Women and Taxation.
Women are not only the least criminal part of our population, but they are
also the most exemplary taxpayers. Until the repeated denial of their right
of voting called forth the protest of passive resistance, the women taxpayers
of the country must have won golden opinions from the officials of the Inland
Revenue Office. But these days are gone. From every quarter comes the refusal
of information and the refusal of payment. The gathering in of the income-tax
of women has become a burden. The peaceful taxpayer of a few years ago has
become to the official eye a most unsatisfactory defaulter. She claims the
right of voting as an acknowledgment of her peaceful paying. She has taken
for her motto “No Vote, No Tax.” She reiterates her grievance, and will
not pay until it is redressed.
In addition to this general grievance, the special injustice and indignity
imposed upon married women by the Inland Revenue procedure are met with
resentment and growing protest and with categorical charges of illegality.
The husbands of the women having separate incomes or earnings are adding
their protests like fuel to the fire. They fail to see why they should be
held responsible for the return of their wives’ incomes, and be penalised by
the denial of abatement if such return is not forthcoming. They point out
that the law gives them neither the power nor the right to enquire into the
financial affairs of their wives. They add that by the illegal practice of
putting the two incomes together and calling them the income of the man, the
State is guilty of imposing a higher rate of taxation upon married persons.
In this way marriage is specially penalised, and unorthodox unions are
encouraged. This state of affairs is not satisfactory to either husband or
wife; and both husband and wife have joined the protest against it. The
Treasury will have both to meet if it does not alter its present course of
These are standing grievances, but an additional reason and an additional
opportunity for revolt upon the resistance-to-taxation lines has been
supplied by the new Land Tax. Unless the Women’s Suffrage Bill is carried
into law this autumn, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to face the
fact that every new piece of taxation carried through the Legislature will be
impeded as far as possible by the efforts of women who have not been
consulted about it. The outcry against the liquor taxes of the Budget, and
now the growing clamour against the far-reaching demands of the new Land Tax
Act, ought to make clear to this gentleman that there are quite enough
natural opponents to increased taxation to be faced and vanquished without
any Government going out of its way to raise up artificial ones by specific
acts of injustice. But there are some people whom the gods make blind that
they may be the more certainly overthrown.
There are not a very large number of women land-owners. Indeed, if the word
is employed according to ordinary usage, there are very few. But for the
purposes of this Land Tax a new meaning has been given to both “land”
and “owner.” The new legal definition makes “land” include all
kinds of structures, from mansions to stables, and also minerals, trees, and
machinery; the owner is so defined as to include lease-holder as well as the
owner proper; many a comparatively poor women will find herself included in
the wider range thus assured for the Government’s operations.
Upon the Land Tax itself we pass no opinion. It may be a good thing, as some
people claim; it may be a bad one conceived for a good end, as others hold;
or it may be one that is bad altogether. Suffragists, as such, have no
official opinion upon this point. They hold that it will be time enough for
them to divide into hostile camps about land taxes when they are voters, and
they put this, with many other issues, aside. But while they refuse to be
partisans, they take a very definite stand against the application of any
Act which entails the taxing of voteless women. Every new Act of this nature
must count upon their opposition.
The famous forms on which the owners and lease-holders of the country have to
prepare the necessary statistics for the levying of the new tax have been
issued now in practically all parts of England, and they will be issued in
Scotland within a few days. Already these forms have been returned unfilled
up, and with a curt comment as to the status of the women applied to, by some
of our members in England. They will be so returned by many Suffragists
across the border. Neither information nor money will be forthcoming in
response to the Inland Revene Department’s demands. As far as possible this
piece of Government business will be impeded first by the determined refusal
of information, and, second, by the withholding of the money claimed in taxes.
Such refusal to yield to tyranny is always desirable. But at the present
moment it carries an additional value in that it can be employed to improve
the chances of the Conciliation Women’s Suffrage Bill. From now until the
fate of the Bill is decided, every woman to whom any Government application
for information or for taxes is made should not only refuse to comply because
of the unrepresented condition of her sex, but should add a rider to the
effect that she will gladly supply information and provide the money claimed
if the Women’s Suffrage Bill at present before Parliament becomes law this
By this means pressure will be brought to bear upon the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and through him upon the Cabinet, in favour of our Bill. In order
to make the protest completely effective, not only should it be made through
the local revenue channels, but Mr. Lloyd George himself should be approached.
A letter stating the reasons for the course of action followed, and
repeating the promise to comply with the Government claim if the Conciliation
Bill is carried into law, should be sent to him by every passive resister. To
further emphasise the position, groups of tax-resisters should seek interviews
with the Chancellor. There should be a series of requests for deputations to
be received from every kind of taxpaying women. The women affected by the new
Land Tax should send a deputation, if possible, from every district. The
women payers of ordinary income-tax should send a deputation. The married
women should send a deputation. The women liable to the super-tax should send
a deputation. And everyone of them should preach the same path of salvation
to the Treasury — the Conciliation Bill as the price of yielding to
taxation by the women of the country. If, in addition to this series of
lessons from women, a representative deputation of aggrieved husbands could
wait upon the Chancellor, pointing out their intention to oppose the
Government by their votes unless they are relieved from their present
anomalous and burdensome position, the education of this member of the
Cabinet would surely be ensured.
Many Liberal women, who have so far failed to share the worst risks of the
Suffrage fight, could do great service to the cause now in this way. The
attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Conciliation Bill has
completely absolved them of any obligations to him. Many thousands of them
are taxpayers, and a determined demand for the passage of this Bill as the
price of their taxes should have some effect. Much resentment is felt in
Liberal ranks. But vague resentment, however warm, is of little practical
value — it is ignored, its very presence is denied by the politician.
Translated into this practical form, it would be more effective than the
protest of any other body of people. Will the Liberal women rise to the
occasion? Definite impeding of the Government business is the only policy
that will carry weight now. Let all who can put their hands to the plough,
and the task will yet be done.
To the Editor of The Vote.
Madam,— My wife, being treated as an outlander in her own country, has
refused payment of taxes levied on her own professional income. For this she
has already twice suffered distraint of her goods in enforcement of that levy.
This would appear logical treatment for those in full possession of the rights
of citizenship, the qualification for which is payment of taxes, direct or
On a third refusal, however, no suggestion of distraint is made, but I am
informed that I am liable for taxes levied on her income, while at the same
time the law places all her property entirely beyond my control.
This in itself is sufficiently illogical, but if it be a correct
interpretation of existing law, then the distraints on my wife’s property
were clearly illegal. I cannot be responsible for her income which I may not
touch, and she liable to distraint for what she is not obliged to pay.
The logic of the market-place grasps the fact that you cannot have your cake
and eat it. ―Yours faithfully,