Conversations with the
Here is a transcript, in sequence, of three conversations
I had with Thomas C. Rose of the Internal Revenue Service
that took place after he dropped a small notice through
my door slot on the afternoon of March 11, 1991. The notice
simply requested that I contact him.
This is the only occasion on which I received any direct,
personal contact from the I.R.S. after thirteen years of
nonfiling and nonpayment of income taxes. Refusal to pay
Federal taxes is my chosen form of war tax resistance as
When I saw the notice, I anticipated that it was not in
connection with my income taxes, but instead had something
to do with my Federal phone tax resistance of eight months.
This seemed logical, since I'd recently discussed the war
tax levied on long distance usage with a service representative
at Pacific Bell telephone company (who, surprisingly called
to confirm receipt of my phone tax refusal letters).
I understood, however, the possibility that the I.R.S. had
finally caught up with my years of income tax noncooperation.
Since 1977, my first year as an adult member of the work
force, I have not paid any Federal income taxes, nor have
I had anything withheld. I've declared myself EXEMPT on
my w-4 forms any year I was employed by a company, an option
available if you believe you will not owe any taxes in the
current year and did not owe any the previous year, as I
It appears I am what they call "uncollectible," even by
liens and levies, as I have little money, no car or house
and nothing else of value to them. [Whether for this reason
or some other which I can't guess, I never did hear from
the I.R.S. again, after this 1991 contact.]
One last note: just before these conversations, I saw an
article in the paper about the I.R.S. cutting costs by going
after medium and low income people, since poorer folks rarely
hire a lawyer and fight for a better deal the way rich folks
1st phone conversation
March 12, 1991
Good morning. Internal Revenue. Doris Speaking
Yes, hello. May I speak with Thomas Rose, please?
Hello. Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Rose speaking.
Hello Mr. Rose. My name is Joel Pomerantz. I received a
note through my door saying that I ought to call you. So,
I'm calling to inquire what it's about.
Well, you've been selected, among many others in the Bay
Area, for a program that we have, called Taxpayer Compliance
Measurement Program. And I need to do an interview with
you. And also, do you have any unfiled returns?
Can I ask how the selection process was done?
Computer, through Martinsburg, Virginia. And it probably
looks at income sources, globally—I'm not sure.
Okay. So, is this a new program?
It's been a program that's been ongoing in several phases
for several years. But, it's a new one for my particular
Oh, I see. So...
But I need to schedule an appointment with you. To see you.
Okay. Is it a voluntary program?
Your responses are voluntary, but, no, it's not terribly
voluntary. You can refuse to answer any questions, or give
me any information.
So, are you expecting a telephone interview?
This would be in person, sir.
At my residence, or—?
It could be at your residence, or you could come in the
office. Either way.
Oh, I see. And what time period are we talking about?
I'd like to do it in the next week or so. It's not a heavy
interview, as far as that goes. It probably takes about
Okay. And what use will the information be put to?
Probably, well, I can only surmise, but we have a (long
pause) kind of like a grading score of potential inquiries
for taxpayers. We show that—where you had income and you
didn't file the next year. And it could be you didn't have
income then. Are you a student?
Not at the moment, no.
Well, it might've been because you were a student at that
Do you off-hand know what year that was?
I can look. Can I verify your Social Security Number, sir?
Uh, fine, yeah.
Uh, could you give me it?
Oh, you don't have it on file?
Yes, I have it. You don't have it memorized?
Oh, I don't have it memorized, no.
Yeah, okay. But you do live at 2128 Hayes Street—is that
Alright. I just want to be sure I'm dealing with the right
I don't doubt it. And 19—we show you had about 12,000 dollars
income, let's see what year this is... 1988. They're wages.
Did you file a tax return that year?
Mmm, I think I know what happened that year. I didn't,
Okay, I'll need to secure a return, if one is due. And I
can assist you with that, as far as that goes.
Okay. As far as you're aware, is there any distinguishing
factor in the people who were picked for this program?
No, overall? I don't think so. They're all various factors.
