Iraq Pledge of Resistance

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

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The Risk of Telephone
War Tax Resistance

Refusing to pay the federal excise tax on your phone bill is an act of civil disobedience. It is an act of noncooperation with authorities in the tradition of nonviolent activists such as Henry David Thoreau, who refused to pay taxes for the Mexican War; Gandhi’s Indian “Salt Marchers,” who refused to purchase British-produced and mandated salt; and the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who refused to pay their federal phone tax during the Vietnam War.
The risks of this particular act of civil disobedience are minimal, primarily because the individual tax amounts involved are small.

• You may receive letters or “bills” from the IRS for the small amounts due, which will include interest and penalties added to the original amount you resisted.
• The IRS has the power to pursue collection, but because the amounts are small, the efforts to collect the tax are much more expensive than the lost revenue itself. In recent decades the IRS has not pursued collection for small amounts due.
• Even if the IRS does collect, the amounts -- even with interest and penalties -- are too small to hurt anyone economically.
• No one has ever spent any time in jail for phone tax resistance. You are likely to spend more time “educating” phone company employees about your resistance than in dealing with the IRS (see next section below).
• It is possible as the campaign grows that the government and IRS will decide to take stronger actions than phone tax resisters have experienced in recent decades.
• You will feel good about taking this small step to cut off the money for war.

Risks of Going Public

Perhaps the greatest risk in joining this campaign of nonviolent phone tax resistance comes from publicly announcing your opposition to current U.S. policies, and your intention to act on that conviction. The Hang Up On War! campaign will never sell, trade, or otherwise give your name and information to any organization, company or government agency for any reason, but in these days of the “Patriot Act” and other incursions into our civil liberties, it is certainly possible that officials of the current Administration will monitor this site.
Surveillance and related intimidation techniques have often been used against those who struggle most valiantly against injustice. And while the possibility in this instance cannot be dismissed, we still strongly and unequivocally encourage everyone who is opposed to the violent and dangerous policies of “pre-emptive war” and an endless war on terrorism to join us in this nationally coordinated act of resistance and noncooperation. The method of nonviolence pioneered by Gandhi, King and others teaches us that we make our greatest strides toward social change and freedom when we are willing to take personal risks and make sacrifices, however small they might be at first. We hope that your experience with Hang Up On War! will empower you to increase your own involvement with nonviolence and nonviolent resistance, what Gandhi called his “experiments with truth.”

Will My Phone Service Be Disconnected?

Generally, your phone company cannot legally disconnect your phone service for nonpayment of the tax. IRS regulations (Code of Federal Regulations, sect. 49.4291-1, title 26; 1996) clearly state that the phone company is supposed to collect the tax, but has no power to enforce collection. Their role is only to report the resister to the IRS. In the past the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that AT&T (holding a long distance monopoly at the time) could not cut off phone service to federal tax resisters.
However, because there are so many new companies, some may not yet be fully aware of their responsibilities, and you may need to explain to the phone company representative you speak with that the company should credit your bill each month and report the refused amount to the IRS. If the amount continues to add up over a number of months, be sure to call the company and ask for it to be credited (ask for a supervisor if the first person you speak with is not helpful). Resisters have had mixed results with cell phone companies, but there have been successes in refusing the federal excise tax. Consider the time you deal with the phone company all part of the resistance effort!
Some companies have established special billing accommodations for war tax resisters and will provide you with a form (others may send you forms for a “tax exempt” status, which are inappropriate in the case of war tax resistance).
Contact one of the organizations listed on this website if you need help or if your company is threatening to cut off your phone service.