Read Part 1 here.
War resistance via nonpayment of war taxes has a long history. It’s been led by Christian groups, like Mennonites and Quakers, and by secular pacifists.
There are a number of different tactics:
- Earn less than the taxable income
- Refuse to file any federal tax return, despite needing to
- File 1040 form but refuse to pay some amount – either a % that represents the military portion (see pie chart below) or a symbolic figure, like $10.40
- Refuse to pay phone excise tax, which historically has contributed to military spending
These resistance measures have consequences, of course, except for #1. There are some exceptions, but keeping your income below $12,000 (single) or $24,000 (married) will release you from the obligation to even file a return. That’s OK if you don’t earn much and are into extreme minimalism, but $12,000 wouldn’t even cover our mortgage payments.
The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) has a guide that spells out potential pitfalls of various forms of military tax avoidance, including a handy list of war tax resisters taken to court or jailed and a ‘war tax resistance hotline.’
Overall, the NWTRCC takes the position that the IRS is a ‘paper tiger’ that is unlikely to slap you down, but I’d hate to end up paying more over the long haul – through penalties and fees – than I would have otherwise. The extra dough would probably go to an IRS tax lawyer, not the military, but it’s still cash out of pocket.
We’ve covered the what, why, and how, but what about biblical justification? What did Jesus say about nonpayment of taxes for reasons of conscience?
Sometimes I’m frustrated regarding what the bible says about technology issues, but taxes go way back, so there is plenty to work with.
Jesus was clear: Submit to governing authorities and pay the taxes you owe. Evidence:
- Jesus told Pharisees: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” – Mark 12:17 (also Matthew & Luke)
- Jesus personally paid taxes – Matthew 17:24-27
- Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” – Romans 13:5-7
Seems clear cut, but just because God has ordained all authority does not mean all authority should be obeyed. God may have allowed the reign of Hitler, but he couldn’t expect us to support the execution of millions of Jews, right? His appointment of sinful men and women as our leaders may be for our own testing and growth (Deuteronomy 13:3).
Is It OK to Resist What God Has Established?
Sometimes, it is right to resist what God has appointed in order to obey what God has commanded. Ultimately, we answer to God, not man.
So what about tax revenues that are used for efforts that don’t comport with biblical teaching? If we lived in Nazi Germany in 1944, should we have paid taxes to support the war?
Let’s look at Jesus’ time again. Jesus said to pay taxes to Caesar, despite how the Roman Empire had conquered Israel, built temples to Roman gods, and installed Pontius Pilate, who condemned Jesus to die.
We don’t have the right to cherry pick what taxes we are going to pay, based on our righteous convictions. We have a clear conflict of interest (wanting to keep money we earned), and everyone would have a different interpretation of what is justified, or not.
So take advantage of every deduction and legal loophole, then pay everything you owe. We must work within the law to change unjust elements of our current tax system.
At times, Christians must take a courageous stand to obey God by violating the law of the land. But, paying taxes is not one of those times.
What do you think?