Blockchain based Tax Resistance aka “Resistcoin”
I’ve dipped in and out of blockchain research for the past few years, and there are certain things i’ve come to understand about the complexion of projects that are well suited for the technology. One broad thesis that I’ve developed is that blockchain technology is uniquely capable of organizing bottom up user behaviors, especially in areas where there is no profit or political incentive for a company or government to organize said people from the top down. As I have watched protests erupt across our country, and as I have seen bottom up action fight a top down administration, I kept thinking to myself…there must be more impactful forms of leverage than simply visualizing our collective discontent via large scale assembly and marching. So here’s an idea on how the bottom up swell of discontent Americans can exert economic force and leverage on Donald Trump and Co.
Quick Primer on Blockchain for newbies
Blockchain technology enables strangers to trust each other in economic and social agreements. It is the technology that powers Bitcoin, Etherium, and hundreds of other crptocurrencies, but this same technology can power lots of other apps, especially those that deal with the transfer of money between people who don’t know each other. To simplify for non-blockchain folks, the important take away is this: if a blockchain based app (similar to a website or mobile app just w different technology powering it) defines a set of rules…especially around how money is going to be earned and distributed within the app…you can trust that when you put your money in…those rules will be followed by you and everyone else on the app…no matter what the makers of the app decide in the future, or even if the makers of the app are around in the future. Blockchain protocols are like detailed promises of how a community or network of people/companies and their money will behave in a given app or system. These promises, by design, will always be fullfilled, without the need of a company or government or law enforcement agency to make sure of it.
Ok, so here’s the idea:
1) The annual federal budget is around $4 Trillion a year
2) The government collects about $3.6 Trillion in federal taxes (so roughly speaking, our federal taxes pay for most of what the federal government operates on)
3) If a significant portion of US citizens chose to protest with their wallets and not their bodies, in substantial numbers, we could have a material adverse effect on Donald Trump’s operations.
4) Turns out this a thing. It’s called Tax Resistance, and there are hundreds of cases in our country’s history (and around the world) where people banded together and didn’t pay taxes when opposing a war or some other perceived injustice by a ruling government.
5) There is, obviously, deep personal risk to not paying your taxes. You can rack up steep fines, and worst case maybe even go to jail. My premise, is that as an individual, this risk is extreme, but as one of say 20 Million people, who collectively agree to behave this way, the risk is diminished…basically…strength and leverage in numbers. But how could you ensure that you were one of 20 Million before withholding funds? And how could you, collectively, ensure that your withheld funds were heard and responded to with action?
6) I think you could build a blockchain based application to organize mass federal tax resistance. The basic design would be a smart contract built on Etherium (or maybe you’d build your own blockchain from the ground up, i don’t know) that would receive all participants’ owed federal taxes, and that would only release these taxes to the IRS if a set of predefined conditions was satisfied by Donald Trump and the Federal Government. These conditions would be promises of the system that everyone agrees to on the way in. The logic of the contract would enable people to pay into it for the months leading up to Tax Day, and it would be conditional such that it would only become active and withhold on tax day if 1) the conditions had not been met, and 2) the minimum number of people specified at the onset (i.e. 20 million) had come together and funded the contract in time. So if only 100 people did it, on Tax Day, the contract would simply pass through your funds to the IRS automatically. BUT…if the contract had hit 20 Million people, which is the predefined number representing scale and safety for this form of protest, the contract would hold the funds until Administration acted to say 1) lift the muslim bad, 2) oust Bannon from office, 3) whatever else the protocol defines as fundamentally important and constitutional. (NOTE: If i’ve made any technical mistakes in this design or my simplification of blockchain technology, please feel free to correct me. thank you.)
7) The effect would be a big fat pile of money…say $200 Billion or 5% of annual feferal budget…sitting in a smart contract, staring Donald Trump in the face. He would know what he needed to do to release it. And he couldn’t lean on any individual actor in the system, or any top down authority governing these funds (because there isn’t one)..and the money would just be sitting there until he chose to behave. I believe this type of economic leverage would be a language this president understands…sure…he might go nuts and try to arrest all 20 Million people…but I think if a bottom up org represented that type of capital leverage…interesting things would happen.
8) For fun, maybe you’d call the project “Resistcoin”
9) Note to the IRS: I pay my taxes and I am not building this app.
Here’s Wikipedia’s list of historical tax resistance occurrences dating back to the 1st century A.D. through very modern and recent times.
Before 1500 A.D.
Jewish Zealots, 1st century A.D.
See also: Render unto Caesar…
In the 1st century AD, Jewish Zealots in Judaea resisted the poll tax instituted by the Roman Empire. Jesus was accused of promoting tax resistance prior to his torture and execution (“We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” — Luke 23:2).After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, Jews, particularly those exiled to Egypt, refused to pay the still-extant “temple tax” to Rome (which it was using to maintain pagan temples); Rome responded by destroying Jewish temples.
In 578 AD residents of Limoges, encouraged by the local clergy, rioted, destroying tax-collecting paraphernalia and threatening the assessor. The government responded harshly, with punishments including torture and crucifixion, though Queen Fredegund later was said to have repented and rescinded the tax.
Peace and Truce of God
Lady Godiva′s Ride
In the legend of Lady Godiva′s ride, Godiva continuously pleaded with Leofric to reduce taxes on the people of Coventry. Leofric, doubting the strength of her commitment to the cause, said that he would do so if Godiva were to ride naked on a horse through the town. She called his bluff, rode in the buff, and that was enough.
Main article: Alamanikon
When Alexios III Angelos tried to tax residents of Constantinople in order to come up with money to pay protection money to Henry VI, the people of Constantinople refused to pay, and Alexios was reduced to trying to collect the sum by stripping the ornaments from old tombs.
A war tax instituted by the Florentine seigniory in 1288 and increased in 1289 led to mass tax resistance that forced the government to abandon the tax.
Clericis laicos, 1296
In 1296, Pope Boniface VIII issued the clericis laicos, which prohibited secular governments from taxing churches without the permission of the Pope, and prohibited church officials from paying such taxes. Archbishop Robert Winchelsey used this as the basis for his refusal to pay taxes to Edward I of England, and urged the clergy under his direction to do likewise.
Norman anti-tax riots, 1348–51
In Normandy in June 1348, tax resisters attacked the tax collectors of King Philip VI, “pillaging and burning their houses.” In August 1351, citizens of Rouen rioted, “destroying ‘the counters, boxes, and other objects necessary to make and operate’ collection of” a new tax instituted by John II. In 1355, Geoffroy of Harcourt urged residents of Rouen to refuse to pay the hearth tax and allied with Charles the Bad against John II′s taxes.
Wat Tyler′s rebellion, 1381
In 1381, the Peasant’s Revolt occurred in England, when Wat Tyler led an uprising over a new poll tax. Tyler marched an army of tens of thousands of peasants from Kent to Canterbury, then to London, beheaded the archbishop, and exacted radical concessions from King Richard II. During the negotiations, Tyler was killed by officers of the King and was publicly beheaded, and Richard II retracted all of the concessions that he had previously made.
French aides uprisings, 1381
In Rouen workers in the textile trade gathered in the Old Market, chose one of their own to represent the king, and had this mock king sign acts abolishing the aides. In Paris the collectors′ threat to seize a greengrocer′s still on the Right Bank roused local residents to assemble, shout “Down with taxes!” and chase off the tax collectors…. The rebellion then spread to Caen and other towns in Normandy and to towns in Picardy, where opposition was especially virulent in Amiens. It moved through Orleans and on to Sens, finally reaching Lyons….
The Bundschuh movement was in part a tax resistance movement that encouraged its followers to stop paying tithes to the Catholic Church and taxes. In France, a tithe-payer strike spread from 1529 to 1560 among both Catholics and Protestants.
Revolt of the Comuneros, 1520
Residents of Salamanca in 1520 refused to pay any taxes because of their belief that Charles I was sending the tax money to the Netherlands. They were joined by other towns, which eventually formed the Revolt of the Comuneros.
German Peasants′ War, 1524–25
The German Peasants’ War of 1524–25 was in part a tax resistance campaign. The rebels vowed to set their own tithes, and:
The small tithes, whether ecclesiastical or lay, we will not pay at all, for the Lord God created cattle for the free use of man. We will not, therefore, pay farther an unseemly tithe which is of man′s invention…. Henceforth no one shall have to pay death taxes, whether small or large.
Revolt of Ghent, 1539
For war, killing, and bloodshed (where it is demanded especially for that) we give nothing, but not out of wickedness or arbitrariness, but out of the fear of God (1 Timothy 5) that we may not be partakers in strange sins.
[When] the government requires of us what is contrary to our faith and conscience — as swearing oaths and paying hangman’s dues or taxes for war — then we do not obey its command.
Gabelle revolts, 1542, 1548
Residents of La Rochelle rebelled against the gabelle, or salt tax, in 1542. “[A]rmed rebels thwarted the tax-collecting efforts of two successive visitations of royal commissioners sent out to enforce the [gabelle] edicts.” A second revolt centered in Guyenne in 1548 was more organized, widespread, and violent; and was violently suppressed. Also in August 1548, there were violent revolts against the gabelle in Bordeaux in which tax collectors were killed and their homes burnt. The French central government sent in thousands of troops who terrorized the occupants, imposed martial law, and enforced humiliating terms; however “Amazingly, in the long run, the rebellion did achieve its aim. Unnerved by the riots, Henri II decided not to enforce the salt tax.”
Tariff resistance in Holland, 1543–49
Tax strikes in France, 1579–80
In Romans-sur-Isère and other parts of Dauphiné, anti-tax leagues formed, which grew into a powerful rebellion that was crushed in the wake of the ambush and murder of many of the rebel leaders by vigilantes during the Carnival of 1580.
The Revolt Against the Tribute, Philippines, 1589
In 1589, the provinces of Cagayán, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur rebelled against unjust Spanish colonial taxes and abusive tax collectors in what became known as the “Revolt Against the Tribute,” the “Dingrás Revolt,” or the “Ilocos Norte Revolt.”
Main article: Croquant rebellions
Peasant rebels in southwestern France called “croquants” included “refusal to pay tithes, tailles, and rents… and resistance to tax collectors and their agents.” A second rebellion in Vivarais at the same time also centered on refusal to pay the taille.
Sales tax resistance in France, 1597
A number of towns in France, notably Poitiers, resisted the imposition of a new sales tax by Henry IV in 1597. The King at first stubbornly enforced the tax by force, but eventually decided the expense and fuss was not worth the income and rescinded the tax.
The Jelali revolts were typically inspired by taxes or the action of tax collectors, and included tax resistance strategies, including “The Great Flight” — a sort of mass emigration by peasants from their land to avoid taxes.
Bolotnikov rebellion, 1606
In the city of Brussels, then part of the Duchy of Brabant in the Habsburg Netherlands, there was a tax strike in 1619. When the States of Brabant (composed of representatives of the clergy, the nobility, and the four cities Leuven, Brussels, Antwerp and ‘s-Hertogenbosch) met to renew the standard sales tax on the “four species of consumption” (beer, wine, bread and meat), the guilds of the city of Brussels instructed their representatives not to vote the taxes through until their grievances had been addressed. As the constitutional principle was that taxes had to be passed by “full consent”, this meant the taxes could not legally be collected. After two months of constitutional impasse and fruitless negotiations (May–June) the government ordered the taxes to be collected notwithstanding. The guilds made this impossible, and their defiance of the government led to a military occupation of the city in September 1619. The central authorities then revised the civic constitution to limit the power of the guilds to filibuster the States of Brabant. The deans of six of the guilds, and their legal counsel, were served with sentences of lifelong banishment from the Low Countries.
English Civil War
In 1627, John Hampden was imprisoned for his opposition to the loan Charles I authorised without parliamentary sanction, and he also refused to pay ship money to the Royal Navy. The attempts to imprison resisters like Hampden led to the English Civil War.
From the summer of 1646 through 1648, the city of London refused to pay taxes to the New Model Army which was occupying the city.
17th-century tax rebellions in France
In 1615, the residents of one commune refused to pay the wine tithe and threatened to throw the collector into the Rhône.
In Poitiers, France, in 1624 and again on multiple occasions in 1663, mobs attacked Inns where French tax farmers were staying, threatening to torch the building and kill those inside.
