Why (and how) I’m refusing to pay war taxes

Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to be a Naval officer.  But then Jesus changed my heart.  He’s been teaching me that instead of killing my enemies, I’m supposed to love them.  In fact, I’m supposed to dedicate my life to serving them.  Maybe even die for them.  So after 7 years in the navy, I left as a conscientious objector.  That’s also why I’m not paying my federal taxes this year.

You see, in the United States, roughly half of our tax dollars go to financing war.  (You can find a detailed breakdown here.)  This is ridiculous and unacceptable.  I would gladly pay more taxes to finance roads, schools, or public health care.  But I will no longer pay other people to kill America’s enemies on my behalf.

I deeply regret the need for tax resistance because it contradicts a number of Biblical commands.  For example, in Romans 13:7 Paul tell us that “if you owe taxes, pay taxes” and in Mathew 22:21 Jesus commands us to “give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  I wish I could obey these commands at face value.  But obeying the commands to pay taxes would result in me breaking the greatest commandment of them all: to love my neighbor as myself.  Jesus calls everyone my neighbor, even my enemies.  Even people who kill Americans, like Osama bin Laden.  I’m deeply ashamed that my tax dollars helped finance his assassination.  Not to mention the near-daily drone strikes that continue to happen, the torture at gitmo, and the DOD’s research into newer and deadlier weapons systems.  I payed for it all.

I could say a lot more about why I feel morally compelled to not pay war taxes, but I won’t.  I’ll skip right to the part where I’m making a public statement that I will not finance war, and I will accept whatever consequences that entails.  I also acknowledge that by taking this stand, I am sinning.  But this is the least sinful option my limited wisdom can find.  So I will continue on, “sinning boldly” as ever.

Below I describe the exact mechanics of how I’m refusing to pay war taxes.  I’m following advice provided mainly by the War Resistor League’s War Tax Resistance book.

How I’m Resisting

wartaxresistance

Today I filed my taxes just like everyone else.  I filled out my form 1040, and found out that I owed 48 dollars.  It’s not very much, but it’s something.  I did my best to be as honest and complete as possible in the paperwork.  But instead of including a check, I wrote them the following letter:

To whom it may concern:

After careful consideration, I have decided not to pay my 2012 taxes to the Federal government. I cannot in good conscience provide any financial support for our ongoing wars and excessive military spending.

I do, however, want to be a good citizen and contribute my fair share to society. Therefore, I am paying the taxes I owe to the federal government ($48) to my local state government (CA) instead. I have scanned a copy of my contribution check below.

Sincerely,

Michael Izbicki

I was happy to do my California taxes in addition to giving them this extra money.  It’s only war that I’m against, not taxes in general.  Here’s a copy of the actual check I wrote:

check-cropped-censored-700

Also, for anyone interested, I’ve posted my form 1040:

f1040pg1 f1040pg2

 

Finally, just before mailing my envelope, I said the St Francis prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

  1. Jack Payden-Travers’s avatar

    Dear Michael,
    You may be interested in the work of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund which seeks to pass the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill. This would enalrge the right of conscientious objection to include the payment of taxes for militarism. You can find our website at http://www.peacetaxfund.org. If you are in the Ashville,NC area in early May the National War Tax Rsisitance Coordinating Committee will be meeting May 3-6. You can contact me for more info.
    Peace & Trust,
    Jack

    Reply

    1. Mike’s avatar

      Thanks! I had no idea you guys existed. I really liked Edna’s “Conscientious Objection” poem on your website. Sadly, I’ll be really far away from NC on those dates, but I just made a contribution to your organization to match the $48 I refused in taxes.

      Peace :)

      Reply

  2. rick’s avatar

    I was once tempted to do this myself, but (mostly in fear of getting audited/arrested) ended up rationalizing it through the “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” argument. Not mindlessly “just because Jesus said so,” but because my company does business and pays me only because it’s authorized to do so by the government of the United States, and the money the company gives me isn’t really mine to begin with; it belongs to the state; it’s just in my temporary keeping for me to use on living expenses and such.

    Now, this may sound like a total cop-out, and Tolstoy (as in “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” I believe) would say that this is what comes with everyone in a violent system just passing the buck of reponsibility, but the realist in me says that my not paying taxes isn’t going to diminish the number of war casualties perpetrated by the US even by one person. All it’s going to do is get me a massive fine, which actually will mean I’ll give the government MORE money than I would have otherwise, not to mention the fact that it could have a devastating impact on my life.

    You could argue “yes, but if everyone who wanted to stop paying taxes did so, the military would cease to function!” First of all, I don’t think that’s true, since I think Americans who are against military action (and government in general) are a teeny tiny minority (most Americans elect the war hawks in the first place, after all), and secondly, let’s face it: all anti-war people are just simply not going to stop paying taxes in the same year. The individual disincentives (as mentioned above) are just too high. If a mass boycott actually got underway, that would be one thing, but since it hasn’t, I think a bit of game theory comes into play here: since most people aren’t going to do it, you’re only going to shoot yourself in the foot.

    I’m not trying to discourage you from doing it–I totally understand the motivation behind it–but I think the possible consequences of it are worth noting and discussing. :)

    Reply

    1. Mike’s avatar

      Totally understand. This is just an experiment for me personally to see if it’s worth it, and how this refusal affects me physically and spiritually.

      Reply

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