Frida Berrigan
Published: Saturday 21 April 2012
For most Americans, April is a month marked by terrible stress, paper pushing and a last minute mad dash to get the taxes finished before April 15 (or the 17th, this year).

No Fair Share for War Taxes

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I am big fan of the post office in general and of my local post office in particular. I go there as often as I can (honestly, I do). But, when I needed stamps on Monday, I was not prepared for the line snaking out the door. I had completely forgotten about tax day! I girded myself for a long wait, but the clerks were the very picture of efficiency and I was in and out and all stocked up on bonsai stamps in ten minutes.

While I stood in line, I thought about the peculiarity of our tax system. For most Americans, April is a month marked by terrible stress, paper pushing and a last minute mad dash to get the taxes finished before April 15 (or the 17th, this year). People plan and pine and worry and most pay a sizable percentage (16-20 percent even for people of lower income brackets) of their annual income in taxes.

Corporations?  Not so much. The New York Times reported last March that for 2010, General Electric paid no taxes on $5.1 billion in U.S.-based profits. Behemoth Bank of America made $4.4 billion in 2009 and got back a very tidy tax return from the federal government — $2.3 billion. Most Americans are lucky if they can pay off an overdue credit card bill (probably from Bank of America) or treat themselves to a nice dinner out or weekend away with their tax returns. Verizon (can you hear me now?) “earned” $12 billion in 2010. That should mean a sizable tax burden here. But, as of 2011, the company has not paid anything in taxes for two years running. The list goes on.

The corporate tax rate is supposed to be 35 percent. President Barack Obama is proposing lowering that to 28 percent. It kind of doesn’t matter, because it seems like no corporations pay anywhere close to 35 percent in taxes.

Check this out. What is the most patriotic sector of our economy? The military industry, right? Lockheed Martin has the slogan: “We Never Forget Who We’re Working For.” That is totally ungrammatical — although doesn’t “we never forget for whom we work” sound a little snooty?

But they put most of their patriotism in their advertising budget and avoid paying taxes to the country they love. In November 2011, Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy looked at the tax rates of the top 280 companies in the Fortune 500. Here is what they have to say about the military sector, which is reaping billions in profits:

Not only was the 2008-10 effective tax rate on the top 10 defense contractors less than half of the 35 percent official corporate tax rate, but the effective rate fell steadily from 2008 to 2010, from an already paltry 19.3 percent in 2008 to a tiny 10.6 percent by 2010.

Boeing, which manufactures military and civilian aircraft, made $9.7 billion in profits from 2008-2010, but paid a tax rate of minus 1.8 percent in that two year period. I would like the number of their accountant, actually…

All of this brings me back to the post office, which is a regular site of Tax Day protest. For the last few years, I have joined friends from the New York City chapter of the War Resisters League for a demonstration in front of IRS headquarters near Times Square, and then a march — led by the energetic rhythms of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra — to the main post office near Penn Station.

They say that fewer people go to the post office to file their taxes now that Turbo Tax and other e-filing businesses are so user friendly, but it is still a madhouse in my opinion. Crowds of stressed out, last minute tax filers; people dressed up like Red Bulls giving out free samples of energy drinks; shillers for various causes and perspectives (liquidate the Fed, Join the Tea Party, etc.), the Granny with their large flowered hats and complicated political lyrics, and news cameras all crowd the steps of the post office. It feels like a happening.

The War Resisters League and the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee have a few simple slogans for tax day: “Don’t Pay for War,” “Boycott War Taxes: Withhold from War, Pay for Peace.”

No one (except for maybe Warren Buffett) likes paying their taxes and Tax Day is a great day to encourage people to think about how much of the money they fork over to the Internal Revenue Service ends up at the Pentagon. By WRL’s figuring (which includes the portion of the federal debt that comes from past war-making) 47 cents of every tax dollar goes to military. War tax resisters hand out information and call on passersby to consider the skewered nature of our national priorities: cuts to education and social services, more nuclear weapons research and development funding. They make the argument that being against war and violence requires withholding one’s own financial support from that war and violence. It is a perspective a lot of people are open to, but even though there are lots of resources on “how to” resist paying war taxes, a relatively small number of people are outspoken war tax resisters.

This year, war tax resisters were joined by the Tax Dodgers and the Corporate Loopholers and union members, all protesting these unfair tax policies that have working class American paying a higher percentage of their income to the IRS than multi-billion companies like Boeing, Bank of America and General Electric.

“It’s time for the big banks and corporations to pay their share of taxes like the rest of us do. The Flatbush community cannot afford any more cuts to the services we rely on in order to line the pockets of the 1 percent. We’re not going to take it anymore. Today we’re fighting back,” Leroy Johnson, New York Communities for Change chairperson for Flatbush told The Nation magazine.

The connections are there. IranPledge.Org and other groups are putting the pieces together with a succinct flyer that connect unfair corporate tax policy and the need for war resistance. The kids of BAY (Bay Area Youth) Peace in Oakland have a great rap: “People, people, people, can’t you see? They kill around the world with tax money. Steal it from the workers, how their money’s made. I guess that’s why we’re broke and they’re still paid … they tax us more and more. The rich, they greedy. No money for health or to educate. I guess that’s why we’re broke and they’re still paid.” (I think I got that right).

The coming together of ardent pacifists, anarchist drummers, and union organizers seemed fairly seamless and friendly on the streets of New York this week (and it was completely outnumbered by the police presence). But it was not without conflict: One woman handed out a flyer calling for fairness in our tax policies. Another woman countered: “but no taxes for war.”

