Yesterday, I got my taxes off to the IRS and felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. You know the feeling, don’t you? Another year and somehow we managed to survive. Other than the car and the house which both belong to the bank for the next few years, the bills have been paid. Well not all the bills. Actually there is one left.
It’s the $10.40 cents that I refused to pay of the “Taxes Owed” to the IRS.
This year, the “Taxes Owed” came to a whopping $15.00 and so I wrote a check to the United States Treasury for $4.60. As I have every April since 1973 when my wife and I started filing our taxes together, we enclosed a polite note to our “Dear IRS Worker” informing her or him of our decision to withhold a symbolic portion of our income tax in protest as Christian pacifists to the military madness infecting our federal budget.
How else can one explain the fact that the majority of our federal tax dollars are still paying to support present and past wars? Can you believe that the treasury still needs to send checks each month to two survivors of Civil War veterans? 149 years later, and we are still paying for the decision to settle that conflict by force of arms rather than seek non-military solutions to internal and international conflicts. There has got to be a better way to settle disputes.
How strange is it to us today to think of settling personal disputes by dueling with the intention of killing our opponent? And yet this is exactly what I hear proposed as soon as an international conflict arises. For some reason, honor rather than reason, emotion rather than sanity, takes hold and the drums of war start to beat. The kill, kill, kill of bayonet training becomes the fall back option and Dr. Strangelove rides again. Oh, you think Ukraine is different from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Uganda, Columbia? The list goes on.
During the Vietnam War, my wife and I both came to an understanding of our Christian faith as one of nonviolence and thus a rejection of war. I actually chose to refuse induction and face a sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $10,000 rather than join the military. And yet each year in April, we are faced with the decision to either pay for war and deny our Christian faith or to participate in war-making by paying our entire tax bill.
We choose to affirm our religious beliefs and to resist the payment of our taxes owed by withholding a symbolic amount. And what is more symbolic of the tax dollar than the Form 1040? And so we withhold the symbolic amount of $10.40 from whatever we owe and send it to a group that works for peace.
We know, of course, that the IRS may eventually collect this amount along with interest and penalty from our bank or wages or more likely a tax refund. That is a price we are willing to pay for the sake of conscience. We know that we are not alone in our quest to live according to our religious principles. In fact “$10.40 For Peace” is a group that encourages conscientious reflection about the payment of taxes that support war. They host a website, www.1040forpeace.com, to assist people wrestling with this question.
One option that I hope everyone will consider is to support the right of conscientious objection to the payment of war taxes through passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act of the 113th United States Congress. HR 2483 is a bill that would extend the right of conscientious objection to U.S. taxpayers. Introduced each session by civil rights Congressman John Lewis, this bill would create a Peace Tax Fund in the U.S. Treasury into which those opposed to war would pay 100 percent of their taxes. It could not be used to fund the Pentagon, nuclear weapons produced by the Department of Energy, Military Aide to foreign nations, national security, etc. You can join the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, which lobbies for passage of this bill, by going to www.peacetaxfund.org.