Secession and Parallel Governments as Tax Resistance Tactics

Some tax resistance campaigns have tried to partially or completely secede from the government that is taxing them, or to set up alternative parallel governmental or quasi-governmental institutions to compete with or crowd out those of the established government.

  • When white supremacists in Louisiana lost the gubernatorial election to a reconstructionist candidate in 1872, they formed their own parallel government led by the losing candidate, with their own separate legislature and their own separate militia (with which they briefly occupied the statehouse). They insisted that they were the legitimate government of Louisiana and recommended that people pay taxes to them and not to the usurpers in the statehouse. They asserted:

    Public opinion throughout the Union is against the usurpation, and our only danger, if there be any, will come from ourselves. If the people of Louisiana will sanction, by obedience and acquiescence, this Government, they will give it the only validity it can ever acquire. It is only by our own submission that our cause can be defeated. We recommend the people of the several parishes, for the purpose of most effectual resistance to this usurpation, and of mutual aid and defense, to join the People’s League of Louisiana by the formation of Parish councils in correspondence with the Central Council at New-Orleans. We must remember that there can be no de facto government as against a de jure government in a State, and that the only way by which the [governor] Kellogg usurpation can become established as a government is by acquiescence of the people… The people of New-Orleans are not to pay taxes, can not, in fact, pay them, nor are they giving any recognition to the usurpers.

    The existence of this shadow government was not only a direct threat to the Kellogg government, but also indirectly made it difficult for it to raise funds because of the uncertainty. One editorialist explained:

    [Kellogg] can borrow no money, for his government is so notoriously illegal that no lender would expect payment. If he should undertake to sell property for taxes, there would be no buyers, because an illegal Government could not give a valid title. Hence he is reduced to the necessity of resorting to bluster and threats.

  • The Rebecca Rioters, confident from their success in destroying tollbooths, started to step in and adjudicate disputes in a quasi-governmental fashion. For instance, they would visit the homes of fathers of illegitimate children and exact promises from them that they would provide support for the mothers.
  • During the tax strike that erupted in the French wine-growing region, local government officials resigned en masse and “local Separatist committees professed to take the Government’s place and set up a sort of provincial government.”
  • The decentralist Liberal Democratic Movement of Carabobo, Venezuela hinted at a tax resistance campaign in . Upset at deteriorating public safety and infrastructure, and alleging that local taxes were being siphoned off to wasteful federal spending and a bloated local bureaucracy, Enio Daza, autonomism director of the Carabobo branch of the party, suggested that locals organize their own, independent tax office, and pay their taxes there where they could exercise local control over the spending.
  • The Zapatista movement in Mexico established municipios autónomos (autonomous towns) in regions where they were active:

    The Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal, and Chol Indians (among others) who lived in the autonomous townships called their political philosophy resistencia: civil resistance to government authority. In the late 1990s there were thirty-eight Zapatista townships in Chiapas, including less than 10 percent of the 700,000 Indians in the state, but with a political impact in the indigenous communities that far outweighed their size.

    The Zapatistas sought not to found a new Indian nation but to make a place for Indian self-determination within the Mexican state. In their townships they kept their own birth and death records, discouraging followers from registering with official bureaucracies. They stopped paying taxes to any government and refused to allow social workers from government health and welfare agencies to set foot inside what they considered their boundaries. They opened their own health clinics staffed by volunteer Mexican and foreign doctors and local herbal healers and organized agricultural and crafts cooperatives that operated mainly through regional barter. In some townships they held trials and set up jails.

  • Some people in the present-day Catalan independence movement have started paying their federal taxes directly to the Catalan regional government rather than to Spain.
  • An ongoing Spanish tax resistance movement is urging people to create a new, bottom-up, autonomous government of their own, and encourages them to redirect their taxes from the existing government into these new government-like projects:

    [T]he construction of autonomy will require a lot of resources. This process should be based on the ability to work and the generosity of many people, but needs to rely on these resources to make it possible.

    By fiscal autonomy we mean all the pathways of redistribution that will make the tax system support initiatives that will really benefit people. That is to say that the portion that each person is responsible of providing for the common good must be destined for new public services that really place the basic needs of people higher on the scale of priorities. Therefore it becomes a priority, and all but essential, to generate dynamics of ever more massive civil disobedience against the pilfering of our resources on the part of the state, and to reclaim them for popular self-government.

  • In the Māori government in New Zealand instructed its subjects there to begin paying a dog tax directly to it, rather than to the New Zealand government-approved County Council.
  • When the Czar dissolved the Russian Duma in , the Duma refused to dissolve, meeting in Finland and declaring that they were the only government body with the authority to collect and spend taxes, and that therefore so long as they were abolished — so were taxes.
  • Something similar happened in Germany in , when the military and executive tried to break up the parliament. The parliament then called on the people to refuse to pay any more taxes to the government. When the government responded by trying to cut off funds for parliament, “the people insisted on making the payment, in spite of this prohibition.”