The success of anti-tax rebellions in Saintonge and Angoumois led to other rebellions in France, including some in which excise officers were lynched. The most notorious incident was the massacre of tax officers responsible for collecting the gabelle at Agen in June 1635.
A second “Croquants′ Revolt” in 1636–37 (with some outbreaks as early as 1628) concerned the taxes being raised to support France′s entry into the Thirty Years’ War and included the lynching of tax officials, a tax strike, and a major battle at which over 2,000 people were killed. The major rebellion was defeated, but outbreaks of mass tax resistance continued as late as 1658.
From 1638 to 1645, the residents of Pardiac refused to pay their taxes, rose up to free the officials who had been imprisoned for failure to remit the tax money, repulsed government troops sent to enforce the tax laws, and massacred a tax official and his bodyguard.
In 1639–43, the revolt of the va-nu-pieds in Normandy included a tax strike and attacks on the homes of tax farmers. In 1643 there were attacks on tax collectors in multiple regions of France. The Fronde of 1646–53 was also marked by anti-tax riots.
The revolt of the papier timbré in 1675 was centered on a new stamp tax, and included destruction of tax offices and attacks on tax- and tithe-collectors.
In 1682, a village curate led a tax revolt in which the villagers stoned the monks and the tithe agent who had come to collect a grain tithe.
Algonquian resistance, 1637
Italian tax revolts, 1647
Swiss peasant war of 1653
A devaluation of Bernese money caused a tax revolt and the Swiss peasant war of 1653 that spread from the Entlebuch valley in the Canton of Lucerne to the Emmental valley in the Canton of Bern and then to the cantons of Solothurn and Basel and also to the Aargau.
Resistance to Cromwell’s Taxes-by-Decree, 1654
In 1654, an English merchant named George Cony refused to pay customs duties that had been established by Oliver Cromwell‘s government without its having bothered to go through Parliament, and thereby called into question the legal underpinnings of the whole regime.
Quaker Tithe and War Tax Resistance, 1659–
George Fox′s Quaker movement included resistance to tithes and other mandatory fees destined for the establishment church. Soon, the movement also incorporated resistance to militia taxes and fees, and to “trophy money” (taxes for equipping soldiers). These were early examples of war tax resistance in the Quaker movement.
Revolt of the papier timbré, 1675
Main article: Revolt of the papier timbré
Scottish presbyterian dissent, 1678–88
In the 17th century, as the reformation government in Scotland reintroduced a state episcopal church and brutally cracked down on dissident presbyterian groups, members of those groups resisted the taxes that were being raised to pay for this repression, and advocated mass tax resistance. (When the Scottish Presbyterians gained the upper-hand and became the establishment church of Scotland, the tables were turned, and members of dissident churches began to resist taxes paid for its support.)
Resistance in New England, 1687
Main article: 1689 Boston revolt
On 22 August 1687, John Wise met with some of the other “principal inhabitants” of Ipswich in New England, and decided that a new tax that had been imposed by governor Edmund Andros, without consulting the colony’s General Assembly, was illegitimate and “that it was not the town’s duty any way to assist that ill method of raising money.” A town meeting the next day that Andros had called for in order to select tax commissioners instead issued a declaration against the tax. A number of those at the town meeting were then arrested, hauled to a jail in another town, and then put on trial before a jury hand-picked by the prosecution and a judge who referred to the defendants as “criminals” over the course of the trial.
Fines and court costs followed, and, at first, the Andros tyranny was triumphant. But Wise and company had the last laugh. On 18 April 1689, in the wake of the Glorious Revolution in the home country, a “Declaration of the Gentlemen, Merchants, and Inhabitants of Boston” was issued, which proclaimed the assault on the rights of dissenting English colonists to be part of the same plot of “the great Scarlet Whore” to crush Englishmen under the thumb of the papists (that is, James II of England) again.
Then followed a revolution. Andros and Judge Dudley, who had tried the case against Wise and the rest, were overthrown and imprisoned.
Camisard revolt, 1700–03
New Jersey resistance to a Catholic assessor, 1715
In 1715, 36 New Jersey residents pledged to refuse to pay taxes “Because wee have been Illegally Assessed by an Asseser who being a Known & open profest Roman Catholick which is Utterly Repugnant to the Laws of Great Brittain & Contrary to ye Rights & Liberties of his Royall Majties faithfull Subjects.” Some of the signers of the pledge were indicted for their refusal.
18th-century uprisings in Japan
Successful peasant uprisings in the Fukuyama fief in 1717 (and again in 1752 and 1770), in the Tsuyama fief in 1726–27, and in Iwaki Daira in 1739, focused on the oppressiveness of taxes and tax collection. Other tax revolts in Aizu in 1749, in Shinano Ueda in 1761–63, in Tenma Sodo in 1764–65, in Koyasan in 1776, in Kozuke & Musashi in 1781, and in Hokkaido in 1790, were only partially successful but also led to severe reprisals.
Malt tax riots in Scotland, 1725
Main article: Malt tax riots
A duty on malt had been imposed in England to pay for a war against France. At the union with Scotland in 1707, most taxes were made uniform, but under the Treaty of Union Scotland was given a temporary exemption from the malt tax, until the end of the war. After the war, in 1725, the House of Commons applied a new malt tax which applied throughout Great Britain, but charged at only half the rate in Scotland. Scots were unused to this tax, which increased the price of beer. Enraged citizens in Glasgow drove out the military and destroyed the home of their representative in parliament, who had voted for the tax. In Edinburgh, brewers went on strike, illegally. Andrew Millar, then a book trade apprentice, helped overthrow attempts by Edinburgh magistrates to control dissemination of opinion during the unrest. The pamphlet Millar refers to in the letter to Robert Wodrow dated 10 August 1725, and his actions detailed in the letter dated 15 July, emphasized contemporary doubts and challenges to the strike’s “illegality”. Much later, in 1806, there were malt tax riots in Llannon, Wales, in which a mob attacked 26 excise tax collectors who were searching for malt.
Excise tax riots in England, 1733
In Gloucester and Hereford counties, England, rioters dressed in women’s clothing and blackface destroyed tollbooths, a variety of resistance that would reemerge a century later in the Rebecca Riots. A royal proclamation complained of the rebels that they “have made publick and open Declaration, that they would proceed to pull down ſeveral other Turnpikes; and that if any of the Commiſſioners ſhould attempt to ſet up the Turnpikes again, they would pull down their Houſes, and would cut down the Turnpikes as often as they ſhould be ſet up.”
A similar outbreak took place in Bristol in 1749, in which self-styled Jack-a-Lents, “many naked with their faces blacked … destroyed the gates at Bedminster, Ashton, Don John’s Cross, Dundry, Backwell, Nailsea, Redcliffe, Totterdown, Teasford and Bath Roads, Hanham, Kingswood, Stoke’s Croft, &c., &c.”
Porteous riots, 1736
Main article: Porteous Riots
Rioters, sympathetic to condemned smugglers who were resisting excise taxes, managed to free one, but in an attempt to free another several were killed by the Edinburgh city guard, commanded by John Porteous. Porteous was convicted of these killings, but pardoned by Queen Caroline, whereupon a lynch mob seized Porteous and hanged him.
Tithe resistance in France, 1736
Peasants in disguise attacked and reclaimed the grain from the granary of a tithe collector in France in 1736. Authorities could find no witnesses willing to testify against any of the attackers.
North Carolina Counties Resist, 1746
In 1746, the North Carolina colonial governor tried to rejigger the composition of the colonial Assembly, taking seats away from some counties. Those counties responded by withdrawing from the Assembly and refusing to surrender any taxes to the colonial government. Other counties, not wanting to bear the whole cost of government themselves, then responded by withholding their own taxes. This state of affairs lasted eight years.
French and Indian War, 1755
In the mid-18th century, American Quaker John Woolman led many Quakers to question and refuse the payment of taxes to pay for the French and Indian War. In 1755, Woolman addressed the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting with his concern, saying in part:
Some of our members, who are officers in civil government, are, in one case or other, called upon in their respective stations to assist in things relative to the wars; but being in doubt whether to act or crave to be excused from their office, if they see their brethren united in the payment of a tax to carry on the said wars, may think their case not much different, and so might quench the tender movings of the Holy Spirit in their minds. Thus, by small degrees, we might approach so near to fighting that the distinction would be little else than the name of a peaceable people.
A group of several like-minded Quakers, including John Woolman, John Churchman, and Anthony Benezet then sent a letter to other meetings, which read in part:
[B]eing painfully apprehensive that the large sum granted by the late Act of Assembly for the king’s use is principally intended for purposes inconsistent with our peaceable testimony, we therefore think that as we cannot be concerned in wars and fightings, so neither ought we to contribute thereto by paying the tax directed by the said Act, though suffering be the consequence of our refusal, which we hope to be enabled to bear with patience.
The “Regulator” movement, 1767–71
Main article: War of the Regulation
The Regulator movement against the corrupt colonial administration of North Carolina from around 1767 to 1771 presaged the American Revolution. It began with organized groups of rural North Carolinans refusing to pay inflated taxes to corrupt authorities, and eventually built to an armed rebellion (which was crushed).
A revolt in Palermo, 1773
Most Sicilians refused to pay new taxes imposed in 1770, and ripped down notices announcing the new levies. By 1773 the resistance led to a full-fledged revolt and ushered in a period when Palermo was under the de facto rule of the maestranze (guilds).
See also: No taxation without representation
Boston Tea Party, 16 December 1773.
British colonists in America used various methods of tax resistance to resist the British in the years leading up to the American Revolution, including the Boston Tea Party action, the Gaspée Affair, “spinning bees” in which revolutionary-minded women would make untaxed domestic cloth (prefiguring Gandhi‘s homespun cloth campaign), and a boycott of other taxed goods.
After the revolution was underway, taxes instituted by the American patriot side were also widely resisted. One 1781 tax in Connecticut, for example, was designed to raise £288,233 but raised only £40,000 due to unwillingness to pay. Some Quaker meetings recommended that their members not pay taxes to the revolutionary governments, and other Quakers refused to use Continental currency which the revolutionary governments were using for seigniorage.
John Payne, an Englishman who was opposed to the war to suppress the colonial rebellion, went so far as to board up the windows of his home and put his coach out of commission to avoid the taxes on those items, and he rode miles out of his way to avoid toll gates.
African American protests against taxation without representation, 1780
Main article: Paul Cuffe
In 1780, African American Paul Cuffe and his brother resisted the state tax of Massachusetts. Cuffe wrote to the state legislature: “While we are not allowed the privilege of free men of the state having no vote or influence in the election with those that tax us. Yet many of our color, as is well known, have cheerfully entered the field of battle in the defense of the common cause.” In 1783 free, taxpaying African Americans in Massachusetts were given full citizenship rights, including the right to vote.
Revolt of the Comuneros, 1781
New Hampshire secessionists, 1781
For a while, during the early days of the United States, Vermont was an independent republic of sorts, though with aspirations for statehood. Some regions of neighboring New Hampshire felt more loyal to the Vermont Republic than to the confederation of United States, and expressed this by refusing to pay taxes to the latter.
York tax riot, 1786
In York, Pennsylvania, in 1786, Jacob Bixler’s cow was distrained after he refused to pay a tax. Sympathizers with Bixler disrupted the subsequent auction and rescued the cow.
Tax resistance during the French Revolution
During the French Revolution and its aftermath, customs houses were burned by mobs, tax rolls were destroyed, and excise collectors were made to renounce their jobs and then were run out of town (or in some cases killed). Popular tax resistance was directed both against the toppling monarchy and against the governments that would try to replace it.
The Whiskey Rebellion, 1791–94
Main article: Whiskey Rebellion
There was an earlier rebellion, in 1783, against a Pennsylvania state excise tax on whiskey. In Washington County, protesters seized a fleeing tax collector, forced him to destroy his arms and paperwork, shaved his head, and paraded him through the areas he was sent to tax.
White Lotus Rebellion, 1793
Pazvantoğlu rebellion, 1794
Fries′s Rebellion, 1799–1800
Main article: Fries’s Rebellion
Resistance in Mexico, 1780–1807
There was widespread resistance to the pulque tax and other taxes in Zempoala and Otumba, beginning in 1780.
