top of page

War Tax Resistance

Below, you'll find information about War Tax Resistance.

/War Tax Resistance

We recognise that some people are deeply concerned about their taxes being used to fund war. While we don't advocate the act of withholding tax, we believe it's essential to provide information and support for those who wish to explore alternatives. These alternatives offer an effective means of protest for those seeking long-term political change. If, after careful consideration, you choose to withhold the portion of your taxes allocated for war or preparations for war, we can connect you with like-minded individuals and offer guidance on what to expect.

War Tax Resistance
/Understanding War Tax Resistance

We all have a civic duty to pay taxes, and a portion of these taxes, approximately 6%, is earmarked for military purposes. Some individuals, on grounds of conscience, opt to withhold this military portion of their taxes until they receive assurances that it won't be used for military purposes. These individuals are commonly known as war tax resisters.

It's important to note that not everyone can easily become a war tax resister, as most people have their taxes automatically deducted at source, such as through PAYE for income tax. However, if you complete an annual tax return, there are ways to withhold taxes specifically for war (see "I Refuse" below for more details).

War tax resisters do not aim to reduce their overall tax liability. They are willing to pay their taxes in full if they receive government assurances that their contributions won't support military spending. Regrettably, such assurances have not yet been granted by the government. Instead, they often redirect war tax resisters to HM Revenue and Customs, who then take responsibility for recovering the withheld tax amounts.

 

It's essential to understand that war tax resistance is not a decision to be taken lightly. It involves a significant commitment of time and may lead to legal and financial consequences for those who choose this path. Historically, war tax resisters have faced fines and legal prosecution, occasionally even bankruptcy and imprisonment.

The fundamental conflict between our current tax laws and the ability to conscientiously object to funding the military underscores the urgency of introducing new legislation in the UK.

Understanding War Tax Resistance
'I refuse'; Upholding Conscience
/I REFUSE: Upholding Conscience

"One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law." – Martin Luther King Jr., 1963, Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Some individuals are guided by their conscience to abstain from financially contributing to war efforts. They believe that allocating taxes towards military endeavors directly contradicts their deeply held moral and ethical beliefs. In alignment with their conscience, they seek to withhold or redirect the portion of their taxes intended for war or war preparations. If you are among those who share this conviction, this page provides fundamental information about who can undertake tax withholding, how to proceed, and the potential consequences of this action.

Please note that the information here is not an exhaustive summary of the law. If you are considering war tax resistance, it is strongly advisable to seek professional legal counsel.

Can I Choose Not to Fund the Military?
/Can I Choose Not to Fund the Military?

Many people wonder if it's possible to avoid financially supporting military preparations. The military budget is funded through both direct and indirect taxation. This means that virtually everyone, regardless of their income tax status, indirectly contributes to the military budget through everyday expenditures. In this sense, completely avoiding financial support for the military is exceptionally challenging.

For individuals taxed under PAYE, such as pensioners, students, or those without income, withholding or redirecting tax is particularly complicated. Typically, these individuals won't need to complete a tax return, resulting in most of their taxable income being deducted at the source. Consequently, tax withholding or redirection is generally not feasible for this group.

However, if you are self-employed, an employer, or receive untaxed income (e.g., from property rentals) and are required to file a tax return, you may be in a position to consider withholding or redirecting war taxes.

If you are unable to withhold or divert taxes, please don't let this discourage you from actively engaging in advocacy. You can still reach out to your MP, MEP, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Prime Minister to express your concerns.

Additionally, you can seek support from local peace and human rights groups, religious organisations, political parties, or trade unions of which you may be a member to help spread the message.

/Withholding Taxes

Should your conscience guide you not to finance war, you might opt to withhold a portion of your taxes until HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) provides assurance that your taxes will not be allocated to military purposes. Individuals taking this route usually communicate with HMRC, informing them that the withheld tax has been deposited in a separate account and will be paid, with interest, once the appropriate assurance is given.

Undertaking this action will have financial repercussions, and eventually, HMRC may demand payment or pursue legal action. The decision to withhold tax should never be taken lightly, and it is crucial to seek professional legal guidance.

Withholding Taxes
/Diverting Taxes

Rather than simply withholding tax, some individuals prefer to attempt diverting their taxes to ensure their money does not support the military. This can be achieved by designating cheques to HMRC specifically for certain government departments (e.g., the Department of Health or Department for International Development, which have been popular choices). Generally, such cheques are either returned or, in some cases, inadvertently deposited into the HMRC account. Since HMRC typically responds to diverted cheques by requesting corrected payment, you will have the option to pay and avoid legal proceedings while still making your point.

Diverting Taxes
/Legal Consequences of Tax Diversion or Withholding

Should you choose to continue withholding taxes, it is likely that HMRC will seize your possessions, and you may face legal action. However, at any stage, you have the option to pay and resolve the matter as far as you are willing.

In an effort to settle your debt, HMRC will assess the value of your possessions for potential auction sale. This may involve visits from HMRC representatives and/or bailiffs. Following such visits, you will typically have five days to settle your debt before your possessions are seized for auction.

If the outstanding sum remains unpaid upon receipt of a court order, several possibilities may arise:

  • Property belonging to you that is held by a third party (e.g., money in a bank account) may be transferred directly to HMRC.

  • If you are still earning income, deductions may be made directly from your wages at the source.

  • You may be declared bankrupt (a rare occurrence).

  • In extreme cases, you may face imprisonment (also uncommon).

Should you decide to withhold or divert war taxes, it is crucial to inform HMRC of your actions and rationale. This can foster a more amicable atmosphere and clarify that, despite the illegal nature of your actions, you are not intentionally attempting to deceive or defraud them. However, it's important to remember that unpaid taxes will accrue substantial interest charges and additional costs.

 

For more comprehensive guidance on the processes related to war tax resistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Legal Consequences of Tax Diversion or Withholding
/Want to learn more about War Tax Resistance?

The connection between taxes and warfare has deep historical roots, and instances of tax resistance date back to the inception of taxation. One early case of war tax resistance in England traces back to the early 13th century during the reign of King John. Faced with the necessity of funding a war with France, King John imposed taxes on his subjects, a move met with strong opposition. Many perceived the war as an extravagant expenditure and voiced their discontent through protests on the streets of London. This episode marked a pivotal moment in the history of tax resistance and its enduring relationship with questions of war and conscience.

Learm more about War Tax Resistance
bottom of page