Second International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns

Vierhouten, the Netherlands 1988

Juridical Aspects

The main part of the session was used to exchange experiences in the various countries.

England

In England the registrar first decides whether an appeal is of sufficient importance to be dealt with in court. In Arthur Windsor's 1986 case this turned out to be so. The judgement of the civil court was based purely on formal grounds: had he or had he not fulfilled his legal duty to pay taxes. For circumstantial argumentation there was no room at all. While Arthur Windsor kept up his refusal to pay, he was condemned to three weeks imprisonment. The amount involved, 100£ was transferred by him - half to a Peace fund and the other half to a local charity fund.

In 1987 and 1988 Arthur Windsor refused to pay again and withheld every month 15£ on his income tax. The revenue service collected the missing money by confiscating part of his pension payments. Other measures that the State has at its disposal, like confinement of belongings or of a bank account were in his case not applied.

A proposal for a law recognizing COs was introduced in Parliament on March 20th 1986 (under the provisions of the so-called “10 minutes rule” bill). It had only minimal support then: 7 MPs.

Lobbying for a law continues, just the same.

Scotland

In Scotland civil procedures are dealt with through the Scottish magistrates, criminal cases are dealt with by commonwealth authorities. Pamela Ross's lawyer advised her to bring her case before the European Commission of Human Rights at Strasbourg. In 1984 this Commission refused to sit on the case, stating that the Convention has no article dealing with the tax levying.

In Scotland there is no confinement of belongings. If you withhold tax money, and you donate it, for instance, to a charity, the authorities have a right to claim the money back from that charity.

The Thatcher government plans to introduce a so-called “poll tax”, which is seen as taxation for communal purposes. This tax will be equally high for everybody and discriminating for women, as it perpetuates the man as the member of a family responsible for all. When this tax will become statutory Pamela Ross intends to refuse to be registered under the new law as a taxpayer. So far it is not clear yet whether the returns of the poll tax can also be used for military expenditures.

Japan

About 20 members of the COMIT (Conscientious Objectors to Military Tax) have appealed before the court against the levying of taxes to be used for the Self Defence Force. Japan's constitution in article 9 explicitly prohibits all efforts towards war and preparation of war. The Self Defence Force is a first step towards establishing a military apparatus.

In 1981 the objections of tax resisters were declined! The argument used, was that there is no relation between defence and paying taxes! Just before Michio Ohno left for this conference on October 25th, this appeal was dealt with in court. The judge admitted that article 9 of the constitution would leave room to these citizens to argue their case. Japan spends 6% of the national budget, an amount of 300 billion Yen, for defence efforts.

The Netherlands

Jan Maartens reports on the case of 3 employees of the “Basis movement of churches and groups” who have withheld tax money. Since 1983 they deposited 10% of their income tax in the Peace fund of the BWD In 1984 part of the inventory of the Basis movement was confiscated and auctioned off. The objects were bought by the BWD with money from the Peace fund and returned to the owners. In 1985 the Revenue Service threatened to confiscate the postal giro account. The Basis movement then coughed up the money out of fear for excessive costs, that such a confiscation would entail. But since 1985 they continued to withhold tax money. So far, no new action has been taken, but it is hoped that these withholdings may lead to a trial to see whether the Revenue Service can really confiscate goods belonging to a third party.

Other examples of harassment in the Netherlands are mentioned. A woman got one week of imprisonment because she had hidden her possessions from being auctioned off. Some people who had refused to pay f.5,72 of the VAT on their energy bills have been effectively cut off from the gas and/or electricity supply. Publicity and a change of public opinion in all these cases have been of more importance, because in no case the legal rights of the objector were upheld.

Italy

At first the movement in Italy grew rapidly, but lately it has slackened down. The organisation, Obezione Fiscale alle Spese Militari, publishes yearly a handbook with possible models for tax withholding. The Italian tax system is rather complicated. There are 5 categories of taxpayers. Employees usually pay their taxes at the source. Tax withholding is not a criminal offence. There have been over 4000 cases of refusal, but the Revenue Service acted only in 100 of them.

What may be punished, however, is to make propaganda for tax refusal. Ten cases have so far been brought to trial, but in all cases the accused were dismissed. This could happen because an article in the Code Civil allows dismissal when an illegal act has been committed for high moral motives. There is a proposal for a law. It strives to obtain a ruling whereby the tax money of objectors can be used, in particular, for non-violent defence. Presently 5,5% of the national budget is earmarked for military spending. In order to introduce the draft legislation to parliament 500.000 signatures are needed.

Luxembourg

In Luxembourg 1,14% of the national budget goes to the military. Franco Perna has refused to pay part of the tax due for the so-called national investment fund. He seems to be the first tax refuser in Luxembourg.

This exchange of experiences was followed by a discussion around the question “Do we favour a legal provision?” Franco Perna is of the opinion that every transfer of power from the hands of government into the hands of the people means a step forward. A legal provision for COs can mean that our influence increases. Furthermore it opens up the opportunity for a lot more people to refuse, because it is legal. But he warned us to hope for results at short notice. Breaking down the existing stockpiles of weaponry will take a long time, maybe centuries.

Arthur Windsor also said that in his opinion legal provisions are important; the judges do point out, over and over again, that in this matter it is not their prerogative to change existing laws; that can only be brought about in parliament.