A mass tax strike in Benares, 1810–11
When the occupation British Raj attempted to impose a house tax in Bengal, 200,000 residents of Benares shut their shops, left their homes, assembled en masse in the countryside, and petitioned the occupation government to lift the tax. This massing occurred in December 1810–January 1811. The Raj at first made a show of force, but eventually rescinded the tax.
Radical Reformers, 1819
The “Radical Reformers” were advicates if democratic reforms in England — things like universal male suffrage and secret ballots. In the wake of a military massacre of reform demonstrators in Manchester in August, 1819, reformers vowed to refuse to buy and consume products on which the government applied an excise tax, like tea, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages.
See also: Radicalism (historical)
When residents of St. George parish refused to pay their church tithes, William Lumley, governor of Bermuda, put several in military jail. Lumley’s acts were later ruled illegal (Basham v. Lumley, 1829), the court ruling that although the governor of the Bermuda colony had also been granted ecclesiastical authority by the crown, he was not authorized to use his civil authority to imprison people who refused his ecclesiastical orders; at most he could excommunicate them.
Tumenggung Mohammad revolt, 1825
Tax resistance against Charles X of France, 1829
When Charles X of France attempted to bypass the legislature and enact its own taxes in 1829, French liberals in the Breton Association organized tax resistance and created a fund to defray the costs of any tax resisters who were prosecuted. Six Parisian newspapers who printed the Association’s manifesto were prosecuted by the crown. Fifteen regional organizations, including Refus de l’impôt, Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera, and Association parisienne, were formed specifically to engage in tax resistance.
Tax resistance in Georgian England
In the 1820s and 1830s, activists like William Benbow and Thomas Jonathan Wooler and groups such as the National Union of the Working Classes and National Political Union advocated and practiced tax resistance.
The Tithe War, 1830–38
Main article: Tithe War
From 1830 to 1838, Irish Catholics conducted a mass tax strike against the mandatory tithes payable to the Anglican official state Church of Ireland. The Tithe War, as it came to be called, had both a nonviolent, passive-resistance wing, led by James Warren Doyle, and a violent one, in which bands of paramilitary secret societies enforced the strike and attacked tax collectors and collaborators. The campaign was eventually successful in eliminating the tithe system, although the government essentially converted what had been tithes on the tenants into rent due through the landlords.
Resistance in Syria, 1831–54
Syrians resisted being taxed both by Egypt and later by Turkey, and refused to pay these occupation governments.
Tax resistance for the Reform Act of 1832
Tax resistance was an important tool in the arsenal of the Birmingham Political Union and its allies who forced the crown and the House of Lords to capitulate over the Reform Act of 1832. In the spring of 1832, residents of Carmarthen, Wales, met and vowed to stop paying taxes if the Reform Act were not passed, and some stopped paying taxes in the wake of the collapse of Lord Grey‘s government.
In 1833, thousands of residents of the island of Tinos stopped paying their taxes in an organized campaign. The government reacted fiercely, imprisoning many leaders of the movement and forcing the local bishop to flee.
U.K. resistance to “Assessed Taxes,” 1833–51
There was sporadic resistance to assessed taxes (particularly the window tax) in the United Kingdom. Resisters felt the tax was overly-regressive. Resisters formed tax resistance associations and disrupted auctions of goods seized from resisters by the tax authorities.
Edinburgh Annuity/Clerico-Police Tax, 1833–61
An Annuity Tax to raise money for the establishment clergy in Edinburgh, Scotland began to be resisted by nonconformists around 1833, in particular by William Tait, publisher of Tait’s Magazine who went to jail for his stand. Celebrated imprisonments like this, and occasional attempts (often unsuccessful) by the authorities to seize and auction property of the resisters, characterized the campaign. The government attempted to appease the resisters by “abolishing” the Annuity tax, but they did so by paying the clergy from funds raised by a different tax, leading the resisters to dub it the “Clerico-Police Tax” and to continue to resist it.
Tax resistance in Bulgaria, 1835–37
Peasants in the western border region of Bulgaria refused to pay taxes in hopes of autonomy and assistance from the newly autonomous Serbia.
Robert Purvis, 1838, 1853
African-American activist Robert Purvis refused to pay his Pennsylvania state taxes in protest against the state’s denial of equal voting rights to black citizens around 1838, and then refused to pay the part of his property tax that went towards education in 1853 when his children were refused admission to the whites-only classrooms.
Rebecca Riots, 1839–43
Main article: Rebecca Riots
The Rebecca Riots were a protest against the high tolls which had to be paid on the local turnpike roads in Wales, and included destruction of tollhouses and harassment of toll collectors.
Corn Law protests, 1842
In February, 1842 “a meeting of ladies” in Manchester opposed to the Corn Laws signed a tax resistance pledge, in which they “resolve[d] that we will form ourselves into a provisional committee, to carry out a plan of passive resistance… That by passive resistance we understand that we will allow our furniture to be seized for the payment of assessed taxes without offering any resistance to the collecting officers, at the same time urging the people not to purchase the articles so seized. And further, we mean abstinence from the several taxed luxuries used in our homes. We adopt the above pledge for three months, and further pledge ourselves during that time to use our utmost exertions to preserve perfect peace among the people.”
Poor Law protests, 1843
Opposition to the New Poor Law led to refusal to pay the taxes for its support. The campaign featured demonstrations of thousands of people, passive resistance, and noncooperation with government auction of distrained goods. In County Waterford the campaign was particularly strong, and openly threatened violence against tax collectors, leading the poor rate collector there to abandon plans to distrain and auction property in lieu of voluntarily paid taxes.
Maryland bond protests, 1843
Some residents of Maryland, as their state government went into default over canal bonds in the wake of the Panic of 1837, refused to pay taxes the proceeds of which were destined for bond-holders. In some areas, tax collectors resigned and the government was unable to find others willing to take their places. Tax resistance was promoted in part by the Locofocos, a Democratic party splinter group.
“White Quakers,” 1843
The White Quakers, an Irish Quaker splinter group named for their characteristic undyed clothing, undertook tax resistance in 1843 to protest government harassment of their sect.
Wine tax in Portugal, 1845
When tax farmers attempted to collect a new tax on wine in the Felgueiras district in the wine country on the Douro, the citizens gathered in Penacova (pt) (also known as São Martinho de Penacova), armed themselves, and forced the tax collectors and the soldiers protecting them to flee. The next day, military reinforcements attacked the rebels, killing ten.
Mexican-American War, 1846
Main article: Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
Perhaps the most famous American example of a tax resister, Henry David Thoreau, was briefly jailed in 1846 for refusing to pay taxes in protest against the Fugitive Slave Act and the Mexican–American War. In his essay on civil disobedience, he wrote:
I meet this American government, or its representative, the State government, directly, and face to face, once a year, no more, in the person of its tax-gatherer; this is the only mode in which a man situated as I am necessarily meets it; and it then says distinctly, Recognize me; and the simplest, the most effectual, and, in the present posture of affairs, the indispensablest mode of treating with it on this head, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is to deny it then….
…If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.
Sicilian revolution of independence of 1848
Karl Marx prosecuted for promoting tax resistance, 1848
During the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, the royal and military aristocracy prohibited the first popularly elected parliament from assembling, and that parliament responded by declaring the government out-of-business:
So long as the National Assembly is not at liberty to continue its sessions in Berlin, the Brandenburg cabinet has no right to dispose of government revenues and to collect taxes.
Karl Marx, via his newspaper, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, published this decree, adding: “From today, therefore, taxes are abolished! It is high treason to pay taxes. Refusal to pay taxes is the primary duty of the citizen!” Marx was later prosecuted for promoting tax resistance, but was acquitted after arguing that it was not illegal to promote tax resistance against an illegal government.
Residents of St. Mary’s parish in Jamaica launched a successful revolt against imperious tax collectors in 1848.
The Great Confederated Anti-Dray and Land Tax League of South Australia, 1850
The Great Confederated Anti-Dray and Land Tax League of South Australia formed in the Spring of 1850 to resist taxes associated with a recently enacted Road Act. The League felt the taxes were excessive; oppressive to poor farmers while exempting rich merchants, mine owners, and bankers; had been imposed by a non-representative government body; and operated largely for the benefit of land-holders who were also members of the board that was imposing the tax and designing the road system.
Resistance to the Foreign Miners Tax of 1850 in California
The “Foreign Miners Tax” of 1850 required all California miners who were not American citizens to pay $20 per month. The tax was not so much a revenue raising instrument as a way of allowing citizens to monopolize mining and take over sites being worked by Chinese and Mexican miners. The tax resistance by foreign miners was successful. The tax was repealed by the end of 1850, though a smaller ($4/month) tax was reapplied to Chinese miners in 1852, and some particularly unscrupulous tax collectors continued to extort the tax from foreign miners even when it was no longer legal to do so. One person who was forced off of his mining claim by the Foreign Miners Tax was Joaquin Murieta, whose story became a Robin Hood-like myth in California.
Prussian democrats, 1850,1864
In 1850 Lothar Bucher, leader of the radical democratic party in the Prussian national assembly, and others of similar views, were convicted for encouraging citizens to stop paying taxes to the autocratic government.
Similarly, in 1864 the delegate Johann Jacoby served six months behind bars for a speech calling for tax refusal, delivered in the presence of the King, an early manifestation of opposition to the rule of Otto von Bismarck.
Grape-growers′s strike in Bulgaria, 1851
In response to a tax increase on grapes and vinyards, Bulgaria′s grape pickers went on strike.
Mass resistance in Qingpu, 1853
Residents of the “Gold Coast” refused to pay a poll tax demanded by their British colonial occupiers in 1854, prompting a brutal crackdown by the British military.
License Tax resistance in Australia, 1854
Miners in Australia met at a “monster meeting” in Castlemaine to launch an organized refusal to pay a mining license tax.
Resistance to the bedel, 1855–60
A majority of Syrian Christians refused to pay a military commutation tax, the bedel, which was mandatory for non-Muslims who were draft-exempt.
Chinese immigrants in Australia, 1859
Anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia led the government to try to reduce Chinese immigration through a tax on immigrants. The Chinese immigrants responded with a powerful, large-scale, well-organized tax resistance campaign that used a variety of tactics including consumer and labor strikes, petitions, mass-demonstrations, threats against collaborators with the tax system and potential strikebreakers, and prison-stuffing. They eventually convinced the government to rescind the hated tax.
Shantung resistance, 1860
In Shantung, tax resisters killed tax collectors and set up parallel government structures.
Bhat resistance in India, 1861
In 1861, travelling bards of the Bhat caste, complaining that they had been traditionally exempt from taxation, reacted to being subjected to an income tax in an extreme demonstration that accompanied their refusal to pay:
[T]hey cut themselves with knives, cursed the Assessors, bespattering them with their blood, and declared they would rather die than surrender their birthright. When several were apprehended, their wives began to hack their persons, and so severely that several have since died.
Ferenc Deák and Hungarian tax resistance, 1859–67
Following military defeat by the Hungarian revolution of 1848 and the subsequent war of independence led by Lajos Kossuth, Hungarians adopted a strategy of passive resistance, including boycotting of Austrian goods and refusing Austrian taxes, while the dissolved Diet (parliament) and various agricultural, trade and educational associations continued to meet informally. The symbol of this strategy was Ferenc Deák, following his refusal to take public office under the Austrians and apparent semi-retirement in the 1850s. After Emperor Franz-Joseph issued his October Diploma in 1860, granting increased autonomy to various parts of the Austrian empire, the Hungarian county councils and Diet were reconvoked. However, the conflict with Austria continued—including renewed tax resistance—with Deák playing a more active role until the Diet’s demands were conceded in 1867.
Don Cossack resistance, 1864–1882
Resistance to the Czar’s taxes in Abkhazia, 1866
Georgia dockworkers, 1867
Georgia dockworkers responded to a tax specifically targeted to them by refusing to pay, even when locked out by the government.
New Zealand poll tax, 1868
In 1868 residents of New Zealand were subjected to a poll tax. Some decided to resist and to form mutual insurance pacts for their defense.
