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War Tax Resistance

Nonviolent action against paying for war

After the attacks of 11 September 2001, and the beginning of the war on terror, War Resisters' International began to practice tax resistance -- the withholding of a proportion of the income tax of its staff. The logic is simple: a certain percentage of every state's budget is allocated to the military -- the fighting of or preparation for war. As a consequence, tax resisters withhold this proportion from the tax they are supposed to pay to the state -- an act of civil disobedience, as presently no state makes provisions for "conscientious objection to military taxation".

For example, Britain's defence budget has been £32.6 billion in the financial year 2007/08, and it is set to increase to £36.9 billion in 2010/11. Even according to the Ministry of Defence, "the UK is the second highest spender (in cash terms) on Defence in the world behind only the United States. At 2.5% (2006) of GDP, the Defence Spending of the UK is above the NATO European average". According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), World military expenditure is estimated to have been US$1339 billion in 2007 -- a real-terms increase of 6 per cent over 2006 and of 45 per cent since 1998. This corresponded to 2.5 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP) and US$202 for each person in the world. The USA's military spending accounted for 45 per cent of the world total in 2007, followed by the UK, China, France and Japan, with 4-5 per cent each. All these are more than enough reason to withhold the part of the tax which goes to financing this insane expenditure.

Tax resistance is not very visible -- it happens a lot on paper: filling in tax forms, writing letters, etc/ However, it can get more 'exciting' when you get taken to court, or when the bailiff threatens to confiscate part of your property for failure to pay your tax. These confrontations with the authorities can provide some scope for action and publicity.

From 5-7 September 2008, tax resisters from all over the world will meet in Manchester for the 12th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns. You can find out more at: http://www.peacetax2008.org.uk/. If you want to know more about WRI's struggle with the tax office, check out http://wri-irg.org/wtr.htm.

Andreas Speck