Married Women and Tax Resistance

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote ():

Married Women and Tax Resistance.

From a leaflet issued by the Women’s Tax Resistance League, and costing 2d., we take the following extracts:

The position of married women in relation to the direct annual taxes, such as Super Tax, Income Tax, Property Tax, and Inhabited House Duty, is a very simple one, and easily grasped. No married woman is liable for any of these taxes. It is illegal to demand payment from her, to enforce or attempt to enforce payment, or even to ask her to furnish particulars of her property or income. This total exemption of the married woman from taxability arises out of the ancient and now nearly obsolete law of coverture, which holds that a husband and wife are “one,” and the husband is that “one.” Therefore the Income Tax Act, which was passed in , but still holds good, stipulates that no married woman shall be held liable for taxes. Section 45 of that Act reads thus:— “Provided always, that the profits of any married woman living with her husband shall be deemed to be the profits of the husband, and the same shall be charged in the name of the husband, and not in her name, nor of her trustee.”

The above clause has never been repealed, and still governs the case of the Super Tax, the Income Tax, the Property Tax, and the Inhabited House Duty.

The ruling powers delight in asserting and maintaining the “disabilities” of the married woman. They decline to recognise her as a parental unit. They deny her the privilege of being a mayor or a municipal councillor, and insist that even if the single woman is given the Parliamentary vote, the married woman must not be allowed to participate in the privilege. In short, they believe in the law of coverture when it suits themselves. But women are now too wide awake to allow the game of “having it both ways” to be longer played on them. They know better than to continue to submit to a policy which may be summed up as, Heads I win — tails you lose.

Married women in receipt of incomes can testify, from their own experience, as to whether the law in regard to their non-taxability is obeyed, or whether it is openly and flagrantly defied. It appears that large numbers of married women are paying taxes regularly, without making the slightest protest against the illegal procedure of which they are the victims. This is probably due to their ignorance of their legal status (or rather, lack of status) just as many of them are unaware that they are not the legal “parents” of their children.

When pressed on the subject of married women and taxes, the Somerset House and Treasury officials will not, in fact dare not, deny that their methods are illegal. If asked to show their authority for imposing taxes on married women, they cultivate a stony silence. All the chicanery of the “Circumlocution Office” is brought into play, and anyone who likes can repeat the experience of Arthur Clennam in “Little Dorrit,” by writing a few letters, or making a call at Somerset House, where “knowing nothing” has been brought to a fine art. Officialdom finds itself incapable of understanding the simplest question, when the question happens to be one to which it can find no answer, and which is asked by a woman.

Many married women, including leading actresses, doctors, titled women, business women, and various others having property, businesses, investments, &c., or being in receipt of salaries, have succeeded in demonstrating their non-taxability, and thereby involved the Revenue in a total loss of the tax illegally charged on them.

The Review of Reviews () quoted from an article in the Westminster Review by “Mrs. Elmy” (Elizabeth Clarke Wolstenholme Elmy?):

Liberals in general profess to regard taxation without representation as tyranny, therefore let every woman Suffragist who is in a position to do so refuse to pay Income Tax — and let every such woman who occupies a house of more than £20 a year rental refuse to pay House Duty, until the enfranchisement of women has been secured by Act of Parliament, and has become an operative part of the law of the land. Women have been patient far too long. The time for prompt, vigorous, and decisive action is now here — and with such prompt, vigorous, and decisive action our cause, which in its ultimate issues is the cause of justice to half the human race, will be speedily won.

Davi Barker has written an interesting series of articles on “Authoritarian Sociopathy” summarizing some of the work done to extend the findings of the Milgram and Stanford prison experiments:

  1. Authoritarian Sociopathy — if you invent a role that incentivizes evil many people will willingly adjust to the role and become evil; if you internalize “obedience to authority” as a core personality trait you will become capable of murder and tolerant of abuse
  2. Power and Deception — people placed into positions of authority are less troubled by their own unethical behavior
  3. Power and Compassion — powerful people become less able to sympathize with the suffering of other people
  4. Power and Hypocrisy — powerful people develop a double-standard of judging ethical lapses in which they give themselves a pass but judge others harshly for the same behavior — but there’s a catch, and it just might work in our favor