After a disputed election for governor in reconstruction Louisiana, the losing candidate, John McEnery, formed a shadow government and declared himself the truly elected governor. As part of this, he issued declarations saying that those people collecting taxes for the actually seated government were acting illegally and illegitimately and that citizens of Louisiana should resist these taxes.
McEnery’s shadow government, representing a white-supremacist Democratic party opposed to the Republican black and carpetbagger government, maintained its parallel governance until mid-1873, and then folded under pressure from the United States federal government.
Rubí, Catalonia, 1873
Citizens of Rubí, Catalonia refused to pay a war tax in 1873, shortly before the military commander of Catalonia was forced to flee in the face of a mutiny.
Launceston, Tasmania, 1874
The Western Railway was a financial failure, and soon after it went into operation the government had to take it over from its bankrupt owners. Landholders in the railway district felt that the government take-over had changed the relationship between taxpayers and the railway, and that they were “morally exonerated from the principle of local taxation which they had endorsed when the district was polled in 1865. Since that period an entirely new principle had been adopted in the case of the Main Line Railway, and when they hesitated to pay their special rate, they acted on the conviction that it was the Government, and not they, who had broken faith.” The landholders launched a tax resistance campaign, forcing the government to capitulate and rescind the tax.
White miners in Griqualand West, 1874
In 1874, a group of white, small-scale diamond miners at the “New Rush” in Kimberly, South Africa (then in a British colony called Griqualand West), launched a tax strike to protest the British colonial government’s lack of response to their grievances.
Mexican-American Tax Resistance in Texas, 1877
South Carolina, 1877
Similarly to what happened in Louisiana, white supremacists in South Carolina who disapproved of the reconstruction government practiced tax resistance and discouraged people from loaning money to the government by vowing to repudiate any such debts should they regain power.
Calls to resist in Denmark, 1877 & 1885
In 1877 and again in 1885, the Left party in Denmark urged people to refuse to pay taxes levied by the Rightist government.
Tram tax resistance in Rio, 1880
When the government of Rio increased the tramway tax and have this increase apply to every passenger, Jose Lopes da Silva Trovao and other protest organizers called on people to refuse to pay the tax.
Tax resistance launches the First Boer War, 1880
The First Boer War broke out when the British occupation government seized a wagon from Piet Bezuidenhoudt who had refused to pay a tax. When the government attempted to auction off the wagon to raise the tax money, supporters of Bezuidenhoudt seized it, and met government representatives who came after them with armed force.
Paisley abbey manse tax resistance, 1880
Paisley instituted a tax to raise funds to repair the manse (minister’s house) of Paisley Abbey. People who were not members of that church (the official Church of Scotland) did not feel they should have to pay for this, and in December 1880 they organized a tax resistance campaign. Some 200 people refused to pay the tax. The authorities took legal action against a few, but then quickly dropped the charges.
Irish settlers in Canada, 1879–81
Two hundred Irish settlers in Gatineau refused to pay a county tax. According to one account:
When a deputy sheriff went to make seizures, the residents threatened to string him to the nearest tree. Finally, they compelled him to eat the writs he had, and then gave him a limited time to get out of the township.
The Irish Land League calls for a rent strike, 1881
English hop growers, 1882
The Anglican church legally exacted “extraordinary tithes” from hop growers, who began resisting the tax and risking distraint in the hopes of prompting a change of the law.
The Tswana in Bechuanaland, 1882
Montshiwa, a chief of the Rolong tribe, led a tax rebellion against the Boers in Bechuanaland in 1882. After some early successes, the rebellion was suppressed, and large hunks of territory were divided up as spoils by the victorious Boers.
Resistance to Repaying Fraudulent Railroad Bonds, 1870–1913
Crooked politicians and swindlers in Missouri concocted a scheme in which the government issued bonds to pay for a railroad that never got built. Residents of the swindled areas subsequently refused to levy taxes on themselves to raise funds to pay off the bonds. The bond holders filed suit and obtained court orders that county judges institute such taxes, but the judges then went to jail for contempt rather than comply.
In 1878, residents of Steuben County, New York, also refused to pay taxes to pay off crooked railroad bonds, and disrupted auctions at which the goods of resisters were being sold to pay resisted taxes.
There was a similarly motivated tax revolt in Kentucky in 1906 in which a group of resisters raided the tax collector and reclaimed seized property.
Cincinnati Liquor Tax revolt, 1884
3,200 (out of 3,500) saloon owners refused to pay a liquor tax in Cincinnati in 1884. The tax was eventually held to be unconstitutional.
Residents of Samoa refused to pay taxes to the German colonial occupation government in 1887.
The Welsh tithe war, 1887–88
A rebellion against mandatory tithes for the establishment church, similar to that which had raged in Ireland earlier, broke out in Wales in 1887, and featured the disruption of tax auctions by huge crowds of resisters.
“Constable Leahy Tax” resistance, 1888
On 9 September 1887, police fired on rent strikers in Mitchelstown (Ireland), killing three, in what became known as the Mitchelstown Massacre. The authorities sided with the police, and awarded a £1,000 judgement to a constable who was wounded in the course of the massacre, ordering that the money would be raised by an additional tax on the Irish—one that would come to be called the “Constable Leahy Tax.” The tax was widely refused, and parliamentarian Thomas Condon was prosecuted on criminal conspiracy charges for publicly advocating tax resistance.
Dothan riot, 1889
Dothan, Alabama tried to tax all vehicles traveling through the town in 1889, in reaction to the decision by the Farmers’ Alliance to avoid municipal taxation by building a warehouse outside of the town limits. Farmers attempted to evade the tax, but were violently opposed by law enforcement, which killed two resisters.
“Half-Breeds” in Dakota, 1889
“Half-Breeds” in the Dakota territory of the United States seized already-collected taxes from a sheriff and announced that they would fight to the last man (there were roughly 4,000) against further attempts to tax them.
Chatham Islands, 1891
“Vicars’ Rate” rebellions in Halifax and Coventry, 1875–92
Opponents of a mandatory tithe for the establishment church in Halifax and later in Coventry, England, formed “Anti-Vicars’ Rate Associations” and launched campaigns of tax refusal in 1875 and 1892 respectively.
Guerrero, Mexico, in 1892
When people in Guerrero refused to pay federal taxes in 1892, the government sent in troops, who were routed by the tax resisters who captured a General as a hostage.
Montreal merchants, 1893
Merchants in Montreal, claiming that a new tax on merchants was unjustly much higher for them than for merchants in other areas, decided to refuse to pay the tax in 1893.
Fasci Siciliani, 1893
The Fasci Siciliani movement reached its peak in 1893 in a series of large anti-tax demonstrations that included the destruction of tax offices and the burning of tax records.
See also: Lercara Friddi massacre
Cuban War Tax, 1897
Cuban cigar workers in Florida refused to pay a Cuban war tax that was being withheld from their paychecks in 1897.
Industrialist threatens to “shrug”, 1897
Industrialist James F. Hathaway of Somerville, Massachusetts refused to pay a municipal tax on his corporation stock and would periodically threaten to pack up and leave town if the city insisted on pressing for payment, in a game of bluff that sometimes led to the city waiving the tax, but other times led to Hathaway’s jailing.
The Hut Tax War, 1898
Main article: Hut Tax War of 1898
In 1896, the British government decreed that the inland “protectorate” adjacent to its Sierra Leone colony should be taxed. The tax would be imposed on dwellings, at an annual rate that in some cases exceeded the value of the dwelling itself, and came to be known as the “Hut Tax.”
Natives of the protectorate were unused to regular taxation of any sort, and interpreted the tax as meaning that the British were assuming ownership of all of the dwellings in the area and charging rent. They were furious at this wholesale appropriation of property, and refused to pay, then adopted armed rebellion when the colonial forces responded with violent reprisals.
Tax resistance in the Philippines, 1898
Māori tax resistance, 1894–1933
Crow reservation, 1897–9
Tancament de Caixes, 1899–1900
Traders and industrialists in Barcelona, led by mayor Bartomeu Robert i Yarzábal, began a tax strike on 20 October 1899 that came to be known as the “Tancament de Caixes” (shutting the cashboxes). This was a protest to taxes the Spanish government was introducing to pay for the costs of its defeats in the Spanish–American War, and also against tax rates that discriminated against Barcelona in favor of Madrid.
German East Africa, 1900
Poll tax resistance in Alabama, 1901
200 employees of the Dimmick Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama, walked off the job in 1901 when they learned a poll tax would be deducted from their pay.
Foreigners in Japan Resist a Property Tax, 1902
Starting in Yokohama, and spreading to Kobe and elsewhere, hundreds of British and other foreign residents of Japan resisted a new “House Tax” in the hopes of forcing the legality of the tax into arbitration — passively submitting to distraint rather than paying a tax they felt to be illegal. They were backed (in the demand for arbitration, if not in the tax resistance) by the British, French, and German governments. This became one of the first cases decided by an international tribunal, with one Japanese judge, one French judge, and a Norwegian judge who turned out to be the tie-breaker, ruling in favor of the Europeans and against Japan.
Cutting off Police Pay-offs in New York City, 1902
The New York City District Attorney, its Police Commissioner, agents from the Society for the Prevention of Crime, and the president of the New York County Liquor Dealers’ Association in 1902 announced a joint campaign to defend liquor dealers who stopped paying police protection money. This mostly represents a government policy change in how it was going to be taxing saloonkeepers, but because the change involved rescinding an extralegal tax extorted under-the-table by city employees, it was hard for the government to accomplish in ordinary ways. So it had to nurture a tax resistance movement and encourage solidarity among its members by offering some protection of its own (including judges who reduced fines against people arrested by the police in extortion attempts to near-nothing).
British nonconformists, 1903–24
In 1903, tens of thousands of British nonconformists began resisting the part of their taxes that paid for sectarian schools. Over 170 would eventually be jailed for their tax refusal.
See also: Education Act 1902 § Opposition
Americans in the Isle of Pines, 1903
The United States took Cuba from Spain in the Spanish–American War, including the Isle of Pines. When Cuba became independent soon after, Americans on the Isle of Pines hoped that they would continue to live under American rule, and they decided to resist paying taxes to Cuba in the hopes of bringing the issue to a head.
In several Korean provinces in 1903, taxpayers rose up, reclaimed their taxes from the government treasury, and imprisoned their governors.
Hut Tax resistance in Swaziland, 1903–07
Income tax resistance in Tasmania, 1904
At open-air “monster” meetings in Tasmania in early 1904, people vowed to resist an income tax that had been instituted by the recently ousted government but unexpectedly not rescinded by the new one.
Sugar manufacturers in the Dominican Republic, 1905
American-owned businesses running the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic refused to pay a new tax instituted by that country’s government in 1905, shortly before the United States formally appropriated the country’s economy.
Opposition to Creek taxes in Oklahoma Territory, 1899–1905
White Americans living in Muscogee (Creek) territory before Oklahoma became a state in 1907 resisted paying taxes to the Creek Nation government, hoping the United States federal government would back them up if push came to shove.
The Russian Revolution, 1905–06
During the Russian Revolution of 1905 a coalition of anti-government groups in Petrograd issued a manifesto calling for mass tax resistance and other economic non-cooperation against Russia’s czarist government. It read, in part, “There is only one way out: to overthrow the government, to deprive it of its last strength. It is necessary to cut the government off from the last source of its existence: financial revenue.”
In 1906, when the Czar dissolved the First Duma, its members fled to Finland where they issued the Vyborg Manifesto which called upon the people of Russia to refuse to pay their taxes until representative government was restored.
Zulus in Natal, 1906
A group of Zulus announced that they would refuse to pay the poll tax to the British colonial government in Natal. An inspector from the Natal Mounted Police killed one Zulu tax protester, and was in turn slain along with another of his party.
Doukhobors in Canada, 1906
Doukhobor exiles in Canada refused to pay school taxes on their lands, saying that, as they always refused to have their children educated, lest they learn evil things, they would not pay money for school purposes. They removed their property from the district so as to evade seizure.
Undertakers strike in Valladolid
When the municipal authorities of Valladolid imposed taxes on hearses, the undertakers of that town organised a passive resistance strike, refusing to send out either hearses or coffins. As a result, the dead had to be conveyed to the cemeteries on stretchers, carried by porters.
Winemakers tax strike in France, 1907
A winegrowers’ committee in Argelliers organized a tax strike in 1907 that included the mass resignations of municipal councils, and was met by military force by the central government.
