A group of peace activists is calling on Harvard students and Faculty to risk imprisonment and fines by not paying the Federal excise tax on long distance telephone calls in protest against the Indochina war.
Calling itself TaxPax, the group is circulating a petition which urges members of the Harvard community to refuse to pay the tax, which the group calls "born in war, and regressive in effect."
The Harvard Indochina Teach-in Committee is also endorsing the tax strike, and two Faculty members-Everett I. Mendelsohn, professor of the History of Science, and Herbert C. Kelman, Richard Clarke Cabot professor of Social Ethics-will be circulating similar petitions among the Faculty.
"This tax on phone calls raises money directly for the war." James Henry '72, one of the organizers of TaxPax, said Tuesday. "It was raised from three to ten per cent in 1966 at the peak of the escalation of the war, and even Mills [Congressman Wilbur B. Mills (D-Ark.), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee] has said that the money is for the war."
TaxPax organizers estimate the tax raises $1.4 billion annually.
According to Henry, people who refuse to pay this tax are liable to a one year jail sentence as well as a $10,000 fine. In addition, they could be charged with attempting "to evade or defeat" the phone tax, which carries a penalty of five years imprisonment.
"So far," Henry said, "the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) hasn't prosecuted anyone over the phone tax. What they've been doing is levying a lien on the person's bank account to get the money. They don't want to put people in jail, they just want the money."
Henry estimates that following up on tax evaders costs the IRS $400 per case, in addition to adding a lot of paperwork and confusion to the system.
A spokesman for the IRS seemedless than concerned about the proposed tax resistance.
"We respond the same way to people who evade the phone tax as to all other tax delinquents," Edward Callanan, Public Information Officer of the Boston IRS said Tuesday. "We send a bill to the person who hasn't paid the tax, and if we don't hear from him in another month we send another bill. If he still doesn't pay, then we'll take the money from his bank account or any other personal assets."
TaxPax is following the example of the Boston War Tax Resistance League, a group which has been active for over a year collecting money that would have gone to phone taxes. The group has raised over $25,000 which has gone to community action projects.