Congressional delegate Walter Fauntroy, trying a new tactic in the effort to win statehood for the District of Columbia, called on city residents Friday to join him in violating federal law by withholding income tax payments until Congress makes the district the 51st state. Fauntroy, a Democrat, noted that taxpayers who withhold their annual tax payments or fail to file federal income tax returns could face civil and criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment.
But, he said at a news conference, "Those of us who have decided to take this action are prepared to accept those consequences."
Fauntroy likened the tax protest to the civil disobedience of the civil rights movement and the highly publicized anti-apartheid arrests outside the South African Embassy in the 1980s. He said he plans to establish an "escrow corporation" soon to receive residents' tax payments.
The corporation will be established by a new group that Fauntroy identified as the "Taxation Without Representation" committee.
Henry B. Holmes, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, said Friday that while the creation of the escrow corporation would not appear in itself to be a violation of federal law, taxpayers who "diverted" their tax payments to the corporation could face serious penalties.
"Our only position on this at this time is that taxpayers have a
responsibility for filing an accurate return on time," Holmes said. "Not filing or not paying taxes could leave taxpayers in non-compliance."