Amy Biegelsen's article, “Written Off” (News & Features, April 15) was irresponsible in its message. Jon Klein, a tax defier, is portrayed as a philanthropist who is engaging in peaceful and appropriate protest by not paying his federal and state taxes. His actions amount to tax evasion, which is a crime under Internal Revenue Code section 7201. This code section makes it a felony to evade taxes, and someone convicted under this code section can be fined as much as $100,000 and be given up to five years in prison. The IRS and the Department of Justice have discretion in whom they choose to prosecute. However, your readers would be wise to avoid following in Mr. Klein's footsteps. If they have a legal reason to challenge their taxes, there are legal ways to do so that do not open oneself up to the risk of prosecution.
In addition to being legally imprudent, Mr. Klein's protest is a childish response to real issues. Instead of attempting to change what he perceives to be problems with our government, he is withdrawing from any type of civic participation and calling it a protest. It is clear that he understands the importance of civic engagement since he has started various nonprofits in the area, but he did not use this understanding to try to change how we use the military or implement the death penalty. He said he was inspired by the likes of Gandhi and King and their ability to create nonviolent social change. How has military policy in the federal government or death penalty policy in Virginia changed as a result of his not paying taxes? It has not.
Ultimately, Mr. Klein's protest is self-serving. He gets to claim that he is changing the world and at the same time pay no taxes. What a deal! In the meantime, those of us who obey the law and participate in our government pay higher taxes to make up for those people who refuse to pay.
Joy Gerdy Zogby