Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Price of Civil Disobedience

A nice fellow by the name of Charles Merrill is sending around a press release touting his gay rights civil disobedience action. Here's the text of the email:
HENDERSONVILLE, N.C., Jan. 30, 2006 -- Charles Merrill, a 71-year-old artist, and his partner Kevin Boyle, have announced they will not pay Federal or North Carolina Income Tax on over two million dollars worth of stock sales and income for 2004, because of unfair discrimination in the Federal and State Income Tax Codes.

Merrill said, "I have no intention of paying Federal and State Income taxes because my same sex partner and I cannot be legally married and receive the same tax benefits as other married couples.

"By not paying taxes, this is a deliberate act of civil disobedience towards a President that wants to make an amendment to the Constitution to only allow marriage between a man and woman, rather than two people who love each other, and that discriminate against us as full citizens of the United States."

Charles Merrill and Kevin Boyle are founders of a group called Citizens Against Discrimination. In 1996 the organized and protested an anti-gay resolution in Rutherford County, NC, which caught the attention of national media.

I've never been much of a protestor, so I really don't know from civil disobedience. But from my Quaker social studies classes, I had kind of gotten the impression that when you're protesting by civil disobedience, you're supposed to do something which costs you something; not something which makes you richer. And failing to pay taxes on $2 million of stock sales has got to add up to an extra--oh, I don't know, let's say $400,000, maybe more?--for Mssrs. Merrill and Boyle.

Maybe Ken Lay and Martha Stewart were just misunderstood protestors, too.


Anonymous said...

A real protest would be to pay the taxes as "married filing jointly" and pay what must be a marriage tax penalty for this couple, who are, after all, double-income-no-kids.

Anonymous said...

Good post but the inclusion of Ken Lay and Martha Stewart at the end was inapt (not that I am sticking up for them).
Is this the kind of thinking that occurs over at the Inquirer and which is getting to you via diffusion?

Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't want to pay taxes either until I can get the same medical care as congress and use the same bank as does congress. Discrimination...bawhahahaha!

Bizarro Jack said...

Like when Rosa Parks gave up her much coveted back-of-the-bus seat to suffer in the front with the white people?

Don't be stupid man, they are going to go to jail for tax evasion, and then sue the government. That will cost. Who knows, maybe they will end up better off than how they started, in terms of rights and/or money, or they'll sit in jail for a while.

Bizarro Jack said...

anon 11:04, it depends on how disparate the incomes of spouses are.

Anonymous said...

If they meant $2MM in taxable income (rather than proceeds on stock sales which may not be the same as gains), the marriage bonus (for disparate incomes)/penalty (for similar high earners) is not that much. It's essentially the difference in the lower tax rate schedules between individuals and married filing jointly. If the $2MM is all long term capital gain, I would guess that there probably isn't any real difference between MFJ and IF's, therefore, it doesn't cost them by not being MFJ. Besides, the feds don't determine the marriage rules, the states do. The Internal Revenue Code is set up to include any married couple in MFJ.

Bizarro Jack said...

Thanks. Apparently Merrill is confident that he would get a tax benefit from being married filing jointly, and I'm inclined to take his word for it, since he probably knows his tax situation better than anyone else. If your assessment is correct, then it wouldn't be the first time someone went out on a big limb based on incorrect information. This is only the first year for me that I'll be itemizing, so I don't have much to say.

I might have something to add, with regard to the federal vs. state issue, though. I don't know if this is still accurate, because this was last year, but the Discrimination of Marriage Act was never repealed, so I would assume so. IRS says to file separately even if you're legally married in Massachusetts

More on the gay tax burden.

Bizarro Jack said...

elc, it isn't just about one pair of gay millionaires. For gays with low/moderate income that could really use the break, it's harder to make a case of it, and it wouldn't make the news, either . . .

(I can imagine the story though: government loses thousands of dollars in tax revenue due to gay civil disobedience. Military bases forced to move 4 toilet seats and 3 hammers to next fiscal year's budget)