Since the federal budget deal was found to encroach on the District’s spending autonomy, local activists and politicos have proposed various forms of protest — most notably getting arrested on Constitution Avenue NE a week ago. For her part, former D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz is threatening not to pay her taxes. From a letter published in today’s Washington Post:
Dramatic action is needed. Taking to the streets and getting arrested is one such action, and it is fine with me. But better still would be taking “no taxation without representation” literally, the way our forefathers and foremothers did. Next year at tax time, if I am still denied my right to vote in Congress, and no real movement is afoot, I am ready to deny the federal government my taxes. I will look at setting aside my taxes in an escrow account. I hope my fellow disenfranchised D.C. residents will join me in this effort.
If Schwartz follows through on her threat, she will join a long tradition of “tax resisters” — not to be confused with “tax protesters,” who refuse to pay federal income taxes because they do not consider them constitutionally valid. Many tax resisters, for instance, refuse to pay to support the American military.
At various points through the years, conservatives in Congress have heard the District’s “taxation without representation” protest and have proposed exempting the city from federal taxation. Those efforts, of course, have gone nowhere. It should be noted: Schwartz, like the members of Congress who floated the tax-exemption proposals, is a Republican.
What risks do tax resisters run? The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2006 that “few tax resisters ever face charges” but “the IRS has cracked down on some offenders.” Even if a resister pays taxes into escrow, as Schwartz suggests, he or she would still be subject to interest and penalties.
District residents paid $16.7 billion in individual income and employment taxes in 2007, according to IRS data.