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2010-11-22 issue:

$10.40 for peace

Tax resistance campaign launches

by Anna Groff

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What can underpaying $10.40 from a federal income tax return accomplish? A lot, according to John Stoner of "1040 for Peace: Move America Toward Peace."

1040 for Peace
is a symbolic tax resistance campaign. "The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step," he said on Oct. 22.

Through this campaign, Stoner and a core group of five other individuals in Lancaster, Pa., invite other U.S. taxpayers to join them in opposing U.S. military spending when they file their federal income tax returns (Forms 1040) and underpay $10.40 each year.

The movement calls participants to then redirect the $10.40, or a similar amount, to peaceful purposes, for example the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill.

Stoner says the group hears some concern from individuals about the possible penalties and "heavy hand of the IRS coming down."

Stoner's response is threefold. First, "As disciples of Jesus, we shouldn't have so much fear," he says. Second, the past experiences of individuals who have withheld taxes for similar reasons have been minimal. Third, the tax withholder can decide later to pay the full amount.

"The most important thing is to make that statement that calls for democratic conversation about how federal money is spent," Stoner said.

Others say this movement should take more risks and that U.S. war spending remains too large. However, if enough people join, the risks and penalties would increase, Stoner said.

The website offers sample letters for individuals to rewrite and send to the IRS when they withhold the $10.40. One letter written by Harold Penner of Akron, Pa., states: "I am not opposed to paying taxes. I willingly pay that portion of my tax liability that goes toward peace-oriented systems and supports life. But I am a religious conscientious objector to the death and destruction that the military apparatus represents and am compelled as a disciple of Jesus to take this action."

The campaign welcomes leaders to start local chapters.

Shane Claiborne has endorsed the movement and made the following statement on the website, "I'm very excited to be part of 1040 for Peace. Glad to be plotting goodness and stirring up holy mischief with you."

"He's quite committed," said Stoner.

Claiborne will speak at a public meeting at the Lancaster Church of the Brethren at 7 p.m. on Jan. 4. "Another way of Doing Life" will be the subject of his presentation. The meeting is sponsored by the Taxes for Peace Interest Group of the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness and by 1040 for Peace.

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