The Iconic Social Demand of a Simple Box

A fresh article on the tax resistance movements in Spain from Xornal de Galicia. Inexpert translation mine:

The iconic social demand of a simple box

Growing numbers of people and groups in Galicia who prefer social to military spending

The budget of the Defense Department was €18,181 million, a quantity that thousands of people around the State considered not only exorbitant, but also immoral and useless, a sentiment that they testified to in their income tax returns by exercising war tax resistance (OFGM) in increasing numbers since the 1980s in Spain and more noticeably in the last few years with the economic crisis.

More than 4,000 taxpayers resorted last year to this form of active resistance to military spending in which, basically, each one deducts from their taxes a portion corresponding to military spending and invests this portion in social, environmental, or humanitarian causes. “With OFGM we do not promote an ‘a la carte’ tax return as many people say,” explained Ignacio Ruibal, a tax resister for eight years, according to reports of the Vigo CGT, one of the groups that promotes this type of action. “We use a tool of civil disobedience,” he adds. “Publicly and collectively we break a law that we consider unjust — military spending — in order to transcend our social level and we show solidarity with other social projects to which we choose to direct our funds.”

Boycott of other items

In Galicia more than 200 tax resisters to these and other spending items were registered , as the refusal is more numerous than against military spending, but also extends to boycotting spending for the Catholic Church (the State allocates part of its budget to this entity through its related associations and collectively by determining the number of the faithful registered via baptism), bullfights, and other spending.

Groups like CNT, CGT, CUT, or CIG-Mocidade, and platforms like Espazo Aberto Antimilitarista de Vigo report on their existence and on how to carry them out, and propose every year certain projects and social organizations around the world for tax redirection. In this way, the World March of Women in Galicia has spent years urging the redirection of funds to groups of women victims of armed conflicts in the ex-Yugoslavia, Israel, Palestine, Colombia, Congo, Rwanda, Guatemala…

, Galicia Mellor Sen Touradas [“Galicia, better without bullfights”] called not only for tax resistance in order not to fund bullfights, but for tax rebellion against the city council of Padrón, A Coruña, for financing the national fiesta with public funds, arguing that the council “does not have moral authority to force the payment of taxes, when it does not comply with the legislation for the protection and welfare of animals which for 17 years running was never fulfilled by the municipality,” as spokesman Rubén Pérez described this pressure tactic, asking his neighbors to rebel at municipal tax time and to submit complaints in the local registry.

For its part, the Gallacian sections of Ecologists in Action / Association for the Taxation of Financial Transaction for the Aid of Citizens, members of the “Who owes whom?” campaign, and InspirAction came together in tax resistance against the heart of of the federal government’s economic crisis measures, submitting tax returns in which they subtracted €84 in protest against the federal government’s economic crisis measures that qualified as “socially and environmentally regressive” and redirecting this to specific humanitarian associations.

“The process is very simple,” explained Almudena Trillo of Cangas de Morrazo, member of the state platform of the Conscientious Objection Movement: “In your tax return, in the section for tax deductions, cross out one of the unused boxes, writing above ‘for war tax resistance’ and the disputed amount.”

You can choose the amount, but there are different possibilities, he continued: “A percentage, that of 4.32% is the official Defense Department budget, or 11.64% for total military spending.” Also you can retain €84, “a figure chosen symbolically in protest of the 84 poorest countries based on their external debt,” said Trillo, “or any other symbolic amount — one euro or 84 cents — the important thing is to resist,” he insisted.

Finally, those who do not owe taxes and those who do not have to file can join the protest by attaching a statement in the form of a letter demanding the recognition of a right to conscientious objection to military spending.

“You don’t know the police and their relations to the liquor business. I do. I know what they can do to break a man up. No one except a man in the liquor business does. I don’t believe that the system of paying money every month to be let alone will ever cease. I don’t believe that we shall ever be protected from it.”

That’s from the testimony of John Christensen, vice president of the Liquor Dealers’ Association of the 20th district of New York, at the Court of Special Sessions, as reported in the New York Times on .

Christensen had stepped out of line at an Association meeting and said some harsh words about the tax. He had been paying protection money for fifteen years and had avoided police trouble, but the Sunday following the meeting where he had spoken up his hotel and saloon were raided and his bartender was arrested.

The Times reported that, subsequent to this harassment, “[a]s a result of many conferences between the District Attorney, the Police Commissioner, agents for the Society for the Prevention of Crime, and Fritz Lintinger, President of the New York County Liquor Dealers’ Association, it is said that a decision has been reached as to the enforcement of the excise law [the legal authority the police selectively enforced in order to extort their tax]. The decision is to end all payments to the police for protection…”

This mostly represents a government policy change in how it was going to be taxing saloonkeepers, but because the change involved rescinding an extralegal tax extorted under-the-table by city employees, it was hard for the government to accomplish in ordinary ways. So it had to nurture a tax resistance movement and encourage solidarity among its members by offering some protection of its own (including judges who reduced fines against people arrested by the police in extortion attempts to near-nothing).