Cutting off your taxes to spite Uncle Sam

W-4 Peace
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  October 31, 2007

While anti-war rallies drew tens of thousands of protesters to cities nationwide last weekend, some American taxpayers choose a subtler (or supplementary) way to express their discontent with American foreign policy.

Take Larry Dansinger, who lives in Monroe, and who has withheld some or all of his owed taxes for years in opposition to US military action and policy.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter he sent along with his tax return last year:

“Again in 2006, I am refusing to pay both federal income and social security taxes I owe because the US government is using that money to fund its invasion and occupation of Iraq, where thousands of innocent Iraqis and US military personnel are being killed and injured ...This invasion is both immoral and illegal. If I were to pay any money to the US government, I would be an accomplice to these forms of violence that it perpetrates. I will not commit that crime. I would rather violate the law than to support the White House, Pentagon, and Congress which is killing innocent people by the tens of thousands for its own selfish ends.”

Dansinger is one of an estimated 8000 to 11,000 war tax resisters in the United States, who don’t want their money paying for actions they philosophically disagree with.

Tax resistance ranges from symbolic withholdings of $10 to full-fledged civil disobedience, like Dansinger’s, which is usually accompanied by a formal letter explaining the decision. Some people calculate what percent of tax money goes toward military spending (somewhere between 20-30 percent), and then withhold that amount from their tax return. The Brooklyn-based National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) offers layman’s tutorials on its Web site about how to increase your tax allowances — and withhold more money from the federal government on the front end.

Any of these options allows tax resisters to “take the money that would go for war ... and put it somewhere where it can be used in a more humane way,” says Dansinger, who stresses that the withheld money doesn’t just go back into the protester’s pocket.

One way to redirect tax money is to write an individual check to the peaceful organization of one’s choice. The NWRTCC (cleverly known as "new-trick") is recommending two charities for 2008: Electronic Iraq’s Direct Aid Fund, which provides health care for Iraqi refugees, and the Common Ground Health Clinic, in New Orleans. Another redirection option is to put money into a larger fund, such as the Maine Tax Funds for Life, administered by Dansinger, which donates part of its proceeds to a charitable organization on or around Tax Day each year; the other portion of the money goes into escrow for the donor.

Dansinger has received two phone calls and one in-person visit from IRS agents, but suffers no ill effects.

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  Topics: This Just In , U.S. Government, Politics, Public Finance,  More more >
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