- By Veggies - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39779795
- Drawing a line in Baltimore.
Kesh, a 38 year-old Baltimore service industry worker, didn't pay her taxes last year and she won't be paying them this year either.
Last year, it was because she didn't have the money — she faced a penalty under the Affordable Care Act for not having health insurance. "Because I couldn't afford to pay for my insurance last year, they charged me a penalty for that — a penalty for being poor," she says.
This year she isn't paying because she began thinking more about where her tax money goes and she feels like she can't keep paying the government. "It's not going to anything that I can see personally that is going to benefit me," Kesh, who asked that only her first name be used, says. "But me paying it is definitely going to hit me. Not having that money that needs to go towards other things that I have to pay — that affects me immediately. That's a loss for me."
The inauguration of President Donald Trump only worsened her feeling about the situation. First, because she has her doubts about whether Trump has bothered to pay his fair share of taxes, and second, because his administration seems to be waging a war against people like her. "I'm all the groups that are hated. I've decided to come to earth in this body and be black, be a woman, gay, so you know, I get hit on every side of it," she says. "I was a teenaged mother, I'm a single mom — I'm all the things [Trump and Republicans] hate."
Living in Baltimore, where Freddie Gray died in police custody in April 2015 and where just last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to hamper police reform, taxes funding the police are an issue for her as well. (Police are primarily funded through local and state governments, but Kesh isn't paying state taxes either.)
"I know that my tax money is going to the police and I can walk down the street and get shot," she says. "I can get shot by my own money and get killed by my own money and there's no one that's gonna do shit about it. So basically I'm giving you money to kill me and people that look like me."
Unlike long-time tax resisters, Kesh is new to this. She doesn't know where it will lead her yet — hence her decision not to use her name. The Internal Revenue Service may target her, but not paying feels right.
"I'm basically saying, 'Fuck you.'" she says. "I'm keeping my money. "
— Brandon Soderberg