History of War Tax Resistance

Writers and Editors War Tax ad as it appeared in 1968 Ramparts magazine.

“… War tax resistance gained nationwide publicity when Joan Baez announced in 1964 her refusal to pay 60 percent of her 1963 income taxes because of the war in Vietnam. In 1965 the Peacemakers formed the ‘No Tax for War in Vietnam Committee,’ obtaining signers to the pledge ‘I am not going to pay taxes on 1964 income.’ By 1967 about 500 people had signed the pledge. Then several events in the mid- to late-1960s occurred making this a pivotal period for the war resistance movement, signaling a shift in war tax resistance from a couple hundred to eventually tens of thousands of refusers. A committee led by A.J. Muste obtained 370 signatures (including Joan Baez, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, David Dellinger, Dorothy Day, Noam Chomsky, Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, publisher Lyle Stuart, and Staughton Lynd) for an ad in The Washington Post, which proclaimed their intention not to pay all or part of their 1965 income taxes. A suggestion in 1966 to form a mass movement around the refusal to pay the (at that time) 10 percent telephone tax was given an initial boost by Chicago tax resister Karl Meyer. This was followed by War Resisters League developing a national campaign in the late 1960s to encourage refusal to pay the telephone tax. In 1967, Gerald Walker of The New York Times Magazine began the organizing of Writers and Editors War Tax Protest. The 528 writers and editors (including Gloria Steinem and Kirkpatrick Sale) pledged themselves to refuse the 10 percent war surtax (which had just been added to income taxes) and possibly the 23 percent of their income tax allocated for the war. Most daily newspapers refused to sell space for the ad. Only the New York Post (at that time, a liberal newspaper), Ramparts (a popular left-wing anti-war magazine), and the New York Review of Books carried it. Ken Knudson, in a 1965 letter to the Peacemaker, suggested that inflating the W-4 form would stop withholding. Again, Karl Meyer was instrumental in promoting this idea, which was adopted by Peacemakers, Catholic Worker, and War Resisters League, among other organizations in the late 1960s. Inflating W-4 forms also brought a new wave of indictments and jailings by the government — 16 were indicted for claiming too many dependents; of those, six were actually jailed. The number of known income tax resisters grew from 275 in 1966 to an estimated 20,000 in the early 1970s. …”
War Resisters League: Indochina War
NWTRCC: War Tax Resistance History – 1960s
NWTRCC: Library

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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