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The Peace Tax Seven

Withholding Taxes - What to Expect
Approximately 10% of all our taxes are spent on military preparation.
This includes road tax, VAT, inheritance tax, fuel duty etc. Income tax is the only one we can actually influence. Even then most people are unable to withhold income tax because they are on PAYE. You can try to persuade your employer to withhold it on your behalf, but this makes them the law breaker and takes the focus off you.

The Society of Friends (Quakers) did this on behalf of three of their employees. In October 1983, the Society began to withhold a proportion of PAYE tax payments. The Inland Revenue took the Society's Clerk and Assistant Clerk to court. By 1985, the High Court and Court of Appeal had ruled against the Society, and leave to appeal to the Lords was refused. After a long and valiant struggle the Society paid the withheld taxes in full and renewed regular payments, each accompanied by a letter objecting to its obligations as a tax gatherer for military purposes.

An attempt by the Society to appeal to the European Commission on Human Rights was declared inadmissible in 1986.

If you withhold your taxes you are breaking the law, but you are unlikely to be thrown into jail. This is normally a civil matter, taken up in the local Magistrate's Court.

There will be a number of threats of court action before you are actually summoned. It could be six months or more

Once in court, despite any defence you offer you will be ordered to pay and if you don't the Inland Revenue will call in the bailiffs. You can refuse them entry and they cannot break your door down or smash windows.

If you continue to refuse to pay, they may make you bankrupt as happened to Roger Franklin in 1995. He was also given a short jail sentence. Currently the IR seems to take a softly, softly approach. They are more likely to apply for a garnishee order to take the money from your bank but prison is not ruled out.

Be aware that fines, interest, court and bailiff fees continue to be added the longer you resist. Eventually the IR are likely to get your money.

Roger Franklin - bankrupted and jailed
So why bother to resist if they will get your money anyway?

This is about winning the right for conscientious objectors to divert the proportion of taxes spent on military preparation to peaceful purposes.

It is important along the way to get as much publicity as possible to show the depth of your concern, give you a platform to explain the sanity and reasonableness of what you are proposing and to gain wider support for the idea.

Every instance of conscientious objection which has won recognition in law - the right to refuse vaccination of children, the right not to swear oathes in court, the right not to be conscripted into the armed forces - have been won through dogged perseverance.

So what advise would you give me if I was to withhold my taxes?

Start by informing your tax office that you intend to withhold a proportion (or all) of your taxes and explain why. Remember that they are just doing their job and quite possibly agree with your stance, but have to act according to the rules or quit. You are communicating with human beings.

Send copies of your letter to your MP, the PM, the Treasury, the local press and media. This will bring your first opportunity to explain why paying for war is objectionable, ludicrous and criminal.

Keep communicating with the IR and all parties which show an interest whether for or against.

Of course you can decide at any time to call it a day. You have to juggle with the dilema between breaking the law and paying for the state to kill in your name. There may be family considerations, as well as the strain of challenging the state.

Try to hold out. Take each step at a time and plan for the next stage in advance of it happening. ie. What are you going to say in court? How are you going to deal with the bailiffs?

Rally support around you - Local peace groups, family and friends - your church if sympathetic. Quakers are, by and large, supportive of the peace tax campaign.

Think up imaginative ways to attract attention to your plight.

Join Conscience. They are a mine of help and information and you can get to know other war tax resisters.

Plan your end game. The state grabbing your money can be an eyecatching and newsworthy event.

Think hard about the consequences. Once you undertake to withhold, this commitment could go on for the rest of your life! You are unlikely to be thrown in jail these days, but it is not ruled out. There may be strains on your family, they need to be aware of what might happen and you need their support.

I am on PAYE so I can't withhold income tax.
Is there any other way I can resist my money being spent on war?

Join Conscience. They also publish a 'Peace Tax Return' form which you can download from their site, it looks like a page from a tax return. Signing this declares your objection to paying for war. If you do nothing else fill in one of these. 3,000 were sent to the Treasury in 2003. Let's try and make it 300,000!

You can avoid paying income tax to the military by keeping your income below the level at which you have to pay tax. Although many people are in this position through no choice of their own, some people choose to do this for reasons of conscience.

Gift Aid and Give As You Earn schemes have replaced covenanting for tax-effective giving to charities whereby the charity you donate to, can claim a further 28% on top of your donation if you have paid income tax equivalent to or more than 28% of your donation. So if you donate enough to charity you can get the government to contribute the military part of your taxes to your chosen charities too.

PEACE TAX SEVEN are hoping to stage a public action in time for their court hearing. Keep in touch through this website or send an email to join our mailing list.

Related Links:
Peace Tax Sevens' experiences
Human Rights versus Taxation