When war is illegal paying tax is a war crime
by Paul S.
It is a crime to pay tax. This statement may, at first, appear improbable – yet it is true. The truth of it is embedded firmly in international law, and this law is explicit and unequivocal.
At the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal it was stated that ‘individuals have international duties’ which transcend allegiance to their individual nation state. This makes it clear that each citizen has a responsibility to ensure their own personal conduct does not breach international law which overrides the laws of their own governments.
Let’s look at what these laws are: in 1950, the United Nations enacted the seven universal laws of war known as the Nuremberg Principles, principle six of which clearly defines the crimes which are ‘punishable under international law’: crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These joined the offence of genocide as the world’s worst crimes. ‘Crimes Against Peace’ specifically prohibits ‘wars of aggression’ the definition of which our ‘interventions’ in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya clearly satisfy. By deploying high-explosive weapons which they knew would cause massive death and destruction our leaders demonstrated intent and so are guilty of war crimes.
In 1998, after fifty years of illegal wars in breach of the Nuremberg Principles, 132 states, in an attempt to block the loopholes allowing nations to commit these crimes with impunity, drew up the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Article 25 of the Rome Statute states that a person is criminally liable who ‘aids, abets or assists’ in the commission of such a crime ‘including providing the means for its commission.’
This statement is crucial; state sponsored wars such as those waged against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya can only be fought with the consent of a majority of the citizens, specifically through gathering their taxes. Governments cannot wage war without the money to buy weapons, pay troops or purchase supplies. Without the support of taxpayers and moneylenders war would be impossible. Taxpayers who fund illegal war commit a war crime.
When war is illegal paying tax is a war crime
Your duty is clear then, as a citizen whose taxes are being used to commit war crimes you are committing those same crimes. The only way to avoid liability is to withhold your taxes, by doing so you will be upholding the law. But is this only about stark legalities? Do we not also have moral duties which impel us to act?
Significantly, in this case, the law takes into account your conscience: Nuremberg Principle number four states that even if a person acts under the orders of their government this ‘does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him’.
Let us then ponder that in ten years NATO and ISAF governments have caused the deaths of 800,000 adults and 400,000 children, injured three million people and driven eight million into exile and destitution. These very real human beings – are they worthy of your moral consideration? International law says yes. What do you say?
Practical War Tax Resistance #2
To File or Not to File an Income Tax Return
For reasons of conscience, many people believe that they should resist military spending by refusing to pay federal income taxes.
The first leaflet in this series, Controlling Federal Tax Withholding explains how some resisters prevent the withholding of war taxes from wages and salaries by claiming extra allowances on W-4 forms. Practical WTR #3 deals with resisting collection, or making the most of collection when it occurs. Practical WTR #4 discusses war tax refusal through self-employment, and contract employment. Practical WTR #5 deals with the option of living on a reduced income or on an income which is below the taxable level. Practical WTR #6 on organizational war tax resistance, outlines issues for employers, contractors, and financial institutions, and Practical WTR #7 will deal with social security and health issues for aging resisters.
People who have just begun to resist war taxes typically ask, “What should I do when it’s time to file my income tax return?” Many refusers decide not to file tax returns at all. This pamphlet explores the risks, the benefits, and other consequences for war tax refusers who do file annual tax returns, and for those who do not.
Philosophical Reasons for Filing or Not Filing
Apart from practical personal benefits or risks (see below), many people make a decision on the filing question based upon ethical, religious, or political beliefs about war tax refusal.
Philosophical arguments for filing returns include the following:
The idea of equitable taxation for social needs is sound in itself, therefore we should cooperate with the underlying taxation system, while openly resisting only the appropriation of taxes for war.
The moral basis of conscientious war tax refusal relies upon open disobedience and acceptance of consequences. We should resist taxes openly, and not evade them or conceal our income in any manner. (Although some non-filers are public about their refusal to file.)