“I don’t care about war,” the flyer-ing woman responded. What? It is hard not to care about war when it is one of the reasons our economy is flapping and gasping like a fish out of water.

That one grumpy person aside, there is a real opportunity to channel the frustration, outrage and really creative organizing against disparities in our tax policies into principled nonviolent resistance — including tax resistance — this election year. The question is how.



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ABOUT Frida Berrigan

Frida Berrigan serves on the Board of the War Resisters League and is a columnist for Waging Nonviolence.

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3 comments on "No Fair Share for War Taxes"

Jeffrey Hill

April 21, 2012 5:36pm

Corporations and filthy rich individuals only want a negative tax rate so they wouldn't have to go to the trouble of having to hide their wealth in offshore tax evasion havens like Switzerland, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, etc. and having to bribe Congresspeople to rig the tax system in their favor. It's only fair (from their point of view).**

**There's a sickness to these GREEDY bastards -- they will NEVER be satisfied; even if they had possession of everything, it would NOT be enough!!

Theodore Ziolkowski

April 21, 2012 12:41pm

Income Tax Reform.

Will Rogers said: “The difference between Death and Taxes is Death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.”

Thomas Paine urged that everything "beyond what a man's own hands produce" was a gift that came to him simply by living in society, and, hence, "he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came."

The Entire Income Tax Code MUST be Repealed and Replaced. By the elimination of ALL the EXCEPTIONS, EXEMPTIONS, and DEDUCTIONS and by making every source of Income [Wages, Bonuses, Benefits, Interest Earnings, Capital Gains, and any other earnings or Gains] be subject to the same Tax Code and Rate no matter How it was earned, Where it was earned, or What it was earned from.

If Congress wants to provide an incentive to Corporations, Companies, Institutions or Organizations, Congress can do so by creating a Tax Credit with specified amounts and time limits.

HERE is an Income Tax Code that is based upon the ability to pay. Just like everything else in life. PLEASE note that the implementation of this Tax Code would significantly reduce the size of the IRS, reduce the amount of time to prepare your Taxes, and sorry to say it, but it gets rid of the need for Tax Preparation Companies.

The official numbers don’t tell the full story. The situation of the poor is actually considerably worse than the Government reports. The official poverty line is calculated as simply three times the minimal food budget first introduced in 1959, and then adjusted for inflation in food costs. In other words, the American poverty threshold takes no account of the cost of housing or fuel or transportation or health-care costs, all of which are rising more rapidly than the cost of basic foods. So the poverty measure grossly understates the real cost of subsistence.

Existing Poverty Income Taxes:
Income earned from $.01 to $13,537.00 for a family of one would pay Zero Tax Rate.

Income earned from $.01 to $23,689.00 for a family of two would be Zero Tax Rate.

Income earned from $.01 to $30,478.00 for a family of three would be Zero Tax Rate.

Income earned from $.01 to $37,267.00 for a family of four would be Zero Tax Rate.

Income earned from $.01 to $44,056.00 for a family of five would be Zero Tax Rate.

Income earned from $.01 to $50,845.00 for a family of six would be Zero Tax Rate.

Income earned from $.01 to $57,634.00 for a family of seven would be Zero Tax Rate.

Income earned from $.01 to $64,423.00 for a family of eight would be Zero Tax rate.

For those who are not in the Poverty Income Level the Tax Rates would be as follows:
Income earned from $13,537.00 to $100,000.00 would pay a 20.0% Tax Rate. PLUS.

Income earned from $100,000.01 to $500,000.00 would pay 25.0% Tax Rate. PLUS.

Income earned from $500,000.01 to $1,000,000.00 would pay 30.0% Tax Rate. PLUS.

Income earned from $1,000,000.01 to $50,000,000.00 would pay 35.0% Tax Rate. PLUS.

Income earned from $50,000,000.01 to $1,000,000,000.00 would pay 40.0% Tax Rate. PLUS.

Income earned from $1,000,000,000.01 and up would pay 45.0% Tax Rate.

I would also create a Financial Transaction Fee of $ .50 on all Financial Transactions, to generate from $2 to $3 Trillion in Revenue to “Reduce the Deficit and to Invest in our future, our Infrastructure and our middle class.”

U.S. Corporate Income Taxes that were actually paid (the effective rate) fell to a 40 year low of 12.1 percent in fiscal year 2011, despite corporate profits rebounding to their Pre-Great Recession heights. The United States of America, both taxes its Corporations less and raises less in revenue from corporate taxes than its foreign competitors.

Corporate Tax Rate Would pay 20.0% Income Tax Rate with NO Exceptions, No Exemptions and the NO Deductions. Or they can pay the same Tax Rates as an Individual seeing as the Supreme Court has ruled they have the same Right to Freedom of Speech, therefore they should have the same Right to pay the same Income Tax Rates. Corporations should not make Business decisions based upon the Income Tax Loop-Holes, they should be based on what is the best thing for the Corporation, Employees and the Investors. The top 500 Corporations and Companies within the Fortune 500 Pay No Taxes at all today. This would ensure that all Corporations, Companies, Institutions or for Profit Organizations that earned a Profit would PAY TAXES.

BozoAdult

April 21, 2012 3:16pm

I am in favor of adopting your plan.

Too bad we can't enact any new taxes because of the Grover Norquist pledge.

Funny how social security has a dedicated funding mechanism that is in surplus yet it is "going broke" while the military has no dedicated funding mechanism yet it never runs out of money.