Greek community in Lewiston, Maine, 1907
Greek immigrants in Lewiston, Maine, organized a tax strike against a new poll tax.
Silver Lake Assembly, 1908
Forty members of a Silver Lake Assembly property association launched a tax strike against what they believed to be an illegally assessed tax the town of Castile, New York was trying to subject them to, in 1908.
Japanese laborers in California, 1909
Japanese-American residents of Oxnard, rebelled against being unfairly subject to both the city and county tax (one was supposed to clear the other). The county tried to pull a fast one, and swooped in on the workers while they were in the beet fields where they were temporarily working and which were outside the city limits. They declared the workers to be thereby subject to the county poll tax as well. Some of the Japanese workers left the area; others refused to pay the tax and were subjected to property seizures.
Shortly before the fall of president Zelaya’s government to rebels backed by the United States, his government imprisoned resisters to a tax he was using to try to raise funds to prop up his regime.
Italian immigrants in Pennsylvania, 1909
When Pennsylvania passed a law banning Italian immigrants from owning firearms, a number of Italians in Lanesboro began resisting their taxes in response.
The Women’s Tax Resistance League, 1909–1918
Main article: Women’s Tax Resistance League
The British women’s suffrage movement, in particular the Women’s Tax Resistance League, used tax resistance in their struggle, and explicitly saw themselves in a tradition of tax resistance that included John Hampden. According to one source, “tax resistance proved to be the longest-lived form of militancy, and the most difficult to prosecute.”
Tax resistance among the American women’s suffrage movement was less organized, but also practiced. Julia and Abby Smith, Annie Shaw, Lucy Stone, Virginia Minor, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were among those who practiced and advocated tax resistance as a protest against “taxation without representation.”
Tax resistance also played a role in the women’s suffrage movements of Bermuda, France, Germany, and South Africa.
Unrest in China, 1907–16
The salt tax and other taxes, and conflict with organized smuggler associations, led to conflict in China, which included, in 1910, an assault on tax collectors and on the salt tax monopoly office, and the “Two Kitchen Knives Rebellion” led by He Long in 1916 in which the Salt Tax Bureau at Ba Maoqui was torched and the bureau’s director was killed.
In 1910, also, merchants in Beijing began withholding their payments of stamp tax to pressure the monarchy to adopt republican reforms.
Poll tax resistance in Grafton, Illinois, 1910
A Socialist Party activist in Grafton, Illinois, was jailed six months for his refusal to pay the city’s poll tax in 1910. Party head Ralph Korngold used the case as a rallying cry for local radicals.
In Canillas De Aceituno, Spain, residents rioted at the sale of a tax resister’s goods and took up arms against government forces.
Road tax resistance in Kansas, 1911
A number of towns in Kansas organized tax resistance leagues in 1911 to combat a tax variously characterized as a road tax or a poll tax that they believed had been illegally railroaded through the legislature.
In 1911, the Legislative Council passed an ordinance imposing a one shilling per month tax on farmers for each native laborer they hired, payable to the Labour Bureau, which coordinated the exploitation of African labor for colonial farmers and miners. The farmers decided to resist the tax. Hundreds were convicted and fined, and some were jailed after refusing to pay the fines. The farmers were successful in convincing the government to rescind the tax.
Residents of the island of Inishmurray considered themselves a tiny, independent monarchy, and would combat efforts by mainland authorities to tax them by refusing to let the officials disembark.
Poll tax in Delaware, 1912
Socialist and labor groups in Wilmington joined forces and began resisting a new Delaware poll tax in 1912.
Baby Carriage Tax disregarded in Brest, 1913
A tax on handcarts in Brest, France, was interpreted to apply also to baby carriages, which led to universal refusal to pay what was seen as a ridiculous tax.
Indians in South Africa, 1913
The South African government imposed a tax on Indian immigrants, and, in one of Mahatma Gandhi‘s early forays into satyagraha he helped to organize a strike, an illegal march, and a tax refusal campaign in protest.
The “Turra Coo”, 1913
Main article: Turra Coo
In late 1913, the government seized a cow from a Scottish resister of the taxes associated with the National Insurance Act. The government had difficulty selling the cow, as locals were sympathetic with the tax resistance. Eventually they brought in an outside auctioneer, but the auction was disrupted by protesters and the cow escaped. Today there is a statue of a cow in Turriff, Scotland commemorating the event.
Master Plumbers in Joplin, Missouri, 1914
Ten master plumbers in Joplin, Missouri, signed a resolution vowing to refuse to pay a new $50 annual tax on their profession in 1914.
Dog tax resistance, Yonkers, New York, 1917
Robert H. Miller stopped paying his dog license fee in 1917, complaining that “I consider said tax a unjust burden for owners who have dogs for their home and families’ defence, not for luxuries, as the cost of living to raise five children is expensive enough without feeding a dog if he was not necessary in the wild section of this town, as we have no benefit from all the taxation with which we are burdened, no open streets, no police, no sewers, and many more necessities that I could mention.”
World War I in the United States, 1917–18
In the United States, although the decision of whether or not to purchase war bonds to support World War I was ostensibly voluntary, those who chose not to buy them were subject to strong pressure including mob violence. For example, John Schrag was beaten, arrested, and prosecuted and he and his property were smeared with yellow paint by a mob for having refused to buy war bonds. One witness said:
[T]hey tried to get him to buy liberty bonds during the war, and he wouldn’t buy none…. They brought him in and he never said a word, and the questions or anything they’d ask him, he never, never complained or never put up no resistance whatsoever. … I never saw so much yellin’ and a cursing and slapped him. And buffeted him and beat him and kicked him. He never offered any resistance whatsoever. One of the fellows went and got a, a hardware store and got a gallon of yellow paint. And pulled the lid off and poured it over his face. He had a long beard, kind of a short heavyset man, had a nice beard, and that run down all over his eyes, his face, and his beard, and his clothes. Of course that was yellow…. He never offered no resistance whatsoever and they, one man went to the hardware store again and he got a rope and put it around, got there, and put around his neck and marched him down to the, close to the city jail, a little calaboose there. Had a tree there and they was going to hang him to this tree.
…I don’t know how many people walked right up to him and spit in his face and he never said a word. And he just looked up all the time we was doing that. Possibly praying, I don’t know. But there’s some kind of a glow come over his face and he just looked like Christ. … (inaudible). Enemies smite you on one cheek, turn the other and brother he did it. He just kept doing it. They’d slug him on the one side of the face and he’d turn his cheeks on the other. He exemplified the life of Christ more than any man I ever saw in my life.
Herman Bausch was imprisoned for 28 months by the state of Montana for seditious statements he allegedly made while being held captive by a violent mob who were enraged at him for his unwillingness to buy liberty bonds.
See also: Darwin Rebellion
In Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia) in early 1919, citizens organized an income tax strike, and a boycott of the local (taxed) alcohol monopolist, John Gilruth, who was also the Administrator (governor). The resistance continued until Gilruth fled Darwin. Harold George Nelson, who was imprisoned for his tax resistance during this action, later became the Northern Territory’s first parliamentary representative.
Soft drinks tax, United States, 1919
When World War I ended, people stopped paying a tax on soft drinks that had been instituted as a war funding measure, although the tax had not yet been rescinded. The Bureau of Internal Revenue threatened tax evaders with fines and imprisonment.
Northern Territory and Papua, 1919–21
Tax resistance was a tactic used both by anti-capitalist labor groups and groups agitating for democratic representation in the Northern Territory and Papua in the years around 1920. Miners in Western Australia also took up tax resistance in 1921.
Welsh miners, 1919
Miners in Wales went on strike rather than pay the income tax which was newly being applied to incomes below £200.
Russian Civil War, 1917–1923
Tax resistance was used by Russian peasants who were being taxed by multiple parties in the Civil War.
European pacifists (1920s)
After World War I, some European pacifists associated with the movement that would coalesce around War Resisters International, like Beatrice and Kees Boeke, adopted war tax resistance as one of their forms of resistance.
Weimar Germany (1919–33) tax resistance
Tax resistance campaigns sporadically broke out in Germany between the world wars, including a tax strike in Württemberg, Stuttgart, Cologne, Essen and other areas in 1920, an income tax strike by Prussian farmers in 1922, and the tax strikes of the Rural People’s Movement (Landvolkbewegung) in Schleswig-Holstein from 1928.
Burma during the 1920s
Burmese Buddhist monks organized tax resistance and other forms of civil disobedience against British colonial rule during the 1920s.
Dutch West Indies, 1921
Residents resisted an income tax from which Dutch settlers were exempt, then successfully disrupted an auction at which a resister’s goods were being sold for back taxes.
Protesting a “bachelor tax” 1921
The state of Montana applied a $3 tax on all bachelors in the state. One of them, William Atzinger, refused to pay on sex discrimination grounds. The following year the state supreme court ruled the “bachelor tax” and another poll tax applicable only to men to be unconstitutional.
Sinn Féin in 1921
Arkansas road tax rebellion, 1921
Craighead County residents forced the commissioners of a road improvement district to resign at gunpoint before they could spend tax money on a corrupt roads project.
Guntur tax refusal, 1921
In an early manifestation of satyagraha, Indians from the Guntur district organized a noncooperation campaign and tax strike against British rule in 1921 that led to the government collecting less than 25% of the expected taxes.
The Poplar Rates Rebellion, 1921
Main article: Poplar Rates Rebellion
In 1921 the government of Poplar, a division of London, in protest against an unequal sharing of tax revenue between rich and poor boroughs, stopped collecting and passing on a variety of tax called “precepts” to the regional authorities. Thirty members of the Poplar Borough Council were imprisoned amid large protests.
Bondelswarts Rebellion, 1922
Main article: Bondelswarts affair
The British colonial administrators of South-West Africa imposed a tax on the Bondels as a way of making them more dependent on taking low-wage jobs for other colonists. The Bondels refused to pay and the British responded with aerial bombardments.
Income tax evasion in France, 1922
Syndicalist groups in France promoted income tax evasion and defended evaders whose goods were in danger of government seizure.
The Ruhrkampf and Bavaria, 1923
When France and Belgium invaded the Ruhr to enforce German reparations payments in 1923, the German government responded by encouraging and supporting a mass nonviolent resistance campaign against the occupation, which included tax resistance.
Right-wing politician Gustav Ritter von Kahr, shortly after he was declared dictator of Bavaria in 1923, ordered Bavarians to stop paying taxes to the federal Reich government.
French Stokers, 1923
French stokers (ship workers) who were upset that the government was including in their income, for tax purposes, incidental benefits like the food they were served on board, refused payment and went on strike when their company went along with government attempts to garnishee their wages. The strike was ended when the company agreed to pay the stokers’ income taxes itself.
Pennsylvania women win the vote, and the tax; Refuse the Second, 1923–27
When women won the right to vote in the United States, this sometimes also exposed them to taxes they had hitherto been exempt from. Some chose to resist these taxes. In Pennsylvania, a school tax became the target of a massive, statewide, grassroots resistance campaign. For example:
- In 1923, 89 women in Pottstown said that they were not interested in voting or in paying taxes, and refused to pay a school tax they had recently become vulnerable to.
- The same year, 800 women in Haverford refused to pay the tax, as did 250 in Media.
- Some 1,700 women in Charleroi refused to pay the tax and, in 1924, were ordered to be arrested.
- That year in Clifton Heights, exasperated tax collectors exonerated 700 women tax delinquents rather than try to pursue them for the taxes.
- In 1926, 200 women in Freeland were reported as tax delinquents.
- In 1927, 300 women in Darby followed suit, and ultimately 2,000 delinquent tax notices were sent there.
Red Spear Society, 1923–38
Indian workers in Fiji, 1924
Indians in Kenya, 1924
British citizens of Indian ancestry were in Kenya in such numbers in 1924 that they were beginning to exercise democratic political power. This worried the white ruling class. Britain issued a “white paper” in which it said that paternalistic care for the unenfranchised African natives, rather than the democratic demands of the citizenry would be the priority of the government. Or, in less-euphemistic terms: the white ruling class would rule how it wanted without having to take into account the desires of the Indian voting bloc. Indians responded to this with an organized tax resistance campaign, which led to some of them being imprisoned. Whether from the effect of these imprisonments or from concessions made through back-channel negotiations, the protest ended in a few months. It provided rhetorical ammunition to the Indian independence movement, which used this as an example to show that Britain never intended to offer Indians under its rule equal civil rights.
