6 Other Proposals for a Provision for Conscientious Objection with regard to Tax Destinations

6.1.Introduction to This Chapter

In the study-meeting of the IKV d.d. March 23 1991[1] Verdonk points out another possibility, namely a gift-regulation. He regrets that the introduced bill is a compromise in which the budget right is respected.

In the existing tax deductibility system, gifts are deducted and so a possibility is given that citizens can, however in a limited measure, influence the budget right, for the budget is of course based on an estimation of the incoming tax money and this money flow is dependent upon the definition which parliament has given with regard to taxable income.

Another proposal is the statement of Horeman d.d. June 7 1991.[2] Horeman gives a budget-technical statement in relation to the budget right.

In his view the budget right means that parliament has to give approval to the yearly budget of the State, before this budget can be the basis of the implementations of government policy. As such the budget right is an instrument of policy.

This does not mean that an individual can never have some influence in the domain of the allocation of tax money.

In the Netherlands both the neutral schools as well as the private schools are financed by the State.

So parents and students over the age of 18 can decide for themselves how much money is spent on this or that type of school.

Horeman considers such a diversification also possible in the domain of defence, where an individual could opt for military defence on the one hand and nonviolent conflict resolution on the other hand.

This idea implies that citizens will get some right of say with regard the real destination of the defence budget, as is already the case with the budget of the Education Department.

In fact this would not be then a provision for conscientious objections, but a regulation according to which different groups can give a different implementation. Consequence of this could also be a different implementation within the military option.

Other proposals are from the Peace Tax Movement (BWD) and G.J.M. Jacobs, both proposals will be discussed in the next subchapters.

6.2. The Proposal of the Dutch Peace Tax Movement (BWD)

The Beweging Weigering Defensiebelasting has made a plan for a Peace Fund in 1982.[3]

According to the BWD-plan this fund would be regulated by law and the citizens would have the right to instruct the government to spend no more money on armaments on their behalf and from their tax money.

The diverted money would flow into a Peace Fund. The same amount as would yearly flow into the Peace Fund would according to this plan be deducted from the budget of the Ministry of Defence and used for peace purposes.

The details of the plan are:

Every Dutchman who has reached the age at which he is entitled to vote will have the possibility to give an instruction as mentioned before. It does not matter whether somebody has an income or pays tax in another way. This does not influence the possibility to give such an instruction. The reason is that the state on behalf of everybody spends money on defence.

The amount that according to the aforesaid instruction has to be deducted is for each instruction an amount equal to the defence budget divided by the number of persons entitled to vote. The same amount has to be transferred to the Peace Fund.

According to the plan all Dutchmen entitled to vote can apply for this provision by completing a form which he can obtain at the post offices and town halls.

According to the plan the Peace Fund will be governed by a commission of members requested to take a seat in this commission because of their concern, expertness and representativeness in relation to the Dutch peace movement and also their preparedness to implement the mentioned plan, then law, according to the given criteria for subsidizing projects.

These criteria are:

  1. The activities have to be aimed directly to end war and armament. Examples are nonviolent conflict resolution, nonmilitary defence, ending of the armament race, conversion of the economy and the international interdependence between poverty, Third World, hunger and armament on condition that attention is given to the ending of war and armament;
  2. The projects have to be formulated in such a manner, that people get a chance to take action in their own Dutch society;
  3. Government projects will not be subsidized;
  4. One has to make clear that the projects increase the awareness of the people towards the relevant issues.
  5. Projects have to include a planning for more years.

For the BWD the condition that the equivalent of the total amount in the Peace Fund will be deducted of the defence budget is very essential.

This makes the possible legal provision more than an accommodation to purely individual conscientious objections.

The results will not only be that conscientious objectors are set at ease because they know that their money will not flow to defence, but that they actually cooperate in the diminution of the defence budget.

It is clear that the BWD wants more than a plain provision for conscientious objections.

The BWD states that they can hardly imagine that the conscience will not revolt, when an exemption for conscientious objections is given for the payment of armaments, but government will spend money on armaments in the same way in spite of all that.

On this condition a legal provision can, according to the BWD be a good cause. Less money would flow to defence, whereas more money will be liberated for all kinds of peace purposes.

But moreover, according to the BWD, a lot of Dutchmen can express themselves directly on the armament issue. According to the BWD that is a good support for the parliamentary democracy. So far the BWD and its plan.

6.3 The Jacobs Proposal for a General Provision[4]

This is the proposal of G.J.M.Jacobs with regard to a general provision:

In the Income Tax Act a provision could be made by adopting of an article 66a:

  1. In case of conscientious objections of a taxpayer to a certain tax destination, the inspector can on request allow that a certain, by our Minister decided, part of the assessment and a certain increase also decided by our Minister, is transferred to a fund designated by our Minister.
  2. The request has to be made together with the tax form and has to give grounds for doing so.
  3. The inspector will decide about the request. The decision has to give the grounds for this, if and in so far as the request is rejected.
  4. If the petitioner demands such he will be heard by the inspector before he has reached his decision. The inspector can also call up the petitioner by virtue of his office for giving further information.
  5. The inspector sends a copy of the decision to the petitioner by registered post.

