time for a LITTLE Tax Rebellion?
As each tax year comes to an close, HMRC doubles its efforts to send out payment reminders to the 10 million self-assessors who collectively contribute £50 billion towards the Treasury’s annual income tax haul of £200 billion. This is in addition to the £665 billion paid through VAT, National Insurance Contributions, Corporation Tax, Council Tax, Business rates, Excise Duties and other taxes. While Council Tax covers local amenities and rubbish collection and NI pensions, Income Tax covers education, health, law and order, culture media & sport, trade & industry and transport - services that are either no longer available to us or severely reduced.
Primary and secondary schools in England and Wales are open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, culture media & sport including cinema, live theatre, opera and football stadiums are closed to all, trade & industry for many SMEs has come to a halt – in some cases indefinitely - planes are grounded (even though some of our taxes are going towards propping up the ailing airline operators and airports) and public transport has been significantly reduced following Government guidelines to stop all but essential travel. At least Law and order is in rude health, able to fine any itinerant with the temerity to drink coffee in public, attend a peaceful protest, sit on a park bench or - God forbid – throw a snowball. So perhaps a peaceful delayed-payment-of-Income-Tax-protest may be our only way out of lockdown.
We wouldn’t be the first. Resistance to pay taxes goes as far back as the thirteenth century when King John of England expected his subjects to foot the bill for a costly war with France. The barons refused to pay scutage and marched defiantly on London, Lincoln, Northampton and Exeter before King John agreed to meet them at Runnymede where the Magna Carta was sealed. War Tax resistance continued throughout both world wars, the Vietnam war, Indochina, Iraq and Afghanistan. Tax rebels refused to contribute to the proliferation of nuclear arms, choosing instead to funnel their taxes into community programs for victims of war.
But could a mass-protest delayed-tax-payment have any purchase in speeding up the end to lockdown or would we all end up in jail? On the plus side, we’re no strangers to incarceration and if enough people joined in they’d soon run out of jail space. On the minus side, Rishi could just press the QE button on his magic money machine and The Treasury would be quids in.
But as we - the electorate - outnumber Parliament 56 million to 650, surely we need to be doing something which doesn't include gunpowder. After all, we don't want out body parts to be distributed to the four corners of the kingdom and displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.
A non-payment of Federal taxes was suggested by Mark Weston of TIME magazine when Donald Trump won 46% of the popular vote in 2016 (as opposed to Hilary Clinton's 48%): 'A national movement not to pay federal taxes in the future would put Republicans on notice: they do not have the right to impose a hard-right, second-place presidency on a moderate nation every dozen or so years. If the Republicans won’t help amend the Constitution so that America can resume being a democracy, then Democrats, lacking the representation that supporters of a future popular vote-winner ought to have in the executive branch, should not submit to paying taxes to the federal government'. His idea was that people would still fill in their tax forms and pay taxes, just not to the IRS. Instead, tax payers would write a cheque to a national escrow account and mark their cheques with “Funds to be transferred to the IRS as soon as America resumes being a democracy.” As opening such account would doubtless be in violation of US law (and if not, they'd scramble together some new law overnight), the bank account would have to be "a well-established Canadian or British bank that is beyond the reach of the U.S. Justice Department". It wouldn't work now.