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Ed Hedemann, who does the books for many local nonprofits, hasn't paid his federal taxes in almost twenty years. Now, the IRS is out to get him. By tax time, he could be in the clink for contempt of court.

Since 1972, war tax resister and bookkeeper Hedemann has sent in his return with a check that covers his social security contribution and a letter explaining where the rest of the money is: in the hands of anti-war nonprofits and other charities.

Instead of giving his money to the government, Hedemann calculates his tax bill and donates the sum directly to community groups. Last year, he gave nearly $3,000 to Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness, which provides aid to Iraqi citizens suffering under the U.S.-led embargo.

“One can protest all they want by writing letters, handing out leaflets or even voting for certain candidates, but you often get ignored,” says Hedemann, who estimates that he has withheld a total of $50,000 from the federal government. “By doing this, they pay attention.”

But maybe not in the way he'd prefer. In December, the IRS summoned Hedemann to federal district court, requesting him to turn over his financial records. If Hedemann refuses, he could be jailed indefinitely under contempt charges. About eight people have gone to court in the past 30 years over the issue. Hedemann says three have done jail time.

According to Ruth Benn, director of the War Resisters League national office, about 8,000 to 10,000 people nationwide withhold their taxes to protest military spending.

Hedemann's hearing supposed to be held today, but the court date has been postponed to March 5. The War Resisters League has planned a protest outside U.S. District Court at 225 Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn today at 3:30 p.m. Benn notes that it will coincide with President Clinton's budget announcement, which includes a large increase in military spending.

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