How tax payers could avoid contributing to military spending

The tax system needs to change to accommodate conscientious objectors argues Holly Wallis

February 25, 2016
4 min read

Anzac_poppiesThe dominant discourse on tax always seems to be a negative one: tax not being paid, tax being underpaid, sweetheart deals, tax havens, cutting, avoiding and minimising. Yet tax should be viewed as something inherently positive – it’s a way that each taxpayer contributes to the good of his or her community. The very reason why tax injustice is of such concern is because it ultimately takes away from the public good and security, of which we are all investors. 
 


That being said, what options do we have when we feel that our contribution is not going to the public good, and even worse, is being spent on inflicting hurt, pain and death in other countries? Conscientious objectors to military tax believe just that, they oppose war on the grounds of conscience, yet feel complicit in the government’s violent behaviour through the tax system.



Many who are led to this conclusion are faced with the options of either keeping income below the taxable level, or illegally withholding a portion of their tax and facing prosecution and bankruptcy. There is no other alternative; this is financial conscription with no right to object. 




It is taken for granted that we contribute taxes for military preparations, and this is conscription by proxy

Campaign organisation 

Conscience is introducing a Bill to Parliament which would allow for the right of conscientious objection to military tax. The Taxes For Peace Bill would provide the freedom of conscience to those who are morally, ethically or religiously opposed to war to be able to re-direct the military portion of their taxes towards a fund designated for non-military security – a Peace Tax Fund.



100 years ago this year, the WWI Military Service Act simultaneously introduced compulsory military service and the inclusive right to conscientious objection in Britain for the first time. Since 1916, the right to freedom of conscience has been recognised in every significant international treaty. The European Convention on Human Rights, United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the British Human Rights Act all testify that everyone has the right to “…freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”



A century later, this right is not fully recognised in British law, as we are financially conscripted into the military through the taxation system. One war-tax resister brought the debate up to date perfectly by saying: “It is taken for granted that we contribute taxes for military preparations. This is conscription by proxy because we live in a country where civilian men are no longer required for military service.”
 
At a time when Britain is spending £105,000 of the taxpayer’s money every time it fires a Brimstone Missile, Conscience’s Bill recognises the right to invest in a culture of peace rather than war.

It is a government’s duty to keep its people safe and secure, and that is something we should all contribute to financially. This does not mean, however, that this security can only be established through threat of violence and overseas killing. Peacebuilding is a more sustainable, effective and economic form of security. Investment in our planet is a method of prevention rather than cure. 



A common argument dictates that in a democracy we should not pick and choose how our personal contributions are spent. We vote for a government and in doing so entrust in them the control of our investment. In practice, however, this means large corporations are being allowed to undermine the individual’s contribution and steal from the public good, while many individuals are being forced to pay for wars that they do not morally agree with and weapons they cannot in all conscience or reason endorse. 



You can register as a conscientious objector here. The register and statements will be used in support of the Taxes for Peace Bill. Conscience: Taxes for peace Not War campaigns for those individuals who want, in all good faith, to contribute their fair amount of tax, yet cannot reconcile their conscience with the deliberate killing the government sanctions and carries out in their name. For more information on ways you can get involved in this campaign, please contact outreach@conscienceonline.org.uk