A coalition of 1,500 leading industrialists of Argentina refused to pay into a state-run pension fund following a general strike and labor lockout organized to fight the law that established the fund.
London bookmakers strike, 1926
Cristero War, Mexico, 1926
Farmers in Queensland, Australia, 1927
The government of Queensland, struggling with debt, enacted a stealth tax in the form of a registration fee charged to farmers who had wells and water pumps on their farms. The farmers, organized in “Local Producers’s Associations,” declared a tax strike, which forced the government to back down about a month later.
American Samoa, 1927
Around the time of the Shanghai massacre of 1927, businesses were conducting a strike against municipal taxes there. Western importers, backed by their governments, also refused to unload their products that were subject to a new customs duty.
Residents of Samoa refused to pay taxes to the New Zealand occupation government in 1928.
Uri “bobbed hair tax”
The canton of Uri in Switzerland instituted a tax on women’s bobbed hair in 1928, and by the following year the government was reporting widespread resistance (and ridicule) of the law.
Igbo Women’s War, 1929
The Igbo Women’s War began as a dispute over taxes and a resistance against a census that was being conducted in preparation for taxes. Further tax revolts in 1938 and 1956 grew out of the same movement.
Indian independence campaign
Main articles: Champaran and Kheda Satyagraha and Salt Satyagraha
Mahatma Gandhi‘s independence campaign in India used a variety of tax resistance strategies, including attacking the British taxed monopolies on salt and textiles by advocating the illegal production of salt outside of the monopoly system and the home-based spinning of cloth. In 1930 this tax resistance culminated in Gandhi’s famous 240-mile (390 km) Salt March to Dandi to harvest sea salt in contravention of British law. Other tax resistance campaigns persisted after this period, including resistance to the Damodar Canal tax in 1937–9.
The Great Depression, United States
In the United States, the term “tax revolt” is sometimes used to refer to a series of anti-tax state initiative campaigns. The first significant wave of these campaigns was during the 1930s. The Great Depression introduced unprecedented tax burdens to Americans. While real-estate values plummeted and unemployment skyrocketed, the cost of government remained high. As a result, taxes as a percentage of the national income nearly doubled from 11.6 percent in 1929 to 21.1 in 1932. Most of the increase took place at the local level and especially squeezed the resources of real estate taxpayers. Local tax delinquency rose steadily to a still standing record of 26.3% in 1933.
Many Americans reacted to these conditions by forming taxpayers’ leagues to call for lower taxes and cuts in government spending. By some estimates, there were three thousand of them by 1933. Taxpayers’ leagues endorsed such measures as laws to limit and rollback taxes, lowered penalties on tax delinquents, and cuts in government spending. Partly as a result of their efforts, sixteen states and numerous localities adopted property tax limitations while three states instituted homestead exemptions.
While taxpayers’ leagues usually favored traditional legal and political strategies, a few were more direct. Probably the best known of these was the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers in Chicago. From 1930 to 1933, it led one of the largest tax strikes in American history. At its height, it had 30,000 paid members, a budget of $600,000, and a weekly radio show.
By 1933, the taxpayers’ leagues had entered a period of decline. Several factors undermined the conditions that had nurtured revolt. For example, economic conditions gradually improved, the federal government extended aid to homeowners, and local governments reduced reliance on real estate taxes. To some extent, the tax revolt also fell victim to an effective counterattack by municipal reformers, government officials, and the holders of municipal debt such as bondholders and bankers who formed so-called “Pay Your Taxes” campaigns throughout the country. These campaigns used a combination of door-to-door solicitation, threats of coercion, and inducements, such as installment payment plans, to collect back taxes.
An alternative theory describing the decline of the taxpayers’ leagues is that laws limiting existing taxes and new tax revenues from the manufacture and sale of alcohol due to the repeal of prohibition eliminated the need for the taxpayers’ leagues.
Cedar County Cow War of 1931
Women’s suffragists in Bermuda, 1931–34
Tyrol, Austria 1931
Peasants’ federations in eastern Tyrol resolved to stop paying taxes in October 1931 to protest bloated government, agricultural policy, profiteering, and a large tax burden.
Real Estate Taxpayers, 1931–33, 1977
Main article: Association of Real Estate Taxpayers
During the Great Depression in the early 1930s, Americans throughout the United States formed thousands of taxpayers’ leagues to protest high property taxes. In some cases, these groups illegally withheld taxes through tax strikes and other forms of resistance. The largest tax strike was in Chicago and led by the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers. At its height, the Association had more than thirty-thousand dues-paying members.
A second, similar but smaller property tax payer’s revolt hit Chicago in 1977.
Puerto Rico sales tax, 1932
300 businesses in Ponce, Puerto Rico declared that they would refuse to continue to pay the sales tax after the United States governor of the island refused to repeal the tax.
Meo uprising, 1932
Elmira Taxpayers’ League
Over a thousand taxpayers in Elmira, New York signed a pledge to refuse to pay local taxes until the municipal budget had been reduced, and tax rates as well.
New York City automobile owners, 1933
The automobile club of New York organized an auto tax strike in 1933 to protest a doubled license fee for City residents.
Mennonite women in Pennsylvania, 1933
Claiming that the Bible did not sanction the taxation of women, some women in Warwick township, Pennsylvania, refused to pay a poll tax in 1933.
Irish “Blue Shirts,” 1935
Main article: Blueshirts
To protest Irish intransigence in the Anglo-Irish Trade War, the quasi-fascist “Blue Shirts” declared a tax strike. One striker was killed during a protest designed to disrupt an auction of cattle seized from a tax striker.
French “Peasant Front,” 1935
The “Peasant Front,” organized by Henri Dorgères, launched a tax strike in 1935. In some regions as many as 90% of the residents refused to pay their taxes, but the campaign had limited national impact.
Sales tax resistance in Montreal, 1935
Sales tax resistance in Arkansas, 1935
98% of merchants in Stuttgart and 59 of 60 merchants in DeWitt signed a pledge to refuse to collect or pay a new Arkansas sales tax in 1935.
Sales tax resistance in Alabama, 1936
Gadsen, Alabama merchants met and unanimously voted to refuse to collect or remit the state sales tax. Montgomery, Alabama pharmacists also resisted the tax.
Anti-communist Catholic veterans, 1938
149 members of a Catholic war veterans fraternity began paying their property taxes into an escrow account rather than to the government, saying they would not turn over the funds until the local government dismissed Communist Party member Si Gerson who was an advisor to the Manhattan borough president.
Coal Township, 1939
Taxpayers in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, threatened a tax strike to protest the fact that the large coal companies in the region had been neglecting to pay their taxes, causing the township to fall behind on schoolteacher salaries and other expenses. This forced some concessions from the coal companies.
World War II
During World War II, the Christian anarchist and pacifist Ammon Hennacy refused to register for the American draft and announced that he would not pay his income taxes. He also tried to reduce his tax liability by adopting a life of simple living. He wrote:
I [learned] the principle of voluntary poverty and non payment of taxes… from Tolstoy and the [Catholic Worker]. When I was working a man asked me “Why does a fellow like you, with an education, and who has been all over the country, end up in this out-of-the-way place working for very little on a farm?” I explained that all people who had good jobs in factories, etc. had a withholding tax for war taken from their pay, and that people who worked on farms had no tax taken from their pay. I told him that I refused to pay taxes. He was a returned soldier and said that he did not like war either, but what could a fellow do about it? I replied that we each did what we really wanted to.
In 1936, in what one author called “the first truly grass-root rebellion/uprising by Palestinians,” 150 Palestinians called for a general strike and tax strike to protest the British occupation.
Between 1939 and 1948, there was widespread resistance by Jews in Palestine against the income tax imposed by the British occupation, which included bomb attacks against tax offices, and many Jews instead voluntarily paid taxes to Jewish organizations. A few years after Israel gained its independence, its government became the target of widespread tax evasion and resistance, including a major tax strike in 1954.
Jews in Vichy France, 1944
Jews refused to pay taxes to the Union Generale des Israelites de France, which had been established by the Vichy France (Nazi-collaborationist) government.This Union was ostensibly meant to act as an umbrella organization that would organize social services for Jews by coordinating existing Jewish groups, but it was really a phase in the Nazi-organized obsession with bureaucratically solving the “Jewish Problem” in Europe via elimination. As in other parts of Nazi-controlled Europe, Jews in France had to make hard decisions about how much to resist such organizations outright and how much to try to participate in them as potential tools of resistance or amelioration.
Jews refused to pay taxes to the Union Generale des Israelites de France, which had been established by the Vichy France (Nazi-collaborationist) government.
All French Jews were required to be members of the Union, which presumed to control all Jewish property. The Nazis might, for example, “fine” the whole of the Jews of France, and the Union in its representative capacity would borrow money to pay off the fine by pledging Jewish property as collateral, or, apparently, by taxing the membership base.
Moslem League in India, 1946
The birth of the modern war tax resistance movement, 1948
Main article: Peacemakers
In 1948, a Chicago conference on “More Disciplined and Revolutionary Pacifist Activity” attracted more than 300 people, and resulted in the formation of the group Peacemakers and its “Tax Refusal Committee.” This is considered to be the birth of the modern organized war tax resistance movement in the United States.
Several Quaker conscientious objectors from the United States left the country and founded a settlement in Monteverde, Costa Rica, in order to no longer be forced to pay taxes for the United States military (Costa Rica had abolished its own military a few years earlier).
A general strike in Oaxaca in 1952 was directed against the government’s new tax plan. Rioters in Tlacolula stoned to death mayor Diodoro Maldonado.
Pittston Township Wage Tax, 1952–53
Hundreds of residents of Pittston Township, Pennsylvania refused to pay a new wage tax in 1952. The government responded by arresting 15 of them, and the resisters switched tactics to vastly underpay the tax as a way of resisting without risking immediate criminal sanctions.
South China, 1952
Four hundred farmers were arrested for tax refusal in southern China in 1952. The farmers claimed that the taxes would leave them hopelessly impoverished.
Social Security tax protests, 1951–53
In 1952, Louisiana newspaper editor Mary Cain protested against social security taxes by refusing to pay, concealing her assets, and even sawing the lock off of her business’s front door when it was closed by the tax collector and mailing the lock to the Internal Revenue Service.
From 1951 to 1954, a group of “Texas Housewives” refused to pay social security taxes on the wages of their domestic help, and took their resistance all the way to the Supreme Court (where they lost their case).
In 1955, a right-wing, anti-tax, middle-class, populist movement led by Pierre Poujade began resisting taxes in France. The resisters used a variety of tactics, including strikes, harassment of tax collectors, disruption of government auctions, and running for office (several Poujadists were elected to the Chamber of Deputies).
No Taxation Without Representation in D.C., 1955–present
In 1955 District of Columbia resident Florence Jaffray Harriman announced that she would be refusing to pay federal income tax until the federal government enacted “home rule” (a locally elected government) for the District (something the District was not granted until 1973).
In 1990, the non-voting Congressional representative from the district, Walter Fauntroy, started a similar tax resistance campaign for D.C. statehood.
Former District of Columbia council member Carol Schwartz, upset at the lack of Congressional representation for people in the district, threatened to start resisting her federal income taxes over the issue in 2011 and called on other D.C. residents to join her.
J. Bracken Lee, 1956
Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee stopped paying federal income tax in 1956 to protest what he felt was unconstitutional federal spending. He hoped to become a test case, but the Supreme Court declined to hear his case.
The Amish gain exemption from social insurance programs in the United States, 1935–65
In 1965 the United States Congress allowed the Amish to be exempt from the Social Security tax, following a persistent resistance campaign from some Amish who regarded insurance programs as mistrustful of God and therefore against their religious teachings. See 26 U.S.C. § 3127 and 26 U.S.C. § 1402(g) (this exemption also covers Medicare taxes).
