February 1, 2001: Headlines: COS - El Salvador: Speaking Out: Protest: Taxes: NWTRCC: War Tax Resistance -- Part of the Complete Package by El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas

Peace Corps Online: Directory: El Salvador: Special Report: El Salvador RPCV and Political Activist John Kefalas: February 1, 2001: Headlines: COS - El Salvador: Speaking Out: Protest: Taxes: NWTRCC: War Tax Resistance -- Part of the Complete Package by El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas

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War Tax Resistance -- Part of the Complete Package by El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas

War Tax Resistance -- Part of the Complete Package by El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas

War Tax Resistance -- Part of the Complete Package by El Salvador RPCV John Kefalas

War Tax Resistance -- Part of the Complete Package

by John Kefalas

Much of living folly and honestly has to do with making choices rooted in your convictions and aking risks based on how you want to we your life. With war tax resistance, me must ask a fundamental question. low much risk am I willing to accept in my life-long efforts to be as consistent with my values and faith as possible? To his question, there is no simple answer because our circumstances change over time acid our culture imposes a dimension of complexity that is difficult to defy. War tax resistance is part of the complete package for doing justice, showing mercy, causing no harm and being well with others while living softly on the earth. Few of us are a complete package, but that's fine. We can be thankful for who we are and what we do, and most of its work damn hard to improve this world.

l am 46 years old, a father, a husband and a Christian Pacifist. I make my living working for a nonprofit organization, anti my job is to advocate for fair social policies and to help empower people. I'm blessed to have a job that l enjoy, a family that 1 love and a home that gives me shelter, My older son joined the army in 1999, which was hard on me and required much letting go and unconditional love. My younger son is a teenager, and my partner plays piano and teaches for a correspondence school. Currently, my war tax resistance includes refusing to pay the federal excise tax on our phone bills, limiting our tax liability through legal means, and writing letters to the IRS when we submit federal taxes.

I started war tax resistance m 1980 after returning from my Peace Corps assignment in El Salvador about a month before militarists killed Archbishop Oscar Romero. The El Salvador experience transformed me because I glimpsed a different truth-one of staggering violence and poverty, and it became clear that the United States is too often on the wrong side of history. Once I figured this out, there was no turning back.

Since then, I've always refused to pay the telephone excise tax, and during the '80s and part of the '90s, I either paid a portion of my federal income tax (based on calculations for military expenditures) or not paid at all (knowing that when 1 paid half of my federal tax liability, those funds would still go to the U.S. Treasury (or military purposes). I've done W-4 resistance (claiming more exemptions to reduce the payroll deduction), and have always submitted letters explaining; my actions to the IRS. Over the years, there have been interesting encounters with the IRS, not to mention wage garnishments and liens. 1 have done these things and accepted minor hardships from the tax collectors as a matter of conscience. It made moral sense to transfer my tax dollar support from the military-industrial complex to life sustaining programs.

Near the beginning of this journey, my wife and I agreed not to pay our federal income taxes since our beliefs and passions were similar regarding this type of peace witness. We would submit the 1040 with no check far sometimes a check for half the amount) and a letter explaining that we were redirecting the money to organizations chat create rather than destroy. So we either donated the money to worthy causes or placed it in an escrow account. Most years we received certified letters in the marl showing the amount of principle and interest that we owed and demanding payment.

Some years, the IRS got portions of the money by not returning our tax refund, but most of the time we received went after my wages, which they did on and off well into the '90s. Thank goodness for the folks who manage the war tax penalty fund because that fund helped us deal with over $500 in penalties and interest. 1 am also thankful that we avoided the "frivolous" penalty.

One of our encounters occurred one summer afternoon in the mid '80s when we received a personal visit from the tax woman who came to our house alone, which is not normal procedure when they go to collect. She explained that she felt comfortable with us because of the demeanor of our correspondence that espoused nonviolence. Well, sitting around the kitchen table with the warm sun shining through the windows, she tried convincing me to pay up. I responded that in good conscience, I couldn't willingly pay, and so she left with a little more understanding.

About the time George Bush got elected (I mean the other one), 1988, we were in the market for a home, but with a lien against us, the mortgage companies wouldn't grant us a loan. At the time, we owed about $108, and after consulting with a friend who actually worked with the IRS, I decided to pay the money in order to remove the lien and buy a home. It was a painful but smart decision because we could never afford to buy a house now. In the '90s, we continued this relentless back and forth tango with the IRS, but over time my wife lost some of her enthusiasm for this dance, and she indicated that if I wanted to continue, we would have to file separate tax returns. In the spirit of maintaining household harmony, I agreed that we'd pay our federal taxes under protest.

In summary, my resistance is faith based, and I strive to live simply and nonviolently, but because of family responsibilities, I choose not to live in voluntary poverty -- below taxable limits. In the meantime, I contribute where I can, participate as a community activist locally and globally, take time to breathe and smell the flowers, and give thanks to you who continue the good fight of eliminating the military-industrial complex by not paying for it. As for the telephone tax, it is a wonder to me that not all people of goodwill refuse to pay this onerous remnant of the Vietnam War.

John Kefalas is a war tax resister living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

When this story was prepared, this was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

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Story Source: NWTRCC

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - El Salvador; Speaking Out; Protest; Taxes



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