The Common Good
September-October 1996

The Blueberry Tax

by Julienne Gage, Aaron McCarroll Gallegos | September-October 1996

Elizabeth Gravalos and Arthur Harvey, organic blueberry farmers in Hartford, Maine, had their home and property auctioned off by the IRS...

Elizabeth Gravalos and Arthur Harvey, organic blueberry farmers in Hartford, Maine, had their home and property auctioned off by the IRS because of their conscientious objection to paying federal income taxes that "support war preparation, especially nuclear weapons and the export of arms and military forces to many places around the world."

The IRS claims that Gravalos and Harvey, who have two children, owe $62,000 in taxes and penalties for the years 1987-92, a period in which their family income totaled $107,000. The family's blueberry field, which was the main source of their subsistence income, was auctioned off in April along with their two wood lots.

At another IRS auction in July, the Gravalos-Harvey home was sold to the highest bidder—who turned out to be a supporter of the family. Though Gravalos and Harvey had hoped none of their supporters would buy the house from the IRS, the purchase at least makes it possible for the family to continue living there.

The confiscation of war tax resisters' property is a complicated measure rarely undertaken by the IRS. By seizing the Gravalos-Harvey home, the IRS again brought public attention to the issue of war tax resistance and unintentionally rallied the local New England network of war tax resisters known as "Spears Into Pruning Hooks," of which Gravalos and Harvey are a part. The group is now considering a reflection process for Hartford on the house seizure that will help deepen knowledge of war tax resistance and heal tension that occurred in the town because of the action. Meanwhile, Gravalos and Harvey plan to make a living by leasing other blueberry fields and selling books by and about Gandhi. In lieu of paying income taxes, Gravalos and Harvey are continuing their longtime practice of donating time and money to organizations that meet human and environmental needs.

Aaron Gallegos was news editor and Julienne Gage was news intern of Sojourners when this article first appeared. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee is online at


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