Choose an Easy Tax to Begin Resisting First

One occasional tactic of tax resistance campaigns involves choosing a particular tax or portion of a tax to resist, not because that tax or that portion is particularly offensive, but because it is easier to resist or the ramifications of resistance are less frightening. This, in theory anyway, will encourage more people to begin resisting.

Today I’ll give some examples.

  • The American war tax resistance movement for a long time targeted the excise tax on telephone service — both because it was a tax that had historically been instituted and raised to help fund war spending, and because it was a small and easily-resisted tax, so that people could start resisting quickly and without having to fear terrible government reprisals. The small amounts resisted also meant that government action against any particular resister would be unlikely to be cost-effective.
  • War tax resisters in Denmark have a similar campaign of refusal to pay a small portion of their radio and TV tax (equivalent to the military spending percentage of the Danish budget). Individuals pay this tax, while income taxes are withheld automatically under a pay-as-you-earn scheme, so this is a concrete way war tax resisters can resist.
  • Gandhi’s salt march and the salt-tax resistance campaign is now recognized as momentous, but at the time, many commentators ridiculed all of the fuss being made over a piddling little tax. War tax resister Joanne Sheenan notes:

    Gandhi’s Salt March initially involved only 80 people, but the act of picking up the salt from the sea and making their own salt in defiance of British taxed salt was revolutionary. The power of the Salt March was that it became a massive campaign — there was something everyone could do. Some packaged the salt, some sold it, all could refuse to buy the taxed salt and buy the alternative.

    The British occupation government knew that this piddling little tax had big symbolic value. At one point they hired hundreds of people to destroy natural salt deposits on a beach near Damni where Gandhi planned to try to harvest salt in violation of the ban.
  • There are periodic attempts in the American war tax resistance movement to try to get people to resist at least some tiny, symbolic part of their income taxes. For instance:
    • In , the group War Tax Resistance encouraged people to withhold and redirect $10–$50 from their income taxes — a small amount because “the expense to collect the tax that is not being paid is far greater than the additional penalty imposed for the delinquent action.”
    • In , a set of anti-war groups tried to get people to withhold and redirect at least a single dollar from their taxes.
    • More recently, a “$10.40 for Peace” campaign asked people to withhold $10.40 (a sort of tribute to the IRS 1040 form used by people to file their income taxes) as “a small act of witness against war and for the rights of conscience.”
    • Most pathetically, a group of Quakers is now begging people to, if they are going to pay their taxes, at the very least “Pay Under Protest.”