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Still, collection letters from the IRS can be relentless and filled with intimidating legalese. "I get the collection letters and they are a little scary," Barron says. "One of the hardest things about tax resistance is that it's difficult to get the right legal information. My anxiety about the IRS was the first hurdle for me to get over in deciding to be a war resister. But now, I don't feel fear. I made a decision to be public about what I'm doing. I feel a deep connection between what I believe and what I am doing."
What about jail? In 1846, in the most famous case of war tax resistance, the author Henry David Thoreau was jailed for refusing to pay six years' worth of back taxes because of his opposition to slavery and the Mexican-American War. Since then, only a few dozen Americans have been jailed for war tax resistance. "Jail for war tax resistance is a myth," NWTRCC's Benn says. "The IRS doesn't come and take you away, they just want their money. They don't want people in jail."
Tell that to Dr. Joseph Olejak, a chiropractor and natural healer from Chatham, New York. Joseph started withholding his taxes from the government in 1992. "At first the letters came more frequently from the IRS and the threats became more regular until eventually someone from the IRS showed up and said, 'This is a civil matter now, but it will become a criminal matter if you don't pay,'" Olejak recalls.
Armed agents ended up storming Olejak's office and seized his computers and records. In 2013, Olejak was sentenced to serve weekends in county jail because he owed $242,000 to the federal government. The charges against Olejak resulted in a felony conviction that caused him to lose his chiropractor's license.
For 26 weeks, Olejak worked as a bookkeeper and advised clients on weight loss during the weekdays. On Fridays at 6 p.m., he checked into the county jail, changed into his jumpsuit and was fed "food that was so disgusting you couldn't even call it food. It was a concoction of soy and meat-like substance over noodles. It was so disgusting, sometimes I just fasted."
He checked out of jail each Sunday night and returned to diet coaching. Any regrets about his choices? None.
"Somewhere, somebody is not going to have a smart bomb dropped on their head because I withdrew some money from the system," Olejak says. As part of his plea deal, Olejak agreed to pay taxes in $100 monthly installments when he has the income to pay, and he was put on five years probation.
Aside from his highly aberrational jail sentence, Olejak suffered financial ruin. He can no longer practice as a chiropractor in New York because of his criminal felony. Still, he sees himself as successful.
"There are all kinds of success," he says. "There's ethical success and financial success, and the two are not necessarily the same thing. This is not something that happened to me out of the blue, I made the choice. I made a conscious choice not to participate in war. I accepted the consequences and hoped that they would not be awful."
For Nippert, it's turned out a lot better than "not awful."
"I don't have any doubts about what I've done," he says. "I think probably my overwhelming feeling is that this isn't a direction I would have gone on my own, but it's really turned out to be great for me."
Every morning, he walks the three-quarters of a mile to his glass shop with his dog, Candy, next to him. He spends his days in the shop listening to Emmylou Harris, the X Ambassadors and Van Morrison. He and his wife, a recently retired elementary special education teacher, usually have an unfinished puzzle on the coffee table that they work on together in the evenings after dinner. They are grandparents to twin 4-year-old boys.
He's got a birthday coming up.
"People ask me what I want for my birthday? I don't know. I mean it's not like I wish I had more money to buy more and more things," he says. "When I was younger, I wasn't concerned with money so much, I was just in love with a 'Vette, you know? But now, I'm just pretty happy. I'm happy with the woods and my grandkids. I think the land is awfully healing."
But his son married a woman whose family owns a local car dealership. They usually have a few Corvettes in the garage. Maybe he'll take one on a drive for his birthday.