Tax resistance in Ethiopia, 1943–68
There were several outbreaks of armed resistance focused on tax complaints in Ethiopia. In some cases, farmers defaulted on their taxes and abandoned their land rather than pay, some fleeing into neighboring countries. In others, districts refused to elect or admit tax assessors, and used a mix of persuasion and coercion to prevent people from obeying the tax law.
Turks in Cyprus, 1958
St. Regis Reservation resistance, 1959
200 Indians on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in New York, led by Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson, refused to pay state income taxes “and threatened to use summonses from the Tax Department ‘to light the fires in our longhouses.'”
Tithe resistance in Malaysia, early 1960s
In 1960, the Malaysian government converted the traditional Islamic zakāt (tithe) paid voluntarily by rice farmers into a mandatory tax payable through the government. Opposition to the new government-controlled tithe was, at least in some places, “unanimous and vehement,” and rice farmers developed a number of tactics to resist the tithes, successfully reducing the government’s take to a fraction of what the law allowed.
Tax resistance by the “Johnson cult,” 1964
In the “Johnson cult” protest in Papua New Guinea (in which locals ostensibly intended to raise money to purchase U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and install him as their political leader), the protesters raised money for their unusual plan by withholding the £2 poll tax from the government.
A court in the United Kingdom rejects war tax resistance, 1968
In 1968, in the UK case of Cheney v. Conn, an individual objected to paying a tax that, in part, would be used to procure nuclear arms in unlawful contravention, he contended, of the Geneva Conventions. His claim was dismissed by the court, the judge ruling that “What the [taxation] statute itself enacts cannot be unlawful, because what the statute says and provides is itself the law, and the highest form of law that is known to this country.” There remains in the United Kingdom a significant movement of people who wish to withhold the percentage of their taxes used for war and weapons, but instead contribute them into a ring fenced pool for peace-building or peacekeeping purposes. This may be either for religious or economic reasons. See the website Peace Pays or the Peace Tax campaign “Conscience,” which produces an alternative tax return form to document the withholding of the military percentage of your taxes (approximately 12% of the total tax bill in the UK).
Vietnam War, 1968–72
In early 1968, 458 writers and editors put full-page ads in the New York Post, New York Times Book Review and Ramparts, declaring their intention to refuse to pay a proposed 10% Vietnam War surtax. The signatories included James Baldwin, Robert Bly, Noam Chomsky, Robert Creeley, David Dellinger, Philip K. Dick, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Leslie Fiedler, Betty Friedan, Allen Ginsberg, Todd Gitlin, Paul Goodman, Paul Krassner, Staughton Lynd, Dwight Macdonald, Jackson Mac Low, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, Milton Mayer, Ed McClanahan, Carl Oglesby, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Thomas Pynchon, Adrienne Rich, Kirkpatrick Sale, Ed Sanders, Peter Dale Scott, Susan Sontag, Terry Southern, Benjamin Spock, Gloria Steinem, Norman Thomas, Hunter S. Thompson, Lew Welch, John Wieners, Kurt Vonnegut and Howard Zinn. An estimated 70 signed on later.
In 1970, five Harvard and nine M.I.T. faculty members, including Nobel laureates Salvador E. Luria and George Wald, announced that they would be resisting taxes in protest of the war.
In 1972, Jane Hart, wife of U.S. Senator Philip Hart, said that she would be resisting the federal income tax. By this time, every major I.R.S. center had a staff member assigned to be the “Viet Nam Protest Coordinator.”
Also in 1972, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided the case of United States v. Malinowski That case involved John Paul Malinowski, an instructor in theology at St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia and a member of the Philadelphia War Tax Resistance League protesting the use of tax money in the Vietnam War. The taxpayer had filed a false Form W-4, and admitted he knew that he was not legally entitled to claim the exemptions (that is, the allowances) he claimed on the W-4. Malinowski was convicted, and his motion for a new trial or acquittal was denied.
Main article: Agbekoya
The Agbękoya Parapo Revolt was a successful tax rebellion by the Yoruba of Nigeria.
Papua New Guinea, 1969
The Mataungan Organisation launched tax resistance in support of the indigenous government against a mixed indigenous/immigrant government in 1969.
Students Resist El Paso Sales Tax, 1969
Calling it a tax on the poor to pay for business district improvements, delegates at the National Student Association Congress in El Paso, Texas in 1969 purchased American flags from a local retailer and refused to pay the penny sales tax on each flag, in a symbolic, media-friendly act of resistance.
Resistance to the Larzac base, 1970
In 1970, when the French defense minister announced plans to expand a military base in Larzac, José Bové and other activists led a campaign to withhold 3% of their taxes (an amount they said was equivalent to the amount the government was spending on its base-expansion campaign) and redirect this money toward agricultural projects.
Opposition to school tax in Stormont County, Ontario, 1970
Several property owners in Stormont County, Ontario, refused to pay a portion of their property tax in 1970 in a tax strike sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to protest the burden on rural property owners caused by basing the tax on property value rather than income.
Efforts to legalize conscientious objection to military taxation, 1972–
Main articles: Conscientious objection to military taxation, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, and Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act
In 1972 United States Congressman Ron Dellums introduced legislation that would legalize a form of conscientious objection to military taxation, allowing some taxpayers to designate their taxes for non-military spending only. Advocated by National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, this legislation is regularly reintroduced in the United States Congress and has a number of cosponsors. The legislatures of other countries are also considering similar legislation. Many war tax resisters support this, but others feel that such a law would not actually address the problem that leads them to resist taxation.
Refusing to pay an excise tax on air travel in the U.S., 1972
When a $1- to $2-per-ticket air travel tax was applied to five airports in the United States in 1972, thousands of travelers refused to pay the tax.
Norwalk Taxpayers League, 1972
The Norwalk Taxpayers League, led by Vincent DePanfilis, collected pledges from taxpayers that they would refuse to pay any more tax in the 1973–74 tax year than they had in 1972–73. This was a rare example of tax resistance during the American tax revolt movement of the 1970s.
Castine school tax resistance, 1975
In Castine, Maine, residents voted to illegally refuse, as a town, to pay a state school tax, in 1975.
Heinrich Böll refuses church tax, 1972
“A New Call to Peacemaking,” 1976–78
In 1976, 1977, and 1978, representatives from the United States’ “peace churches” (Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers) met to develop what they called a “New Call to Peacemaking,” a joint statement in which they called on members of their congregations to refuse to pay taxes that go to pay for war.
United States, Proposition 13, 1978
A wave of tax revolts began in the late 1970s and were particularly popular in the West. In 1978, voters in California passed Proposition 13, sponsored by Howard Jarvis and passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1978, which drastically limited property tax levels in the state.
In subsequent years, the state initiative process, initially championed by Populists and progressives, has been increasingly used for such purposes by conservative and corporate political forces. In the United States, notable examples include a series of initiatives in Oregon (see Oregon tax revolt) and Washington (see Tim Eyman), the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) in Colorado, and Proposition 2½ in Massachusetts.
Sales Tax Boycott in Ottawa, 1981
In 1981, a tax resistance campaign in Ontario targeted the provincial sales tax and included both merchants and consumers as participants.
Palestine, doctors in 1981
Doctors in Gaza City refused to pay a 12% income tax to the Israeli occupation and were supported by a two-day general strike.
Archbishop Hunthausen resists, 1982
Citing a previous pastoral letter he wrote on the subject, Archbishop Hunthausen stated that certain laws may he peacefully disobeyed under serious conditions, and that there may be times “when disobedience may be an obligation of conscience.”
“I believe,” he said, “that the present issue is as serious as any the world has faced. The very existence of humanity is at stake.”
Churches resist the social security tax, 1984
The Quint City Baptist Temple in Iowa, the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, and several other churches refused to pay social security taxes on the wages of their employees, maintaining that it was unconstitutional to make them tax collectors for the government. The courts disagreed.
Irish Unionists, 1986
Beit Sahour, 1988–89
See also: Tax resistance in Beit Sahour
In 1988–89, during the First Intifada, the Palestinian resistance urged people to stop paying taxes to Israel. At the time, The people of Beit Sahour responded to this call with an unusually organized and citywide tax strike. As a result of the tax strike, Israeli military authorities placed the town under curfew for 45 days and seized goods belonging to citizens in raids.
Israel’s military forces had the authority, independent from the rest of the Israeli government, to create and enforce taxes in occupied areas. As a result, they would impose taxes on Palestinians as collective punishment measures to discourage the intifada, for instance “the glass tax (for broken windows), the stones tax (for damage done by stones), the missile tax (for Gulf War damage), and a general intifada tax, among others”.
Among those prominent in Beit Sahour’s tax resistance were Ghassan Andoni and Elias Rishmawi. Some tax resistance continued in Beit Sahour for some years after the end of the 1989 tax strike there
UK Poll Tax, 1989–93
Main article: Community Charge
In 1989-90, the government of Margaret Thatcher reformed local taxation in Britain by replacing Domestic Rates with a new tax known officially as the Community Charge, but more widely and disparagingly known as the “Poll Tax”. Whereas Rates had been, at least to some extent, a progressive tax, the Poll Tax was a flat tax irrespective of income. Many people considered the new tax to be unfair, and a major non-payment campaign saw up to 30% of the population of some council areas refusing to pay. Draconian enforcement measures caused civil unrest, and untimately led to the Poll Tax riots. The new tax became a major electoral liability for the Conservative Party, and was a significant factor in the ousting of Mrs Thatcher by her own party. Due to its unpopularity and the disastrous impact of non-payment on local authority finances, the tax was replaced by the Council Tax in 1993.
Native Americans in Canada, 1994
For 29 days in 1994, a group of Native Americans occupied one floor of the building housing the Revenue Canada Taxation Centre in downtown Toronto, in protest of Canada’s plans to tax Native Americans who had previously been exempted from taxation as a result of treaty provisions. Many continue to resist the tax.
Water tax strike, 1994–96, 2007
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, among others, promoted a non-payment campaign against the government water monopoly in 2007. An earlier “water war” in 1994–6 had led to a victory by the resisters in which the water charge was revoked.
Lech Walesa in 1995
Zapatistas municipios autónomos
When the Zapatista Army of National Liberation moved from organizing armed resistance to the Mexican government to establishing autonomous villages—Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities—free from central government control, one of the things they did was to stop paying taxes to the outside governments.
Fuel tax protests, 2000
In multiple areas of Europe, in 2000, people protested increases in motor vehicle fuel taxes by blockading ports, refineries, fuel depots, and highways.
Opposition parties in Zimbabwe urged citizens to refuse to pay taxes to protest government misuse of funds in 2000.
Same-sex marriage rights
UK council tax
In the United Kingdom, senior citizens in opposition to steep increases in council tax, claiming that increases of as much as 30% are not affordable to those living on a pension, refused to pay the tax in full or in part (some paying the previous year’s amount plus an inflationary rise). One of these, Sylvia Hardy of Exeter, was jailed for seven days.
People have also resisted the council tax on the grounds that the government was not properly discouraging travellers from setting up camp nearby, or had failed to properly clean up hazardous waste on their property.
In 2013, Christopher Coverdale began refusing to pay his council tax on the grounds that the council was investing some of the money in promoting terrorist acts and war crimes.
Bin Tax protests, 2001–2005
There was a long campaign of resistance to rubbish-hauling charges in Ireland.
Venezuelan opposition, 2003
“Flatulence Tax” resistance, 2003
New Zealand farmers protested a livestock tax that was ostensibly designed to discourage and ameliorate methane emissions by announcing they would refuse to pay and by sending packages of manure to government ministers.
Political parties in Nepal urged people to stop paying their taxes in 2006 as part of a push against the power of the monarchy.
The Chamber of Commerce in Tijuana voted to pay taxes into an escrow account rather than to the government to protest the government’s inability to provide adequate security.
Organized resistance to paying Mafia, 2006
Main article: Addiopizzo
In 2006, after the arrest of Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, 100 shopkeepers in Palermo, Italy declared publicly that they would stop paying taxes to the Sicilian Mafia. They encouraged consumers to support the resisters by buycotting their stores.
Tehran Bazaar, 2008
Government attempts to extend a value-added tax to cover the Tehran Bazaar were frustrated by a strike that shut down the Bazaar until the government gave in.
Nankang, China, 2009
Protesters in Nankang “overturned police cars and blocked roads over plans to more strictly enforce payment of taxes.”