The moral and political impact of conscientious tax refusal comes from informing the IRS and our political representatives about our protest and the reasons for it. If we refuse taxes without informing the IRS, there will be no political impact, because we will not be clearly distinguishable from millions of others who evade taxes for reasons of personal benefit.
The act of political protest within the system is more significant than preventing specific collection of taxes from us.
Arguments for not filing include the following:
Because of the domination of militarism, the US tax system has becomes so perverse and distorted that it does not serve a positive social purpose. If we wish to contribute to the needs of society, we can do that more effectively by taxing ourselves and contributing to the unmet needs that we see, instead of cooperating with the federal taxation system in any manner.
The federal government and the IRS have become morally illegitimate. We have no obligation to cooperate with them, or to accept the penalties and harassment that they impose on tax refusers.
The political impact of filing protest returns is negligible. IRS employees are unlikely to pay attention to the protest part; because of their vested interests they are among the people least likely to be influenced by our ideas. We can refuse taxes openly without reporting ourselves to the IRS. We can have more political and social impact by talking openly about our tax refusal to friends and co-workers who are more likely to be influenced by us, and we can communicate openly with the general public through leaflets, public education, and letters to periodicals.
Preventing assessment and collection is more significant than tax protest alone, because when we prevent collection, we are able to use thousands of dollars of uncollected taxes to directly finance political, educational, and social causes that meet the true needs of society. If we countenance assessment and collection we have fewer resources left to devote to the common good.
Practical Benefits and Drawbacks
Those who file income tax returns as required by law provide a lot of information that can be helpful to the IRS in collecting the tax. They disclose the amount and the source of their income. They disclose the location of assets, such as savings or stocks, which produce income. When they sign an income tax return, showing tax due but not paid, they are also consenting to the assessment of the tax. This is an important step in the collection process, because without an “assessment,” voluntary or involuntary, there can be no collection. Signing a tax return showing tax due is a “self-assessment” that allows the IRS to proceed directly to the collection process.
If you do not file your own income tax return, the IRS needs to file a return in your name, mail you a copy, allow you to appeal and then make a final assessment of tax due, before they can demand payment and begin the collection process. These steps are time consuming, and each delay tends to decrease the likelihood that the IRS will ever get to the stage of active collection efforts.
Delaying assessment and collection efforts has both benefits and drawbacks. The main benefit is that the IRS may never assess or collect the tax at all. The main drawback is that delayed assessment will result in large civil penalties, interest accumulation and an extended statute of limitations.
There are separate penalties for delinquency, for negligence, for failure to pay estimated tax, for late payment, and so forth. The civil penalty for failure to file is independent of, and ten times greater than, the penalty for late payment. When the penalties and interest are added on they often double or triple the total amount claimed by the IRS when they finally get around to processing their claim.
To be hit suddenly with assessments for tax liabilities piled up for several years, plus added penalties and interest, can be very intimidating for anyone who feels vulnerable to the IRS collection tactics. Until the tax is paid or collected, interest continues to accrue at a high rate, and is compounded daily. Also, when the IRS files for you, they may assert excessive claims, because they make errors in estimating your income, or because they do not allow for exemptions, deductions or credits that you would claim if filing for yourself. Getting the IRS to correct such errors can be complicated and difficult.
In addition, if a return is filed, the IRS has only 3 years to assess the tax due. For a non-filer, however, there is no “statute of limitations” for assessment. The IRS has ten years to collect after an assessment has been made. Also, while some tax resisters have been able to defeat collection by declaring bankruptcy, taxes for which no return was filed cannot be “discharged” in bankruptcy court.
Before 1987 it seemed clear that not filing a tax return significantly increased the likelihood that the resisted taxes would never be collected. People who did file annual tax returns showing substantial amounts of unpaid tax usually had the IRS trying every year to collect the tax by seizure of wages, bank accounts, or other assets. Many of those who did not file never heard from the IRS at all. Sometimes they received notices asking them to file, but if they ignored those notices, there usually was no effective follow-up, no assessment, and no attempts to collect.