Some are on Social Security Administration income. The only
distinguishing factor, if there is one, is, it's modest
amounts of income. And then probably, where taxpayers, if
you're a student in that year or something.
(pause) Okay. I'd like to give you a call to set up an
appointment a little later.
Uh, could I have your phone number, sir?
Well, I'm really hard to reach and I'd rather not give it
to you at this point, so I'll set up an appointment with
you, but I'd like to get my schedule figured out somewhat.
Well, can we make a tentative appointment? (sounding very
hopeful) I can see you at your place.
Well, I'd rather make a tentative appointment when I call
back. Are you in nine to three every day?
No, I'm not. I'm in the field many days.
Okay, well, in the next three days, which are good days
to reach you at the office?
Well, reach me before ten o'clock in the office on any of
Okay, that makes it easy.
Alright. I will need to see you though.
I understand that. Okay. Thanks for speaking with me.
Okay, Mr. Pomerantz. Thank you.
March 13, 1991
Good morning. Internal Revenue.
Yes. Is Mr. Rose available now?
Okay, one moment. Let me transfer it.
Good morning. Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Rose speaking.
Yes. Hello. This is Joel Pomerantz and I spoke with you
yesterday, and I wanted to set up a time for getting together
Ah! Thank you for calling, Mr. Pomerantz. Sure. What day
would be convenient for you?
Is Tuesday a possibility, in the afternoon?
Actually, I'm flexible as to time.
How about three?
Okay. Room 3209? (reading from his calling card)
I could see you at your place, if you want.
That's okay, I'll come by there.
Okay. Then, room 3209. In the Federal Building, 450 Golden
At three p.m.
Yes. If you have information so that we can file 1988 taxes,
like w-2's and so on, I can prepare them with you at the
Okay. Well, I'll bring what I think is necessary there.
Okay. Have you filed 1989?
No, I haven't filed 1989.
Will you owe a tax return, sir?
That's a matter of opinion, I suppose, but uh—
Well, no it's not... (slight chuckle) We don't call it a
matter of opinion. It's a matter of whether or not you have
enough income to file.
Yeah, well, I would gladly speak with you about that one
also, on Tuesday afternoon.
Okay, fine then. Three p.m. on the nineteenth.
Thank you Mr. Pomerantz.
In-person interview at the I.R.S.
(It is hard for me to describe how slow and deliberate this
conversation was—on both sides. I transcribed almost at
the pace of the conversation, even with my hunt & peck typing
Mr. Rose, revenue officer.
Hello. How're you doing today?
Pretty good. We can sit in here. Any chair. Sure that's
fine. Did you get caught in the rain?
No, I managed to stay inside during the few showers.
(We get comfortable. I pull out a 1040 form that's cut into
a square and begin to fold it, slowly. Mr. Rose pretends
not to notice.)
This is your taxpayer bill of rights (hands me pamphlets)
and you can look that over. If you have any questions about
it, I can answer them. I'm in Collections. Revenue officer.
Collections Enforcement. When you're dealing with the Collection
Department, it shouldn't be overthreatening. You're dealing
with tax returns and taxes. That's basic rights to counsel
(indicates pamphlet) and rights to privacy and other things
in general. We even have them in different languages.
I only speak one language.
We have it in Spanish and all kinds of languages. What this
is about: You've been selected for a Taxpayer Compliance
Measurement Program. I have a few questions I'd like to
ask you. I'm verifying some information: Date of birth and
so on. But primarily you're selected—you asked why you're
selected. I think because we didn't see a 1988 tax return
and we show 1987—I think—as one being filed. (pause, looking
over the file in his hands, checking each year. Looks befuddled.)
No tax return has been received under your tax return number.
(pause, obviously awaiting my comments) So we're asking,
where are the returns, did you have to file, and so on.
(pause) I see.
1987 we don't show you having any income. (pause) Could've
been you were in school or something. (pause) 1988 we show
you did have some income. (pause) Almost 12,000 dollars.
