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Peace Tax Escrow Account

I believe that there were some upright hearted men who paid such taxes, yet could not see that their example was a sufficient reason for me to do so, while I believe that the spirit of truth required of me, as an individual, to suffer patiently the distress of goods, rather than pay actively. Some of our members...if they see their brethren united in the payment of such a tax to carry on the said wars, may think their case not much different, and so might quench the tender movings of the Holy Spirit in their minds. Thus, by small degrees, we might approach so near to fighting that the distinction would be little else than the name of a peaceable people.

John Woolman, 1757

The Peace Tax Escrow Account is under the care of Purchase Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, a group of eight monthly meetings in Westchester County, New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut. An oversight committee administers the account.

Read the story of Grace Montgomery, who used our account in support of her witness.

What does escrow mean? An escrow account is usually formed to hold funds while a negotiation is in process. In this case it allows taxpayers to make clear they wish to pay lawful taxes for peaceful purposes, but believe the government has a duty to provide for conscientious objection to war, and to provide an administrative method which would respect this.

Who are the depositors? They are persons who are conscientiously opposed to participating in war through the payment of taxes.

How is the interest used? The interest will be donated for life-affirming purposes as decided by a regular Meeting for Business of Purchase Quarter. Neither the Meeting, nor the depositor benefits from the interest. Administrative expenses are assumed by Purchase Quarter.

What happens if the IRS levies the taxes from other assets of the depositor? The depositor notifies the Treasurer of the account that the IRS has levied the money, thereby not honoring the escrow negotiation, and the amount deposited is returned up to the amount levied.

How does a depositor join the account? Friends write to the Clerk of the oversight committee for a copy of the formal contract, and send a signed contact along with a check for the taxes or portion of taxes that the depositor wishes to place in escrow to the treasurer of the account.

Can the depositor ask for return of the funds when in financial need? No, the funds are only returned if the IRS levies them from other assets. They are considered to be taxes paid on time and in good faith, even though this is not recognized by the government.

What happens if the government passes the Peace Tax Fund Bill or agrees to use the money for life-affirming. purposes? The taxes then, with the approval of the depositor, can be released to the government.

Are there penalties for the use of the escrow account? At this time, the government does not recognize this form of “civil obedience” and usually levies the amount withheld and imposes statutory penalties and interest on the “unpaid tax.” Depositors who are Quakers are advised to notify their Meeting of this distraint of goods so that it can be recorded by their Meeting as suffering for conscience sake. Spiritual and legal counseling is available and advised.

Further information is available from Deborah Wood, clerk of the Oversight Committee, or Naomi Paz Greenberg, the treasurer, or from Glen Johnson.

You may also wish to visit the Web sites of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund or Conscience and Peace Tax International.

This page was last reviewed on 18 February 2010.