This picture began to change radically in the late 1980’s. The IRS developed a capability to file skeleton returns automatically, using information provided by employers and other income payers on annual W-2 and 1099 reports. The IRS is now demonstrating an ability to assess taxes and penalties against those who do not file. This capability seems to have improved and become more efficient in recent years.
While the philosophical reasons for not filing may remain important to them, many non-filers with middle incomes and/or mainstream jobs have lost the benefits of delay and non-enforcement. There is one group for whom the practical benefits of non-filing remain strong. That group is those who are self-employed or employed in some form of “underground economy” in which their income is not reported to the IRS on W-2 or 1099 forms that all income payers are supposed to file. However, this approach is also not as simple as it used to be as the IRS has instituted reporting requirements for a much wider range of financial transactions and has tightened the definition of independent contractors. Still, as the IRS relies more heavily on computerized and automated processes, their ability to assess taxes against unreported income will probably remain low and may even decline.
The Risk of Criminal Prosecution and Imprisonment
Through the use of skillful public relations the IRS has been able to frighten people by exaggerating the likelihood of criminal prosecution and imprisonment for those who evade or resist taxes.
According to the IRS’s own estimates, the number of people prosecuted and jailed nationwide is minuscule when compared to the several million people who do not file returns. Among thousands of principled war tax refusers, we know of only two in the last 50 years who have been indicted for failure to file a tax return. One of those had implicated himself by filing a blank return. In 1980 he was sentenced to probation, with community service. He served no time in jail. The other, a non-filer since 1947, was sentenced to 60 days in jail plus three years’ probation in 1978.
The IRS only recommends prosecution when they are practically assured of a conviction. The average amount of tax owed in criminal prosecutions is over $70,000. The most usual tax crimes prosecuted, in order of priority, are tax evasion, filing a false return, and not filing. Exceptions may be made in some situations to allow prosecution of people with lower liabilities if their nonpayment involves “flagrant conduct.”
The IRS relies more on monetary civil penalties and civil enforcement processes as the U.S. prisons become increasingly over crowded and as the IRS computerized information capabilities improve.
Many war tax refusers who fear criminal prosecution if they do not file are not aware that “willful failure to pay tax” is also a criminal offense carrying the same penalties as “willful failure to file.” Both are federal criminal misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $25,000 fine for each year’s refusal. We know of no criminal prosecution of a war tax refuser for “willful failure to pay,” but when you file a tax return with a letter stating that you refuse to pay, you are actually providing the IRS with evidence of the crime of “willful failure to pay.”
Every war tax refuser should be aware that they could be indicted for “willful failure to file,” or for “willful failure to pay,” but the risk is so slight for most people that it can be regarded as negligible when compared to the other practical burdens and risks of war tax refusal. In recent years the IRS has used the threat of criminal penalties to try to frighten people into reporting income from the “underground economy,” but there has been no actual increase in prosecution reported by non-filing war tax resisters.
Criminal prosecution and imprisonment for failing to file is possible, but it is not the most threatening factor in deciding about filing or not filing tax returns. Criminal liability and risk for filers and non-filers appears to be equally slight.
For the overwhelming majority of war tax refusers the greatest burdens and risks arise from anxiety about the impact of IRS collection actions on their income, job security, ownership of real estate, and other assets such as bank accounts and pension benefits.
Those who earn wage income that is reported to the IRS annually on W-2 forms by employers, or have other forms of income that are reported on Form 1099, can expect to get automated assessments from the IRS for many or most years, even if they do not file annually for themselves. If their employment is sporadic, transitory, marginal, or outside the mainstream economy, if they move frequently from job to job or from place to place, it will be hard for the IRS to catch up with them or keep up with them. If they do not file tax returns, assessment may come at any time, without time limitations, and the IRS assessments may be higher; but the delays and obstacles to assessment and collection will make successful collection lower and slower. The IRS must collect the tax within ten years of the final assessment date, or it becomes legally uncollectible. Such people are hard to collect from and the IRS often gives up on them because the collections are not cost effective.
