BRATTLEBORO -- April 15 is a busy day for the U.S. Postal Service. It is not quite as hectic as the days leading up to Christmas, but post offices across the country routinely keep all the windows open as Americans race to get their tax forms in under the deadline.
For some Americans though, April 15 is a day to make a political statement by diverting their tax dollars away from the U.S. government and handing them out to local nonprofits.
On Tuesday, with a warm, spring sun shining on Main Street, tax resisters from Brattleboro handed out checks to Windham County Reads, WVEW/Brattleboro Community Radio and The New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution.
The money was collected by war tax resisters who refuse to send money to the Internal Revenue Service and prefer to give their money to groups that work for local causes.
"I still live in a country where I can speak out and I want to use that to my maximum benefit," said Daniel Sicken, who said he has not paid federal taxes for 19 years. "I want to speak out against war. That is the most important place to put my energy."
Every year, a group of tax resisters get together to decide which local groups should get the money that would otherwise be sent to the government.
Ruth Allard, director of Windham County Reads, accepted the $556 check from Sicken and said the money would do more good helping local families than it would going to the military.
"As a proponent of intellectual freedom, Windham County Reads has the utmost regard for the thoughtful, principled decisions people make when they decide to redirect their federal tax dollars to local services," she said. "The money you're entrusting us with today will buy books, not bombs, which will be used in programs for children and families with fragile literacy skills."
About 12 people came to the post office to support the group.
They sang old folk songs and handed out information to anyone walking by who was willing to listen.
Kevin Flaherty, a postal employee who ducked out in the afternoon for a smoke break, said it was encouraging to see the war tax resisters give away their money.
"It's great," he said, pointing out that it was Kevin Flaherty the citizen -- not Kevin Flaherty the postal worker -- who was supporting the group.
"Sometimes when people are paying their taxes, I joke that somebody has to pay for the Iraq War. Maybe this will make them pay attention."
Bob Bady, a Brattleboro resident, said he has been a war tax resister for 38 years.
Many of the resisters are self employed, he said. Sometimes, the IRS clamps down but lately, Bady said, the government has largely ignored the groups that make a public statement about the federal tax system.
"I have not heard anything from the IRS in 20 years," he said, as he handed out pamphlets.
Bady and Sicken both said they did not mind publicizing their names or their cause.
Bady said it was important to be upfront about what the group was trying to accomplish.
"There are consequences for not paying taxes and there are consequences of paying them," he said. "This is an act of nonviolent civil disobedience and the consequences of paying are that my money would go toward dropping bombs and blowing up houses. I don't support that."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.