War-tax resisters spread message on Tax Day: 'If you don't want war, don't pay for it'
Belfast — Larry Dansinger is a soft-spoken man, but he makes a loud statement to the IRS every year. Dansinger, who coordinates the Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center, refuses to pay his federal income taxes and has not paid them for several years now.
It isn't that he doesn't want to pay taxes, he said. It's that he doesn't want to be an accomplice to what he calls "government killing."
"I actually believe probably more strongly than most people in the concept of taxation," he said. " I would certainly pay my taxes if it didn't have a life-or-death factor involved."
Dansinger, a resident of Monroe, said that he is one of several hundred people in the state who refuse to pay taxes that go toward supporting the war in Iraq. He and other tax resisters passed out fliers April 15 — tax day — in various locations in Maine, including Belfast, Rockland, Bath and Portland.
Some of the fliers contained information provided by the War Resisters League about the amount of tax dollars spent on war efforts. Other fliers provided facts and a how-to guide for those interested in protesting war taxes.
"I understand why a lot of people don't [refuse to pay war taxes]. They have fears of going to jail, even though that's almost impossible," said Dansinger.
According to Peggy Riley, a media relations specialist with the IRS, taxpayers might think they can refuse to pay taxes on religious or moral grounds by invoking the First Amendment, but the IRS considers that argument "frivolous." In many of these cases, the IRS will impose frivolous return penalties.
The IRS has a page on its Web site outlining examples of different kinds of frivolous arguments and cases in which penalties were imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In one such case, the court upheld a $500 frivolous return penalty against a taxpayer who took a "war tax deduction" on his federal income tax return based on his religious convictions. The court stated that the "necessities of revenue collection through a sound tax system raise governmental interests sufficiently compelling to outweigh the free exercise rights of those who find the tax objectionable on bona fide religious grounds."
That hasn't stopped people like Dansinger from continuing to protest war taxes.
Dansinger, along with Jane Sanford and Cathy Mink, members of the Peace and Justice Group of Waldo County, stood at the Belfast Co-Op and the post office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They spoke with passersby and displayed handmade signs that read "If You Don't Want War, Don't Pay For It" and "Bring Our War $$$ Home."
"Maine taxpayers have spent an estimated $2.5 billion since 2001 for war-making," said Dansinger. "The struggling U.S. economy would benefit much more from tax-spending on education, transportation and health-care jobs than from money going to the Pentagon," said Dansinger.
Instead of paying taxes, he said he puts his money towards groups and causes he believes "the federal government is not supporting in any way or that they are supporting very minimally."
"I believe strongly in many of the things my country is doing," said Dansinger, "but I don't believe in everything blindly."
The Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center's efforts coincided with Tea Party Tax Day protests held throughout the state.