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Peace is the way: A letter to the Internal Revenue Service

Acting in Faith  |  By Paul Sheldon, Apr 15, 2013
Paul Sheldon, Lockheed demonstration

Author Paul Sheldon during a Good Friday vigil outside of Lockheed Martin, one of the country's largest war profiteer and nuclear weapons manufacturer.

Photo: AFSC

Note: Today, tax day, Paul Sheldon, a Quaker peace activist, posted on Facebook that he has for several years underpaid his federal income taxes as a witness against war. I invited him to send us the letter he includes when he files his taxes and he sent it to me to be published here. The amount he excludes from his tax check in modest, $25, but he always includes a letter and feels that this witness is a small, but meaningful step, in opposing war. He invites others to join him in this witness, as led. - Lucy

For decades I have refused to pay a modest amount of my federal income taxes because about half of that money goes to paying the costs of war. The human costs are incomparably greater. The IRS may get the money eventually, but I live better knowing that I have not simply co-operated with a violent system that I believe is morally evil. The IRS calls the collection procedure a voluntary system (we are responsible to fill out the forms ourselves; no one holds a gun to our head when we put the check in the mail), and I chose not to volunteer. I include the following letter with my taxes.

April 10, 2013

To the Internal Revenue Service:

I support my country in all its peaceful endeavors, but for reasons of conscience and religious faith I do not support my country in its preparation for war and in war making. I am deeply troubled by the fact that about half of the federal income tax that I owe the government is budgeted for military-related expenditures. My payment of this tax enables my country to buy the tools and manpower to kill my fellow man. I am working for passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill that would enable pacifists to pay their full taxes without paying toward war.

As a Quaker and a pacifist and a parent, I have considered my personal responsibility to God and my country and my family. I am conscientiously unable to support any war, and the current wars are certainly no exception. For these reasons, the enclosed check is $25.00 less than the amount we owe the government, as best I have been able to calculate, on line 76 of our Form 1040. Instead, a check for this amount has been sent to UNICEF for the support of needy children around the world.

Paul and Fran Sheldon

P.S. Phone tax resistance is still alive and well on the local (not inter-state) portion of our phone bill. I resist there also and have redirected more than $1000 without ever being collected on or had phone service interruption (although I've talked to a lot of people at times, and that is perhaps the most important part of the witness).


Through our Wage Peace campaign, AFSC is working to change federal budget priorities, advocating for cuts to the military budget in order to meet human needs both here and abroad. Please subscribe to our Wage Peace email list to get regular updates and action alerts.

About the Author

Paul Sheldon retired from four decades on the faculty in Villanova University's Psychology department, and is currently teaching there as an adjunct. More information about Paul can be found on his website, Peaceful Ways.

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About Friends Relations

Lucy Duncan and Greg Elliott work together and with other AFSC staff to foster strong relationships between AFSC and Quakers.

Lucy is AFSC’s Director of Friends Relations. She has been a storyteller for 20 years and has worked with Quaker meetings on telling stories for racial justice and of spiritual experience. She attends Green Street Friends Meeting (PhYM) and lives with her son and partner in a Quaker cemetery.

Greg is the Friends Relations Associate. He grew attending North Branch Monthly Meeting in the Poconos of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Greg currently lives in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.