War tax resistance in 2011

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee aided by the venerable War Resisters League and others, is organizing war tax resistance in 2011. This is the deliberate non-payment of some or all of federal income tax in protest against the bloated military budget of the US.

Some refuse to pay taxes out of deeply held religious beliefs and spiritual beliefs. Sometimes actions by a few can ignite a general movement. Indeed, this is precisely what happened in 1787 when twelve men met in a printer’s shop in London because they were appalled by slavery. It turned into a movement and within a few decades slavery was banned in Britain. So, never underestimate the power of a few determined activists.

Having said that and while I agree with the antiwar sentiment, I’m not sure that tax resistance is an effective tactic. Here’s why. First off, it’s not public. The dealings between a war tax resister and the IRS are private and the whole process can take years. The resister can certainly make it public, but still, it’s a long and drawn out procedure. Thus, from a tactical viewpoint, it loses immediacy and punch. 2.) The IRS will win. Non payment of taxes isn’t a judgment call. They will give you lots of chances to pay up but if that fails, within a few years they’ll end up seizing your assets, with penalties. Ouch.

What do you think? Is war tax resistance an effective way to cut military funding? What other methods could we use to stop funding for the US war machine?


  1. In the UK in the 80s the non-payment campaign of the hated poll-tax made it non-collectable and the government was forced to abolish it and come up with another and slightly fairer way of getting its money. So who knows which spark will ignite the raging forest fire. It all depends on the public reaction to, it is almost impossible to stop an idea when its time is right, you just keep sparking your flint, one of those sparks will perhaps be the one.

  2. 1) WTR is as public as you want it to be. It can be private if that works for you, or if you want something with a more public-facing message there are lots of ways to go about it. For instance, there are the actions resisters across the country are doing this “tax day”: http://nwtrcc.org/taxday2011.php

    2) Sometimes the IRS does end up getting the money, and sometimes it doesn’t. I know resisters who have been doing this for decades without giving the IRS a cent. It depends on your methods and also on the efficiency of the IRS bureaucracy (which has lots of flaws). The more of us who resist, the less resources the IRS has to go after any particular resister and the more of us who will win in the long run.

    So, go ahead and start. There are lots of ways to resist war taxes. Different methods have different outcomes, different risks, different benefits, different opportunities for publicity and outreach. Do a little research and find the way that’s right for you.

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