(pause) Primarily from Media Alliance. (pause) Ninety three
hundred dollars and (pause) direct sales (pause) Original
San Francisco. (pause) That's 1988. (pause) Have you filed
your returns? (pause) 1988 or 1989 or—
(pause) No, I haven't.
Is there a reason?
Yes, there's a reason. I'd be happy to share the reason
with you, too. I don't feel able to file the returns because
I don't feel right about participating in the collection
process. I believe the situation with the federal government's
budget: spending more than half the money on what I consider
to be extremely violent activities—the military and so
on—I cannot participate. And it's very hard for me, because
I would like to participate in society in as many ways as
I can. But I can't participate in that way because the whole
picture is that it's used for killing and wars and things
that I just cannot support in any way.
What you're saying is you protest your taxes by not filing
and by not paying. Is that correct?
Right, I can't in good conscience, turn over money for
those purposes to anyone. If an individual came knocking
at my door asking me for money to buy guns I couldn't give
it to them. And if an institution, such as the government
or anyone else came, for the same reason I couldn't give
it to them.
(pause) Well, under our system, it's not an option. If you
have earnings in the United States and you're a citizen,
you're obligated to pay taxes. Also one of your obligations
is to vote and to try to change the system. But it's not
an option to nonpay taxes for government services, or any
other reason. If you refuse to file, we can file taxes for
you. Make an assessment. And go through the collection process
of garnishing wages. Doing it the hard way.
So you would be filling out the return instead of me?
We have the power under Federal Revenue Code section 61
B to file the return for you and to collect from you. That's
not a preferable way of doing it, but we can do that. And
that's basically what I have to say about that. As far as
the use of the money, as I say, if you have a protest over
the use of the money and the dollars that go in, y'know,
your right to go to your congressmen, your senators, your
representatives, to basically, peacefully protest the uses
of the money. I don't like a lot of the uses of the money
I appreciate that I have the right to vote and so on.
And I appreciate that I'm being asked to fill out my tax
form. I feel, each day—especially over the last few months
[during the Persian Gulf war]—I feel stronger and stronger
convictions that I don't want to be a participant in this
process: Toppling so many governments, interfering in the
affairs of so many people around the world, as well as not
actually providing here at home what should be, I think,
the essential purposes of government. In that sense, I just
don't feel that I can participate in any way. My sense is
that I would like very much to be able to contribute to
society, and I do feel that I contribute. Voting is something
I do to a certain extent but I don't think that there are
very many choices available. At some point I have to say
this is my limit, this is what I'm able to do. So this is
what I'm saying: My limit is that I can participate as a
member of society and try to advance the health and security
of the people in my community as well as the whole in ways
that I think are nonviolent. But when it comes to participating
in the more violent side of it, I have real qualms about
it. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't sleep at night if
I were to know that some of my money—that I worked for—were
to go to that.
As I say, the official position is that you owe taxes and
that you need to file. And if you don't file a return, we'd
file for you.
What's the procedure there? Would you personally fill
out the return?
I refer it for further enforcement and examination [with]
the income information that I have from here, and we fill
out a return for you. You'll get an assessment in the mail,
and when you're given due notice... We can go through some
of those things.
Yeah, it'd be real useful for me to know what I'm up
This is yours to keep.
(We go over over the steps outlined in the brochure.)
Do you have this situation come up on occasion?
I'm not aware of how many people feel the way I do about
Oh, many do. (pause) Like I say, this is not—You owe taxes
on any income that you earned in the United States. And
it's not an option under the Internal Revenue code, and
it's under the [Constitutional] Amendment to collect income
tax. To me—We can go around and around on this—but it's
my opinion, the way you change things is you change your
I wish I had more faith in that system. I really do.
Well, it's the only system we have. In any case, you can
look at all the pamphlets we have. We have many others.
I don't suppose you would have any specifically addressing
On tax protest?
(He slowly peruses the pamphlets he just gave me, to no
I've been working with Japanese students on and off.
