This site last updated March 30, 2012.
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knowing the effectiveness of our
protest—a personal account

by Robert Hieger

So you've sent in your tax return and withheld your token or larger percentage of war taxes. Now comes the big question—how do you tell the IRS why you're doing it? Even harder, why do you tell them why you're doing it? Are you doing it because you want them to listen? Who's listening? Or are you doing it for yourself in order to vent your frustration at the policies employed in appropriation of the funds?

Maybe you're doing it for all of these reasons. Expression of protest to the IRS might seem superfluous in that it can be likened unto the primordial human of Arthur C. Clark's 2001, shouting incoherently at the impassive monolith—and this despite your best efforts to shape your thoughts coherently. It cannot be denied that the only reason for the existence of the IRS is to collect taxes that you owe. But don't be so sure that the monolith didn't hear.

From my personal experience, I can relate the following story. I started resistance by filing tax returns and enclosing protest letters expressing unequivocally the reasons for my resistance. The only responses I ever got were collection form letters and an occasional phone call from an IRS agent. Later in my resistance, I attempted to make myself less vulnerable to constant communications by not filing returns. Upon being summoned to the IRS, I met with an agent who wanted me to reveal my assets. When she opened my file, I was utterly astonished to see not only records of the summons to which I was responding that day, but an enormous pile of letters dating back to the beginning of my resistance!

The moral of the story is that it is very hard to quantify or qualify the effects of overt expression of protest. I feel very secure in saying that my impassioned statements did very little to change policies of either the IRS or the Pentagon. But I can also say that someone decided to hold on to these dcouments. Thus, someone had to read at least part of these letters. For that one moment—even if it never recurs—an alternative idea is planted in the mind of the reader. Notwithstanding disagreement or conflicting conviction, that reader has been exposed to an alternative view; and no immutable law says that she or he cannot change viewpoints or at least question her or his own status quo. This points to the very real possibility that personal communication can make a difference in the viewpoint of the disinterested or uninitiated.

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