10,000 refuse to pay U.S. taxes to protest Iraq war

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

An estimated 10,000 conscientious objectors chose to withhold some or all of their U.S. income taxes due Monday, April 17, in protest to the use of US military power in Iraq. Some plan to instead donate their required tax to charity.

The Internal Revenue Service does not distinguish tax resistors from any other person behind on their taxes, and will apply the same fines and interest used against the other Americans who do not pay their taxes on time. Legal action is possible for extreme cases, but more commonly the IRS uses wage or bank account garnishing.

The tax protestors are well aware of these risks, yet refuse to pay on principle. Jim Allen, who served in the Army for 20 years and now teaches at St. Louis University, acknowledges that he will likely end up paying more due to the fines than he is refusing to pay today. "I am not opposed to paying taxes, but I am when such a large percent is going to pay for war. Sooner or later, they're going to get their money, but until that happens, I'm going to continue protesting. This is too important not to." Allen and his wife withheld $1300 - or 42% of what the couple owes the IRS, estimating this to be the proportion of his taxes that would otherwise go to military spending.

Other protestors simply refuse to file at all. Becky Pierce of Boston fills out a 1040 to determine her tax, but then donates that amount to charity without filing. Pierce says she follows in the footsteps of American protesters like Henry David Thoreau, a protester of the Mexican-American War who went to jail rather than pay taxes. "You need to have control of your money," Pierce says. "I'm a self-employed carpenter. No one is reporting what I make. That's why I can go unnoticed."

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