War tax paid under protest

WRI hands over unpaid tax – while objecting that their money will fund war.

WRI’s protest at HM Revenue and Customs. | Photo: Photo: Claire Reddleman. Courtesy of WRI.

An international pacifist network has handed over five years’ worth of unpaid tax to the UK government – while objecting that their money will fund war.  War Resisters’ International (WRI), whose head office is in London, paid the money ‘under strong protest’ last week. They had resisted paying for as long as possible, doing so only two days before bailiffs were due to carry off their computers.

‘At a time of crisis, most people detest tax evasion and want to defend public spending to meet social needs,’ said WRI’s chair, Howard Clark, ‘We too. We have not evaded taxes, but openly withhold them as a public protest.’

The money is a percentage of the income tax that WRI is required to pay on behalf of its employees. The group told the Friend they had paid after concluding that the removal of their computers would make it impossible for them to continue their work. This includes supporting conscientious objectors around the globe. The cycle may now start again, as WRI say they will withhold tax becoming due after this week.

The UK’s military spending is the fourth highest in the world, having risen twenty per cent since 2002, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

‘During the economic crisis, military spending has continued to rise,’ explained Hannah Brock, a Quaker member of WRI’s staff, who belongs to Hampshire and Islands Area Meeting. ‘It seems that even an economic crisis cannot reduce our lust for arms.’

Quakers and other pacifists have long been involved in withholding tax in protest against war. In the UK, where income tax is paid by employers on behalf of staff, only self-employed people are able to withhold tax as individuals. Roy Prockter of Clacton-on-Sea Meeting is awaiting a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights after being convicted of non-payment of tax (see ‘Quaker defies court ruling’, 14 October 2011).

‘War tax resistance is the practical expression of the right to freedom of conscience,’ said Gayle Kinkead of Conscience, a group campaigning for taxpayers’ money to fund non-military forms of security. Hannah Brock added: ‘They no longer need to conscript us physically. They conscript our money. I’m still aiding and funding war, which is against my conscience and my beliefs as a Quaker.’

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