A Call for Tax Resistance

by David Hartsough, Kit Miller, Michael Nagler, Miki Kashtan, Ruth Benn

Poster art courtesy National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee; nwtrcc.org

Editor’s Preface: The letter reproduced below is a joint appeal from leading nonviolent activists and organizations, urging US taxpayers to nonviolently express their opposition to the policies of the Trump administration by refusing to pay a symbolic amount of their US federal income tax, and instead donate that amount to a deserving charity or institution. This method of nonviolent civil resistance has many historical precedents in the U.S., most notably the Quaker John Woolman’s 18th century statements, which we previously posted. JG

Dear Friends,

We are writing to ask you to do something that you probably have never done in your life. This is a historical moment you can be an active part of shaping.

We all know the stories of people who committed atrocities and said, in their defense, that they were following orders.

Here is a snapshot of current events:

  • A ban on Muslims;
  • A wall along the border we share with Mexico;
  • The dismantling of environmental protections;
  • Billions added to US defense spending and cutting almost everything else.

We know about slippery slopes, about things getting worse not all at once, about the frog that didn’t escape the heating water because it was being heated so gradually. When does what happens cross the line? We know the famous words of Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We signed this letter because we want you to consider joining others this year to take a stand. We can non-cooperate with this government, which is not of, by, and for all the people. As a first step, we can refuse at least a token amount of our taxes to this government.

Specifically, we want to ask you to consider withholding and redirecting a small amount of your taxes. How much? We suggest a symbolic minimum of $10.40 [US income tax form 1040] and a maximum of whatever amount works for you. All of us signing this letter are redirecting some tax money, either for 2016, if we haven’t prepaid all our taxes, or through changing our allowance, or reducing our estimated taxes for 2017. Will you join us?

Anxious? Thousands of people before you have done this. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee has an impressive array of resources to help: written materials, videos, webinars, and one-on-one support in some cases. Reach out to them here. Or talk to friends, and perhaps create a group of people who will support each other with the emotional and material risks involved. We ask that you re-direct these funds to the cause that matters most to you.

If tax resistance is not the right choice for you, consider other ways to pursue civil disobedience and non-cooperation. There is no way this government, or any government, can continue without the funding and cooperation of its citizens.


David Hartsough, Peaceworkers [www.peaceworkersus.org]
Kit Miller, Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence [www.gandhiinstitute.org]
Michael Nagler, Metta Center for Nonviolence [mettacenter.org]
Miki Kashtan, Bay Area Nonviolent Communication [baynvc.org]
Ruth Benn, National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee [nwtrcc.org]

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi