Suffragist Tax Resister Kate Harvey Imprisoned in Holloway

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote:

Tax Resistance.

I am still locked up! A fellow “resister” has sent the following lines to cheer me:—

Good luck, my friend, I wish to thee,
In thy brave fight ’gainst tyranny.
Bracken Hill Siege will bring good cheer
To those who hold our Freedom dear,
And fight the good fight far and near.

And when oppression is out-done,
And Liberty, at last, is won,
When women civic rights possess,
They’ll think, I hope, with thankfulness,
Of those who bore the battle’s stress.

K[ate]. Harvey.

From the same issue:

How the Government Defies the Law.

Those women who have heard or read of the impending arrest of Mr. Mark Wilks (the husband of Dr. Elizabeth Wilks) in consequence of his inability to pay income-tax on his wife’s earnings from her profession, will doubtless be interested to know why such a situation is possible, and what is the exact legal position of the husband and wife.

Long ago in the dark ages, or to speak more precisely, in , the Income Tax Act was passed, which regulates all income-tax procedure, even to the present day. It is a most fearsome piece of composition. Its language is archaic and tautological, it rises wholly superior to punctuation, and proceeds breathlessly through one hundred and ninety-four clauses.

Clause No. 45 provides that the “profits” of any married woman “shall be deemed to be the profits of her husband,” and are to be charged with income-tax in his name and not in hers. In other words, he was to pay, and she was to be exempt, a perfectly fair arrangement in the bad old times when a man acquired his wife’s revenues or earnings on their marriage and she became thereby literally a “destitute” person.

The word “profits” denotes all revenue or income derived either from the wife’s capital or her labour. So whether she receives her income from rents, interest, dividends, &c., from the exercise of a trade or profession, or from salary or wages paid for her services or labour, a demand for payment of income-tax thereon must be made to her husband, and to him only. If he fails to comply with such demand, he can be thrown into prison (without any trial or other formalities) until he pays. Such is the unfortunate and wholly absurd position to which man-made law has brought Mr. Mark Wilks — as well as numerous other husbands whom the Inland Revenue authorities are mostly unable to locate.

It will be seen that his arrest might involve a husband’s being imprisoned indefinitely, or even permanently, the period of detention being only determined by payment of the sum demanded, which in the present instance is £40. Most of the Press reports have rather distorted Mr. Wilks’ case by asserting that it is Mrs. Wilks who is refusing to pay. Legally no married woman can even be asked to pay income-tax, and therefore a refusal on her part is quite out of the question.

I can hear someone saying, “Oh, but in we obtained a Married Woman’s Property Act.” Quite true, but according to an official letter from Somerset House in my possession, “the Crown does not recognise this Act.” The Crown authorities claim the right to maintain the position as it existed seventy years ago, and to over-ride the later and minor Act whenever it happens to suit their own ends.

It happens — for reasons which space compels me to omit — to suit them to the tune of two and a-half million pounds a year. Mr. Lloyd George confessed quite frankly in the House of Commons recently, when it was suggested to him that it was high time the Government set an example of compliance with the law, instead of bare-faced defiance of it, that to recognise the Married Women’s Property Act would annually deplete the Treasury to this large amount.

Mr. Stuart Wortley boldly told the Government they were an unscrupulous and dishonest lot, who juggled with the laws of the country, and shaped their policy on £ s. d., instead of on even-handed justice. And in the course of the debate it was stated that if mercantile firms conducted their business on this principle they would speedily find themselves in the dock. Readers will probably be in thorough agreement with this declaration.

Ethel Ayres Purdie.

Also from the same issue:

An Appeal to the King.

As a tax-resister on the ground that taxation and representation must go together, Miss Marie Lawson has made the following appeal to His Majesty the King:—

To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, etc. The Humble Petition of Marie Lawson, of 5, Westbourne-square, London, showeth:—

That your petitioner, having been proceeded against by Your Majesty’s Attorney-General in the High Court of Justice with respect to the non-payment of Income Tax, humbly prays Your Majesty to stay the said proceedings in consideration of the circumstances hereunder set forth:—

  1. That the imposition of such tax is wrong and unjust in that it is an infringement of the principle that taxation and representation must go together, a principle which has been long recognised in that rule which prohibits the House of Lords, and an unrepresentative assembly, from initiating or amending Money Bills; and it is respectfully submitted that the same principle should operate to prevent the House of Commons, an assembly equally unrepresentative with regard to Your Majesty’s female subjects, from initiating or enforcing financial legislation affecting such subjects.
  2. That the redress of grievances has long been recognised as a condition to supplies, and that arbitrary taxation has been persistently and successfully resisted in the past, whether the arbitrary taxation levied by the King in his own person which in the Stuart period plunged this country into Civil War, or the arbitrary taxation levied by Parliament, in the name of the Crown, which caused the American revolution.
  3. That Your Petitioner, in common with large numbers of other women, has been driven to resistance by the goad that is furnished by the continued refusal of your Majesty’s government to grant to the women of Great Britain that measure of justice already enjoyed by their sisters in Your Majesty’s dominions beyond the seas.

And your petitioner will ever pray, &c.