In Protest Against War, Some Decline To Pay Taxes

Berkeley-Based Tax Resisters Donate $10,000 to Pro-Peace Activist Groups

Photo: Julio Serrao (left) and Rio Barrere attended a Northern California War Tax Resistance conference in Berkeley yesterday. Some tax resistors opt to withhold $10.40 in protest.
Chanel Leaf/Photo
Julio Serrao (left) and Rio Barrere attended a Northern California War Tax Resistance conference in Berkeley yesterday. Some tax resistors opt to withhold $10.40 in protest.

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A Berkeley-based group of conscientious war tax resistors awarded $10,000 in grants last night to activist groups that promote peace and social justice.

Northern California War Tax Resistance support citizens who resist paying taxes that are directed toward military funds and instead donate the money to activist groups.

"I'm not opposed to taxes at all," said Berkeley resident Martha Cain. "I just completely disagree with the way in which those taxes are spent."

Tax resistors withhold varying amounts of money ranging from symbolic gestures to entire payments, said organization member Susan Quinlan.

Some tax resisters withhold $10.40, an amount symbolizing the name of the tax form, while others calculate the amount of their taxes that would be directed toward the military.

Thirteen community organizations, including City Slicker Farms, a group in West Oakland that grows fruits and vegetables and distributes them to low-income families, and Food Not Bombs, which will use the funds to replace supplies confiscated by police at the Memorial Stadium tree-sit, received grants this year.

Several of the speakers at the ceremony said they had been participating in varying levels of tax resistance for more than 20 years.

One of the speakers, San Francisco resident David Gross, said he became a war tax resistor in 2003 when the United States first sent troops to Iraq.

"I had a hard time looking at myself in the mirror every morning knowing I was supporting the war with cold hard cash," he said. "I felt not only powerless to stop it, but completely complicit."

Because military funding comes from federal taxes, most war tax resistors still pay state and local taxes, Quinlan said.

Although it is illegal to not pay taxes, Eric Rakowski, a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law, said many people who withhold tax money will not be prosecuted and will simply be pursued by the Internal Revenue Service.

Quinlan said the withholding of taxes can be symbolic, as any amount forces the IRS to pursue a tax resister, creating additional work for the government.

"At the very least, it forces the government to engage with that individual and it's a little harder for them to ignore that person who is against the war," Quinlan said.


Contact Jacqueline Johnston at [email protected]

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