taxes... God & Country: A Guide for Seeking Clearness on War Tax Concerns, by Chel Avery. $2.00 Activist Manual: Speaking for Conscience. $9.95
Peace Tax Fund Basic Brochure. $0.10
Conscientious Objector, poem by Edna St. Vincent Milley. $0.25
Paying for Peace. Peace tax campaigns throughout the world. $5.00
Proceedings of Sixth International Conference on Peace Tax Campaigns and War Tax resistance. $6.95
Stages of Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation. $0.20
Back copies of newsletter per issue. $2.95
Buttons: "Taxes for Peace Not War" or "Dove with Leaf" (circle one). $0.50
NCPTF Poster: Dove and Planet Earth $1.00
Total Enclosed _______
News from the Field is a new feature of this newsletter that seeks to cover ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things for the sake of conscience. Have a story to share? We welcome your contribution. Send it to us.
es Hare is a Congressional District Contact in Richmond, Virginia who deserves note for effective use of media in organizing. Wes believes the endorsement of a local organization can be just as effective in getting the attention of a member of Congress as an endorsement from a national organization. To this end, he has worked steadily on getting his church, the First Mennonite Church, to endorse the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.
His work paid off this summer when the congregation voted to endorse the Campaign. Wanting to spread the good news, Wes then sent a copy of the endorsement to the religion editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and followed up with a phone call. To his delight, the paper ran an article focusing on the war tax witness of a couple at the church. Wes closed the circle by sending copies of the endorsement along with the article to the Virginia congressional delegation.
In Texas, Andy McKenna has taken the initiative on behalf of the Campaign. This summer he led two delegations from the Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation on lobby visits with aides of Sen. Gramm and Sen. Hutchison. Andy reports the visits were a good opportunity for members of the group tell their war tax resistance to policymakers. The impact of these delegations was increased because Andy coordinated them with visits to Gramm and Hutchison's Capital Hill offices by Campaign lobbyists.
Andy helped organize an impressive presence at the protest of the School of the Americas at Columbus, Georgia in November. Using an Internet conference on war tax resistance, he set up an affinity group and secured more than $1,500 in redirected taxes for School of the Americas Watch. Once in Georgia, he worked with others in setting up a table and distributing Campaign literature.
>From the national office, we regret to report that Outreach Assistant Larry Bassett has resigned from his position at the Campaign. After more than two years of designing and coordinating our grassroots organizing programs, Larry is leaving to manage a local food coop. His organizing skills and knowledge will be missed. The national office hopes to hire a replacement soon.
At the board meeting in October, the board approved the launch of the Rapid Response Action Network by the Campaign. This program will combine and coordinate our present programs such as the legislative action alerts and Congressional District Contact program along with an effort to engage the membership in a wider range of activities. The goal is to be more effective connecting the resources and networks of our membership with the legislative and educational work of the Campaign. Look for more information on this new program in 1998.
Finally, congratulations for a job well done to those we have recognized in this edition of "From the Field" and thanks to all who have been active supporters of the Campaign. You and your work are the lifeblood of our Campaign.