People whose residence, employment or vocational focus are stable may find that it is no longer feasible to prevent assessment and collection efforts by not filing a voluntary tax return. If they do not file, the liability for added penalties and interest will greatly increase their overall liability. They will be vulnerable to frequent collection of greater amounts.
People who are self-employed, or receive most of their income from unreported sources, may well be able to prevent the assessment and collection of taxes by not filing any income tax returns. They may be vulnerable if unfriendly acquaintances who know about their tax refusal report them to the IRS. Even then they may be in a position to ride out any IRS inquiry, if they decline to provide information to the IRS, if their visible assets are modest, and if their past income sources are difficult to trace.
People of conscience, who are committed to keeping their money out of the hands of the government over an extended period of years, may have to shift their strategy of resistance as the IRS increases its computerized capability to file returns and assess taxes more promptly.
Effective protest and tax resistance remains possible, but recent developments in the IRS reporting and enforcement capabilities will make it much more difficult to keep money from being collected than it had been for the previous 20 years.
Whatever choice a person makes, war tax resistance should not be done for personal financial gain. We encourage war tax refusers to talk to friends, family and the general public about why we choose not to pay for militarism. We encourage people to devote their refused taxes to works of peace, education, social sharing and the common good.
The most effective strategy for war tax refusers who may be determined to prevent any collection of war taxes will include these elements:
They will derive their income from sources that are not reported to the IRS.
They will not file income tax returns. They will make themselves less collectible by employment flexibility and by not holding real estate or other real property and assets in forms that are easy to find and to seize.
Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information,
Publication 910, Guide to Free Tax Services -available free from the IRS, 1-(800) 829-FORM, or on the Internet: http://www.irs.ustreas.gov.
Available free from the IRS, 1 (800) 829-FORM, or on the internet: www.irs.ustreas.gov.
Stand Up to the IRS, by Frederick W. Daily, 6th Edition, 2001,
Nolo Press, 950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-9867, www.nolo.com.
Available from NWTRCC Practical War Tax Resistance Pamphlet Series,
Practical #1: Controlling Federal Tax Withholding
Practical #3: How to Resist Collection, or Make the Most of Collection When it Occurs,
Practical #4: Self Employment: An Effective Path for War Tax Resistance,
Practical #5: Low Income/Simple Living as War Tax Resistance,
Practical #6: Organizational War Tax Resistance
Practical #7: Healthy, "Wealthy," and Wise: Aging and War Tax Resistance
(Single copies #1-3 75¢ each, #4-7 $1 each; call for bulk rates.)
War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military — 144 page comprehensive book on the subject. Available from War Resisters League, 5th Edition, March 2003, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012, 212-228-0450, www.warresisters.org. $17.00 postpaid.
War Tax Resisters and the IRS — a brief outline of WTR motivations, methods and consequences. ($2.50 each)
War Tax Resistance Network — regional listings of contacts, counselors, activists, and support groups. Free.
For a full and updated resource list, please see our website or call the number below for a copy.
This brochure was produced by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. NWTRCC is a coalition of local, regional, and national groups supportive of war tax resistance. Additional copies are available for $0.75 each.
NWTRCC - National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
P.O. Box 150553, Brooklyn, NY 11215-0553 • (718) 768-3420 • (800) 269-7464
From Inquiring Minds @ http://inquiringminds.cc/when-war-is-illegal-paying-tax-is-a-war-crime-paul-s
And see The Law That Never Was – Are US Income Taxes Illegal? @ http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/2011/07/law-that-never-was-are-us-income-taxes.html
And see The Law That Never Was – Are US Income Taxes Illegal? @ http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/2011/07/law-that-never-was-are-us-income-taxes.html
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