September 13, 2003
A Considerable Commitment

How far would you go to follow your conscience? Vote? Openly state your beliefs regardless of whom you are talking to? Buy advertising to promote those beliefs? Engage in civil disobedience?

How about cutting your income so low you'd no longer be subject to the federal income tax?

Dave Gross:

When the war in Iraq started, or at any rate when it escalated into a full-blown invasion, I gave notice at work. My intention is to reduce my income below the threshold of taxation so as to stop paying income tax to the U.S. government.

I'm writing this to explain myself to my friends, who will notice a bit of a change of lifestyle in me in the coming months. Also, I write because writing calms my nerves, and I'm a bit nervous about this. I'm starting on an experiment, and I'm not sure where it will take me.


If I ignore my conscience, I'm committing a particularly dangerous form of suicide - choking off the guardian of my free will and leaving behind the sort of dangerous robot who's spent the last hundred years swerving from cradle to grave building gulags and genetically engineering more evil forms of smallpox. Not for me.

Then what of my choice whether or not to pay the federal income tax? The government demands taxes from me and doesn't say I have the option to pay them or not. But it's not that simple. I'm choosing to earn income, knowing that for every dollar I earn, I'm turning over certain of its cents to be spent by the U.S. government.

[snip list of complaints]

With all of that in mind, how can I continue to choose to fund this government when I have the alternative not to? Do I need money so badly that I'm willing to shovel coal into the monster's belly for it?

Turns out, the answer's "no." For me, it isn't worth it.


I've been wrestling with this decision for several months now, with my conscience ganging up with Thoreau to keep me honest with myself. Like most Americans, I support this government and its war - I have only to look at my W-2 form to see how much (box #2, for those of you keeping score at home).

But I am absolutely unable to give any moral support to the U.S. government, and that I have been a source of financial support to that government has been a stone in my shoe. Ultimately I have had to conclude that my lack of moral support doesn't amount to much, that if I am to follow my conscience I have to walk the path between my money and where my mouth is.

I wish Mr. Gross success. I'm far too tangled up with the things I value to drop them as he must. It is a shame he's decided to dilute his experiment slightly by not reporting a small fraction of his income from the underground economy, but he's still largely working within the bounds of the law.

I've often thought what my employer's human resources department might think if I asked them to stop reporting my income to the IRS. I imagine a few seconds of blank wait-for-the-punchline expectance, followed by a "are you serious?" line of questioning. I'd explain that I no longer want to have X-percent of my income taken from me to be spent on a great many things I wish I wasn't funding. There would probably be another bit of silence, followed with a "but it's the law - we have to report it. Besides, what about the needs of the people that money goes to?" And at that point, I'd end the experiment and walk away, unwilling to get into the reasons why I find that response unworthy.

I mean, I'd be on the clock at the time, right? I wouldn't want to waste the time it takes to pay for the government's needs. How selfish of me!

Via No Treason.

UPDATE(12/11/2003 1:34am)
A related post here.

UPDATE(4/15/2004 2:59pm)
It's Income Tax Day. Read it and weep.

Posted by Drizzten at September 13, 2003 10:58 PM

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