Action Trumps Hate: Do we really have to pay taxes?


This week I want to talk about just one thing: Taxes. They’re due two weeks from Tuesday on April 18 (here’s the story behind the unusual date). As self-employed person, writing out a big check to the government is never my favorite moment in April, but this year I’m particularly dreading it.

In general, I’m pro tax. I say that as someone who has to save for and write five-figure checks each year. I really feel those dollars, way more than back in my W-2 days. But I’m happy to pay for libraries and public transportation and grants for the arts, even for art I don’t like or understand. I want teachers to get paid more and I want health care for all. Hell, I want six months of leave for new parents and all the social “entitlements.” I want to live in a society that believes that government can and should create a solid structure in which humans flourish.

This year though, how do I square my contribution to the salary of our president? A president who vowed not to take said salary, but seems to be doing just that. Whose personal choices–to travel to Mar-a-Lago, to have his family stay in New York City–are costing us millions of dollars that could go to so many other things.  A human being who said during the debates that not paying taxes makes him smart. To think that I would fund any part of Trump’s blatantly stupid, racist wall along the Mexican border turns my stomach.

There’s a long American tradition of becoming a tax resister in the face of an unjust government, starting with the Boston Tea Party, through to Henry David Thoreau, and on to Gore Vidal, Joan Baez and Gloria Steinem during the Vietnam War. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee organized thousands of Americans to withhold a percentage of their taxes in opposition to Vietnam. A similar 2017 movement has started, urging anyone who objects to Trump’s leadership, and refusal to release his own returns, to withhold $100 of their tax bill for 100 days.

You can tailor your action to your beliefs. In January, Gloria Steinem told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, “It they defund Planned Parenthood and defund NPR, we can take that money out of our income tax, put a note with our return saying, ‘Sorry, I’ve sent it where it should go. Come and get me.'” Calculate your own “orange tax” and withhold it from what you owe, and send the IRS a protest letter explaining your stance.

There are consequences to not paying what you owe, though. Tax Strike has a careful outline, and the bottom line is that it’s a penalty and interest on what you owe, though you should read their FAQs if you’re considering taking action in this way.

For a protest that won’t involve a penalty from the IRS, there’s also the Tax March on April 15, which is not about your taxes or mine, but about our president’s. More precisely, his refusal to release his tax returns, so that his surely multitudinous conflicts of interest can be addressed with anything approaching clarity. The main march is taking place in Washington D.C., with dozens of smaller marches around the country. The vast majority of Americans want Trump to release his tax returns and it’s our duty to show up, speak up and let him know that we’re not letting it go.

And, we should all read up on another big money matter, the federal budget, what our taxes are funding. This is the next big item on Trump’s agenda and the next big fight that we’ll need to call our representatives about. I strongly urge you to read this outline of the process and how to engage with it from Indivisible. It’s so clear and helpful and really lays out why we need to be calling and voicing our support for the National Endowment for the Arts, for schools, for whatever matters to you where you live. This is a good one, because you can and should be positive, by talking to your representatives about programs you support. You should also be clear, in a separate call,  that you do not want the border wall written into the budget.

One last thing, don’t pay for TurboTax this year. Or H&R Block. You’ve got time. This Vox story outlines how in most other countries taxes are calculated by the government, no form filling and filing invilved–they get a copy of all the same forms you do–and that for the vast majority of tax payers this saves time and money and potential headaches and errors. Intuit, the company that owns TurboTax and H&R Block have sunk millions in lobbying and influence peddling into derailing any such efforts in the U.S. All they want is your money. Don’t give it to them.

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