Tax resistance

Tax resistance is the refusal to willingly pay a tax because of opposition to the institution that is imposing the tax, or to some of that institution–s policies.

Tax resistance can be a form of conscientious objection (for example, some pacifists refuse to pay taxes that pay for war). Tax resistance can also be a variety of protest, or a technique of nonviolent resistance (for example, in India–s campaign for independence led by Mahatma Gandhi).

Tax resisters are distinct from tax protesters who deny that the legal obligation to pay taxes exists or applies. Tax resisters may accept that some law commands them to pay taxes but they still choose to resist taxation.


[edit] History of tax resistance

[edit] Motives

Tax resisters typically have one or more of the following motives:

  1. conscientious objection to what the tax money would be spent on
  2. unwillingness to pay an illegitimate or unfair tax
  3. protest against the taxing institution or the particular tax
  4. an attempt to use nonviolent political force to weaken or overthrow the taxing institution
  5. refusal to participate in taxation as a form of anarchist "propaganda of the deed"

For example, pacifist war tax resisters are typically motivated by an unwillingness to be complicit in government spending on war and preparations for war (#1). Tax resisters for women–s suffrage were unwilling to pay a tax to a government that did not allow them the rights of representation (#2). When American Amish refused to pay the social security tax, they were protesting against the imposition on them of that particular tax (#3). When the first Russian duma issued the Vyborg Manifesto, they hoped to use tax resistance to wrest concessions from the Czar (#4). Voluntaryists seek to delegitimize the State through education, and advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which taxation and State power ultimately depend (#5).

These motives are not mutually exclusive; a resister or a resistance movement may have motives that fit in more than one of the above categories.

[edit] Methods

There are many methods of tax resistance. In the anti-war tax resistance movement in the United States it is sometimes remarked that there are as many ways to practice tax resistance as there are resisters.

[edit] Redirection

Some tax resisters refuse to pay all or a portion of the taxes due, but then make an equivalent donation to charity. In this way, they demonstrate that the intent of their resistance is not selfish and that they want to use a portion of their earnings to contribute to the common good.

For instance, Julia Butterfly Hill resisted about $150,000 in federal taxes, and donated that money to after school programs, arts and cultural programs, community gardens, programs for Native Americans, alternatives to incarceration, and environmental protection programs. She said:

I actually take the money that the IRS says goes to them and I give it to the places where our taxes should be going. And in my letter to the IRS I said: –I–m not refusing to pay my taxes. I–m actually paying them but I–m paying them where they belong because you refuse to do so.–[1]

Groups like the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (United States), Peace Tax Seven (United Kingdom), Netzwerk-Friedenssteuer (Germany), and Conscience and Peace Tax International are working to legalize a form of conscientious objection to military taxation which would enable conscientious objectors to designate their taxes to be spent only on non-military budget items.[2] They see this as a legalized form of war tax redirection.

[edit] Refusing specific taxes

Some resisters refuse to willingly pay only certain taxes, either because those taxes are especially noxious to them, or because they present a useful symbolic target, or because they are more easily resisted.

For instance, in the United States, many tax resisters resist the telephone federal excise tax. The tax was initiated to pay for the Spanish–American War and has frequently been raised or extended by the government during times of war. This made it an attractive symbolic target as a –war tax–. Such refusal is relatively safe: because this tax is typically small, resistance very rarely triggers significant government retaliation. Phone companies will cooperate with such resisters by removing the excise tax from their phone bills and reporting their resistance to the government.[3]

[edit] Refusing to pay

The most dramatic and characteristic method of tax resistance is to refuse to pay a tax – either by quietly ignoring the tax bill or by openly declaring the refusal to pay.

Some tax resisters resist only a portion of the taxes due. For instance, some war tax resisters refuse to pay a percentage of their taxes equivalent to the military percentage of the government–s budget.

Other resisters withhold a symbolic amount – for instance, in the United States, some might hold back $17.76/17.76% (symbolic of the revolutionary year 1776) or $10.40/10.4% (in tribute to Form 1040, which is used in federal income tax returns).

[edit] Paying under protest

Some taxpayers pay their taxes, but include protest letters along with their tax forms. Others pay in a protesting form – for instance, by writing their check on a toilet seat or a mock-up of a missile. Others pay in a way that creates inconvenience for the collector – for instance, by paying the entire amount in low-denomination coins. (This last method is less effective in countries where small coins are legal tender only in limited amounts, allowing the tax authority to legally reject such payments; for example in England and Wales, 1p coins are legal tender only in amounts up to 20p.)

[edit] Tax avoidance

A resister may lower the tax due by using legal tax avoidance techniques.

[edit] Tax evasion

A resister may lower the tax demanded through illegal tax evasion. For instance, one way to evade income tax is to only work for cash-in-hand, therefore circumventing withholding tax.[4]

[edit] Reducing expenditure and income

Other tax resisters change their lives and lifestyles so that they owe less tax. For instance; to avoid an excise tax on alcohol, a resister might home-brew beer; to avoid excise taxes on gasoline, a resister might take up bicycling; to avoid income tax, a resister might decide to take in less income and take up a simple living or freegan lifestyle; and so forth.

These methods differ from tax evasion in that they stay within the tax laws, and they differ from tax avoidance in that the goal is to pay as little tax as possible rather than to keep as much post-tax income as possible.

[edit] Notable tax resisters

[edit] Law

In the United States, it has been ruled that defendants have no First Amendment right to avoid federal income taxes on religious grounds.[5][6][7]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Gross, David M. We Won't Pay: A Tax Resistance Reader (2008) ISBN 978-1434898258
  • Gandhi, M.K. Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha) (1961) ISBN 0486416062
  • Sharp, Gene The Politics of Nonviolent Action, part Two: The Methods of Nonviolent Action (1973) ISBN 0875580718
  • War Resisters League War Tax Resistance (2003) ISBN 0940862158

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Smith, Gar "An Interview with Julia Butterfly Hill: Part 1" The Edge 26 May 2005[1]
  2. ^ –The Mission of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund–[2]; Peace Tax Seven; Netzwerk-Friedenssteuer; Conscience and Peace Tax International
  3. ^Not paying phone tax becomes war protestSan Francisco Chronicle 4 December 2005
  4. ^
  5. ^ United States v. Ramsey, 992 F2d 831 (CA8 Mo 1993).
  6. ^ United States v. D Lee, 455 U.S. 252 ({{{3}}}),
  7. ^ Wall v. United States, 756 F.2d 52, 53 (8th Cir. 1985).

[edit] External links

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