Jacobs points out that such a provision will mean more work for the inspector, because he has to consider the requests.

Jacobs considers that the minister can make a regulation for a procedural and financial threshold to keep the numbers of the objections limited.

The minister could decide that an extra twenty-five guilders or fifty guilders has to be paid for the administration costs, as was the case within the provision for conscientious objections with regard to the specific levy for the nuclear energy development.

Jacobs mentions that the Central Tax Collection Office in Apeldoorn[5] has to open some credit-accounts into which the objectors can transfer the concerned part of their assessment.

Jacobs considers that this can be arranged very easily and without many costs and with little pain because of the high degree of automation by way of computers in the internal revenue service. Jacobs mentions that the objector has to pay the other part of the assessment normally.

Jacobs considers that the courts will get an extra task, but his prognosis is that only a few people who do not have real conscientious objections will lodge an appeal.

He mentions that the inspector will have decided on requests positively in most cases, whereas when it concerns a rejection he has to give the grounds for the rejection, because of this hardly anybody who is not a true conscientious objector will lodge an appeal.

Jacobs considers the possibility of appeal to the courts recommendable because conscience is a delicate problem.

Therefore he prefers a new regulation above application of section 63 of the General Regulations of Government Taxes Act, a clause according to which the Minister can act otherwise as is prescribed by law when reasons of fairness necessitate that (hardship clause).

Jacobs mentions that according to Dutch law it is not possible to lodge an appeal when the Minister decides not to use article 63 of the aforesaid act.

Jacobs mentions that new conscientious objections, to government expenditure other than defence spending and development aid, this being the case, may be recognised by the courts in due course of time.

Jacobs remarks that the examination of the seriousness of the conscientious objections will mean an inquiry into whether the applicant is in good faith, a familiar ground for the courts.

Jacobs considers that the money transferred to the funds may not be used to finance the objected government activities. So the fund for conscientious objectors with regard to armament cannot be used for defence spending, the fund for conscientious objections against development aid cannot be used for such aid.

According to Jacobs the budgetary function of the tax collecting process remains unimpaired and the policy will not be influenced in any way.

Money in such a fund can namely be spent to any noncontroversial government activity, whereas the objected expenditure is not affected and will remain on the same level.

Jacobs remarks that the authorities could make a further accommodation to the conscientious objections, following the provision with regard to the nuclear energy development levy, by promising that the fund will be spent for purposes desired by the objectors, for example the already subsidized peace organisations.

According to Jacobs there is nothing against doing that as long as the amount of the subsidy will not increase, so that the furthering of a group interest under the guise of conscientious objections is excluded, because in that way the expenditure policy is not influenced.

Jacobs mentions that in the Dutch legal system it is not possible to withdraw from legal duties on grounds of conscience, that the legislator could decide however to incorporate the aforesaid provision for conscientious objections in the Income Tax Act.

Jacobs considers that a reason for making such a provision is the tax principle of the least pain, one of the tax principles of De Langen,[6]is that normal tax collecting would cause much pain to the conscientious objector, so that tax collection at the least psychological pressure will not be realised.

Jacobs states that the aforesaid provision would be in line with the constitutional right of view of life and the freedom of conscience of the European Convention.

Jacobs considered that also the credibility of an appeal on conscience to legitimize tax evasion and so on would diminish and that finally the level of democracy will rise by taking into account the concept of life, the conscience of small groups of citizens, whereas no big interest is damaged by such a provision.

Jacobs states that the incorporated threshold will guarantee that only insuperable objections will be recognised, and that financial objections are excluded in this way.

Jacobs mentions that taxpayers without conscientious objections will not get the feeling that they have to pay for the conscience of others.

  • [1] See page 58 of the IKV-report 1991.
  • [2] Hans Horeman sent this to me for consideration by memorandum d.d. June 7 1991.
  • [3] See page 10 to page 12 of the Nieuwsbrief (Newsletter) Number 5 of the BWD d.d. March 1982.
  • [4] See page 155 Fiscaal Weekblad number 5577, February 3 1983.
  • [5] See pages 155 and 156 of the Fiscaal Weekblad number 5577, February 3 1983.
  • [6] See page 2 of W.J. de Langen, Het ABC van het belastingrecht, Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands,1968; see also page 11 of J.G.M.Stevens, Elementair Belastingrecht voor economen en bedrijfsjuristen, 12e druk, Deventer, The Netherlands, April 1995.

Copyright and responsibility Erik Th.Hummels March 1996

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