And in Japan there's a tradition of rituals and prayers
for peace. One of the things they do for peace is they fold
Yeah, they're very nice. (said sincerely)
And that's what I'm doing right here. (pause) And I have
to brag that I managed to come out with the '1040' on the
(He laughs in a friendly way.)
If you feel so inclined, you may have this for your collection.
(He takes the crane. Changing the subject, he goes back
to the pamphlet and tightens his expression.) I was looking
to see if it had anything about, uh...
I'll read it through to see if I can understand it. That's
one thing I hope to do is understand how the system works
so that I can try better to be a responsible member of society
within the limitations of my conscience. I can't picture
a way—unless the United States actively denounces the use
of force and violence as so called 'solutions' to problems—I
can't think of a way that I would want to, or be able to,
participate in the collection system.
Anyway, What could happen is: We have the right to ask for
or to gather information on your taxes, and if you refuse
to file, we have the power under Internal Revenue code,
given us by congress, to file for you. Once a return is
filed, you'll get notices in the mail. And if you pay the
assessment, then there's nothing further done about it.
If you don't pay, then it'll go into Enforced Collection.
Levies may be filed. 'Garnished wages,' we call it. Liens
may be filed with the County Recorder, which would hurt
your credit. It's not without consequences.
Well, it's not without consequences for me to pay, either.
All I'm saying is, we get into it as an unwilling creditor,
you as an unwilling debtor. And it's not nice; It's just
Well, I appreciate that you're explaining the process
and the options to me but I cannot participate. I've already
decided that. This is one example of what I'm talking about.
(I pull out and show him War Resisters' League leaflet:
"Where Your Tax Money Really Goes") I've looked at this,
and over 52% of the taxes go to the military. Not to mention
the portion that goes to other reprehensible things, but
just the side of the military. This is the way the current
pie is divided up. 29% is current military—and I'm sure
it's much higher with the war having taken quite a bit of
money. And 23% is past military, including paying for all
the national debts incurred from the military. That makes
over half of the 1991 fiscal budget.
So is there any point in our continuing with these questions?
(indicating interview questionnaire)
You can ask me the questions, if you like, but I don't
expect I'm inclined to answer, since that's part of the
collection process I can't participate in.
Well, then the interview is over. (said in a somewhat blustery
(We stand up)
Thanks for coming in to the office.
Thank you for spending the time to explain this all to
And thanks for the crane. (takes it from the table)
Here. You might want to take this, too... (I pick
up War Resisters' leaflet. He looks doubtful.) ...in
case there are questions about why I feel the way I do.
(He acquiesces and takes it, we leave.)
Barring a paperwork snafu, or a decision to treat me as
an especially volatile case (which I doubt), I expected
that the sequence of assessments, billings, notices and
certified final warnings would end in liens and levies
against me. I am determined that attempts by the I.R.S.,
should they occur, will be unsuccessful. They have the
right to take valuable property from me. I have nothing
of value to them.
On extremely rare occasions, war tax resisters have been
jailed for brief periods, mostly as harassment. I don't
expect this, but would have to choose this over complicity
in the State's violent destruction of its chosen enemies.
My understanding, from reading about and talking with
other resisters, is that the long term result of this
may be eventual abandonment of the collection process.
In other words, they'll probably give up, since I am not
anyone important, worth demonizing, and have no assets.
If it is true, as I say at the top of this interview,
that I am being targeted as part of an attempt to get
the "easier" low income folks to pay up, then
I am less likely to be subjected to long term harassment,
since I'm resisting.
While it is tempting to dwell incessantly on practical
details and strategies of tax resistance, the fact remains
that there's no easy way. The only things that make resistance
easier are firm convictions and regular contact with others
who share those convictions. After all, I justify my actions
on moral grounds, not practical or legalistic grounds,
usually reserved for right-wing resisters (for example,
the issue of a treasury based on a gold standard that
no longer exists).
I feel fortunate that I was approached by such a personable
I.R.S. agent. At first, I worried that the I.R.S. bureaucrat
assigned to me would try to isolate and admonish me. Once
I realized that even enforcement officers are human beings,
I stopped being so nervous. The result, I feel, was a