Simple Living Works!

Waging Peace at Tax Time

Posted on: March 30, 2013


Spirit of Simplicity
4. Peace & Justice

Integrating Voluntary Simple Living into the Life of Peace

You’ve heard it said, “Vote with your dollars” at stores that are Earth-friendly, that do not sell sweatshop goods, etc. Now we can “Vote with our dollars” to help work for Peace.

In addition to working with your local and denominational peace organizations and supporting national groups like Pax Christi and Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), here are some ideas worth pursuing.

1. Former Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich has proposed that a cabinet level Department of Peace be established. To learn more, visit

2. Peace Universities. Let’s encourage our governments to allocate at least as much for teaching peace and conflict resolution as for teaching war, such as establishing departments of peace at universities, funding at least equivalent to military training, such as ROTC.

3. Let’s encourage our governments to establish a Peace Tax Fund, whereby people would have the option of not having their taxes used for making war. To learn more, visit


Some folks are tax resisters, refusing to pay taxes to pay for war. For a copy of the updated classic “War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support for the Military” ($15) from War Resisters League, call 212/228-0450.

If you feel like this but are concerned about the possible legal consequences, here are a couple strategies.

1. Pay a “Voluntary Earth Tax.” Give your money away instead of giving it to the government. Support those human services that the government underfunds so that it can spend more on “defense.”

Whenever we buy something, set aside an appropriate amount to give away.

* For benign things (made of renewables) – pay 50%

* For harmful things (non-renewables) – pay 200%

For example, if your electricity is generated with coal, set aside 200% of your energy bill each month to support your local public schools, your regional Earth fund, a national non-profit or an intentional relief agency. So, if my electric bill is $100, I’ll give away $200 to a tax-deductible fund.

The Earth Tax is a GOOD idea. It respects the tradition of freedom strong in the US but it realizes that we need to pay for the natural capital that we are depleting. Though the Earth Tax currently has NO chance of becoming law, we can still use it as a personal model.

2. Keep your taxable income so low that you pay little or no Federal income tax. For a couple filing jointly that’s $14,000, plus $3000 for each dependent.

Charles Gray’s World Equity Budget in “Toward a Nonviolent Economics” is much lower than that!

Invest in Socially Responsible tax deferred funds – such as IRAs and 401(k)s – with the hope that by the time you can withdraw the money, a truly Earth-friendly administration will be in power. Invest in tax-free bonds, especially municipals and state, not federal.

How can two live on $14,000? Voluntary Simplicity! Make a budget that truly reflects our values and stick to it! One way to start, for a two income family, is to give away enough so that you pay no federal income tax on ONE of the incomes.

For example, if your two incomes are $25,000 and $50,000, decide which you want to pay no tax on. You may start with the lower, since that’s the easier, then later shift the higher. If you file jointly, your combined taxable income would need to be $14,000 to pay no tax. If you can’t reduce it all at once, develop an income reduction schedule over, say, five years.

Yes, that’s a challenge. But think of how much good you’d be doing! Every dollar you give away will go where you want it to go, instead of half of it going to the military (for current operations, past debts and future fantasies).

According to the War Resisters League, almost half of our federal budget each year is for military purposes – 27% for current military and 20% for past military (excluding money for recent wars that have been “off the budget”). For details, visit

Yes, it costs more to give it away than to give it to the government. The system’s designed as a disincentive to do what we’re suggesting. You only get credit for the money you give away based on your tax bracket. If you’re in the higher brackets, a dollar you give away is only “worth” 28% on your taxes. But it’s worth a lot more to people who really need it and appreciate it.

Some folks say, “Give without regard for your own benefit” or “Give without regard for your taxes.” In a perfect world that may be true, but in a world where our government supports corporations that work against the Earth, reducing our taxes is a political statement. Let’s vote with our dollars!

DISCLAIMER: To see HOW (not if) this will work for you, talk to your tax consultant or lawyer. Otherwise, I could get into big trouble for giving tax advice.

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