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Antiwar activists hold back their taxes

A national group says up to 10, 000 people aren't paying all their taxes over opposition to the Iraq war.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 5, 2007


NEW HAVEN, Conn. - When the United States invaded Iraq more than four years ago, war opponent David Gross asked his bosses for a radical pay cut, enough so he wouldn't have to pay taxes to support the war.

"I was having a hard time looking at myself in the mirror, " Gross said. "I knew the bombs falling were in part paid with my tax dollars. I had to actually do something concrete to remove my complicity."

The San Francisco technical writer was making close to $100, 000 a year. He didn't know exactly how big of a pay cut he would need to fall below the federal tax threshold, but later figured out he would have to make less than minimum wage.

In any event, his employer turned him down and he quit. Gross, 38, now works on a contract basis, and last year he refused to pay self-employment taxes. Gross said he now manages to live on about $15, 000 per year. "I can look myself in the mirror and say at least I'm not supporting it, at least I'm not part of the machine."

War tax resistance, popularized by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century and by singer Joan Baez and others during the Vietnam War, is gaining renewed interest among peace activists upset over the Iraq war.

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee in New York estimates 8, 000 to 10, 000 Americans refuse to pay some or all of their federal taxes over war objections. Internal Revenue Service officials say they don't have figures for that specific category.

Many tax protesters say they redirect money they withhold to charities. Some, like Joanne Sheehan of Norwich, keep their income below taxable levels.

"I don't see the point of working for peace and paying for war, " Sheehan said.

The IRS said that while taxpayers have a right to express their opinions, they still have an obligation to pay their taxes. Tax resisters place an undue burden on taxpayers who pay their fair share of taxes, IRS spokeswoman Dianne Besunder said.

War protesters have been pushing for a law called the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund that would allow designated conscientious objectors to have their income, estate, or gift taxes used for nonmilitary purposes. After years of efforts, they hope a congressional hearing will be held on the proposal next year.