Delhi lawyers, 2009
Lawyers in Delhi, India went on strike in 2009 rather than pay a sales tax that the government was trying to extend to cover legal services.
Chascomús/Lezama secessionist struggle, 2009
Groups on both sides of the debate over the secession of Lezama from the city of Chascomús used tax resistance to try to pressure the government into siding with them.
Vecinos Autoconvocados in Paraná, Justo Daract, and Villa Nueva, Argentina, 2009-10
In February 2009, residents of Paraná, Argentina launched a property tax strike to protest large jumps in property assessment values. In March, residents of Justo Daract followed suit.
In 2010, residents of Villa Nueva announced a tax strike to protest against inadequate government services. Residents were also urged to refuse to pay taxes for roadwork that resisters alleged had already been paid for out of federal taxes.
PRD resistance in Indonesia, 2010
Members of the small Partai Rakyat Demokratik launched a tax strike against president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in early 2010. Hundreds of protesters pledged to refuse to pay a tax, and as part of their protest, burned their Nomer Peserta Wajib Pajak (taxpayer identification) paperwork. Party chairman Sunu Pajar said, “we refuse to pay taxes as a form of resistance.”
Luzerne County, 2010
A Pennsylvania county government beset with corruption hiked taxes by 10% and some residents said no. One recorded a protest song entitled “Take This Tax and Shove It” and launched a tax resistance campaign.
Nepalese doctors, 2010
Doctors in Nepal planned to engage in tax resistance and other acts of civil disobedience to protest the government in 2010.
San Juan, Argentina shopkeepers, 2010
Shopkeepers in San Juan, Argentina, upset at being undercut by untaxed street vendors, announced a tax strike in 2010.
Tax refusal protests China’s one-child policy
Yang Zhizhu and Chen Hong protested China’s one-child policy by refusing to pay a 200,000 yuan fine on their second child.
Coventry “Axe the Tax” protest, 2010
Hundreds of small businesses refused to pay a municipal tax in Coventry in 2010 and successfully had the tax (and the body that levied it) rescinded.
Tax protest and strike in Romania, 2010
In August 2010 a tax strike was declared after newly introduced regulations were found to force freelancers and unincorporated companies waste over 24 man-hours each month on filling tax declarations and depositing those declarations in person at three different offices, in addition to forcing freelancers pay an unemployment insurance they cannot take advantage of. The new rules apply whether the freelancers or the unincorporated companies had any income or not, and declarations have to be submitted even for amounts less than €10.
Barinas, Venezuela transit licensees
Licensed public transit drivers in Barinas, Venezuela who were getting undercut by unlicensed, unofficial ones launched a tax strike to protest a lack of government protection for their privilege.
Ondarroa municipal tax strike, 2003–11
The government responded to an organized municipal tax strike involving hundreds of households in Ondárroa in the Basque region of Spain by cutting the water supply to 120 homes and businesses there. The residents were supporters of a banned Basque nationalist political party and ended their strike (though without paying any of the previously resisted taxes) when they regained government representation under the banner of a new, legal party in 2011.
Ivory Coast, 2011
Alassane Ouattara apparently won the presidential election in Ivory Coast over incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo disagreed and refused to leave office. Ouattara then called on the citizens of Ivory Coast to discontinue paying taxes to the Gbagbo government, which eventually was defeated. When Ouattara took power, however, his government began pursuing those resisters for back taxes.
Guinea-Bassau Cashew Traders Strike, 2011
Tax resistance for Catalan Independence, 2011–
In July 2011, the Catalan nationalist group Òmnium Cultural, at its 50th anniversary meeting, called on citizens to redirect their taxes from the central government to a Catalan-run fund until such time as the government concedes more autonomy to the region.
In April, 2012, some Catalan separatists started paying their federal taxes into the Catalan treasury instead of submitting the money to the central Spanish government.
In October, 2012, the small town of Gallifa in Catalonia began tax resistance as a municipality by refusing to pay the income tax due on the salaries of the employees at the tax office.
By 2013, some 650 municipalities had begun turning their taxes over to the Catalan government rather than to the federal government. The tax resistance campaign is being organized by Catalunya Diu Prou (“Catalonia Says ‘Enough'”), which says that some freelancers and independent businesses, which are responsible for their own tax withholding, will follow suit.
Road Toll Resistance in Argentina, 2011
Argentine congresswoman Griselda Baldata noticed that nobody was maintaining the road on Route 36, but that the company in charge of maintenance was still collecting a toll. So she stopped paying and urged her constituents to do likewise.
Protests against European austerity measures, 2011–16
In the wake of the European sovereign debt crisis, some governments raised taxes and implemented harsh austerity measures to bring down the government budget deficits and satisfy international creditors. Some people and groups who opposed these measures adopted tax resistance as a protest tactic, for instance in Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Ireland.
Before the victory of the Greek Syriza party in the 2015 elections, it had sponsored a “Have Not, Pay Not” tax resistance movement targeting the Enfia tax. The party’s opposition to this tax was one of the factors in its popularity, and many people stopped paying the tax when it became likely that Syriza would win the elections and do away with the tax entirely.
Resistance against the “household tax” in Ireland, 2012–15
A group (including Teachtaí Dála Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Richard Boyd Barrett, Mick Wallace, Thomas Pringle and Séamus Healy, European Parliamentarian Paul Murphy, and councillors Ruth Coppinger and Ted Tynan) promoted a campaign of resistance against the “stealth tax” of increased household and water rates. A campaign spokesperson explained: “This is not a charge to fund your local community, it is a tax to fund private speculators, bondholders and the bailout. Our incomes and services are being decimated to pay this private debt. Now people have a chance to register their opposition by not registering for this tax. By not registering, we can make this a referendum on the bailouts for the rich and the cuts for us.” By the deadline, only about half of the households in Ireland that were required to register and pay had done so. On 6 May 2013, the Revenue Commissioners reported that 1.2 m households (74%) have paid the property tax. In August 2013, the Revenue said 1.58 m households have paid the tax, and over €175 m has been collected. In 2014, Irish Water workers trying to install the water meters were met with blockades. In February 2015, Murphy and three others were arrested and then released without charges, reportedly part of an investigation into a November 2014 Jobstown protest that trapped Tánaiste Joan Burton in her car for over two hours.
Spanish Autonomists, 2012–14
Autonomists in Spain, under the banner “derecho de rebelión” (right of rebellion), launched a multifaceted tax resistance campaign designed to redirect taxes from the Spanish government (which they felt had overstepped Constitutional bounds and unlawfully usurped power) to locally organized autonomous projects.
A tax resistance movement began in Indonesia in protest of the government’s prioritizing of payments to bankers and other large bondholders during the economic downturn.
Crime syndicates / protogovernments rule the streets in many parts of Honduras, and these often extort more money from their subjects than does the internationally recognized Honduran government. Some people resist these taxes, known locally as “impuesto de guerra” or “war tax,” but the consequences of refusal can be, and frequently are, deadly. Eight bus company employees in Choloma, for instance, were gunned down in broad daylight, a block away from a police station and by attackers in police uniforms, in retaliation against drivers who did not pay the tax. In May, 2013 bus drivers there took collective action, going on strike to demand better security.
Salta, Argentina, 2013
Guillermo Durand Cornejo, president of an argentinian consumer rights organization called CODELCO, and a legislative representative, called on Salteños (citizens of Salta, Argentina) to refuse to pay a municipal tax, in the wake of property tax increases and new taxes in electricity and water bills.
“Until such time as the mayor gives a response to the people concerning the tax hike, I suggest that you do not pay this month’s municipal tax,” he said. “I call for civil disobedience.”
Cornejo said he views a thirty-day tax strike as a wake up call for the government, and suggested that strikers who restrict their strike to a single month will not be subject to government reprisals.
Egyptian activists are withholding bus and subway fares as a protest against their government’s continuing repression. “We are calling for civil disobedience — not to pay for the metro and buses…” one said. “They’re taking that money and bringing tools to repress us. They bring bird shot, and tear gas, poison gas even.”
Businesses in Madagascar refused to submit taxes to the government, depositing the money in an escrow account instead. The businesses, which represent a large percentage of the country’s tax base, were reacting to a crisis of stability and perceived legitimacy in the government. According to the chair of the Madagascar’s Enterprises Union, “We no longer know with what kind of authorities we should deal at this stage.”
Tax protesters in Canada
The tax protester phenomenon, which had long been part of the national tax scene in the United States, emerged as a difficulty for the Canadian government as well. By 2013, about 400 cases were pending in the Tax Court of Canada — “most using florid and arcane language and claiming bizarre laws that supersede or nullify Canada’s regulations and laws; it prompted the Tax Court to adopt a triage approach to cope with the deluge, grouping cases and directing them to specific judges.”
Bonnets rouges in Brittany, 2013–14
Main article: Bonnets Rouges
In late 2013, a nationalist movement in Brittany called the bonnets rouges began destroying highway portals that were designed to tax truck transportation in the region. They eventually destroyed hundreds of these portals — as well as the tax office in Morlaix — leading the French government to abandon the tax.
Pos me salto in Mexico, passe livre in Brazil, and Planka.nu in Sweden, 2013–14
Main articles: Movimento Passe Livre and Planka.nu
When the Mexico city government hiked transit fares by two-thirds, frustrated commuters started leaping the turnstiles, both alone and in organized groups, in a form of protest they call pos me salto (“well, then, I’ll jump”).
At around the same time, a similar movement called passe livre was engaged in similarly motivated actions in Brazil.
The similar Planka.nu movement in Sweden went a step further, initiating a mutual insurance plan: For a €12 monthly fee, the plan insures contributors against any tickets they are given for being caught without a ticket — compare this to €100 for a monthly transit pass, or €150 for a fare evasion citation. The plan is running at a profit, taking in about twice as much from subscribers as it has had to pay out in fine reimbursements.
Thousands of Cretans each paid only a single euro of their road taxes in a protest there. The action was organized by “People Stop Paying,” a group that protested against rising taxes at a time of increasing economic difficulties, and that the taxes were not actually going to crucially needed road improvements. That group also organized protests at government auctions of seized property.
Tunisian taxi drivers, 2014
Taxi drivers in Tunisia reacted to a new tax on motorists by posting signs in the windows of their cabs reading “I will not pay tax!” and daring the police to try to enforce the new taxes against them.
Businesses in Apatzingán, 2014
Some business leaders in Apatzingán, a city in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán, finding that the government was giving them no protection from the Knights Templar Cartel, decided to stop paying taxes.
During the Euromaidan in Ukraine in early 2014, a group of business owners in Lviv announced that they would stop paying value-added and income taxes to the Ukraine central government of Viktor Yanukovych (taxes that went to maintain the military and internal security forces).
“Protesta fiscale ad oltranza”, 2014
In northern Italy, a group of small businesses united under the banner “protesta fiscale ad oltranza” (tax protest to the bitter end) refuse paying taxes, claiming that the Constitution requires the government to leave them enough to live on and that they should not be forced to borrow money to pay the government.
For example, when bed and breakfast owner Alessandra Marazzi discovered that fully 84% of what she was bringing in was going to pay taxes and state-monopolized utility fees, she decided to stop paying taxes just so her business (and her family) could survive. Caterer Andrea Polese stopped paying and put a sign on her door reading “I am a tax resister.” Bar owner Mariano Pavanello posted a selfie with a sign saying “I decided to stop paying protection money to a state thief.”
Venetian independence movement, 2014–16
Main article: Venetian independence referendum, 2014
After the majority of Venetians who responded to a plebiscite voted to secede from Italy and restore the Venetian Republic, one of the first acts of the organizers of the plebiscite was to decree that the people of Venice were now free from obligations to pay taxes to the Italian state. Gianluca Busato, one of the drivers behind the initiative, went so far as to say that “The payment of taxes to foreign governments [e.g. Italy’s], as well as immoral, it’s illegal.” The separatists claimed that 3,407 businesses initially signed on to the tax strike, and as many as 93,000 others may be resisting less openly.
In 2016, the government struck back, arresting 20 people in 19 raids in Vicenza, Treviso, and Verona and charging them with inciting tax evasion.
Anti-corruption resistance in Austria, 2014
Some business owners in Austria, notably Wolfgang Reichl and Gerhard Höller, began paying their federal taxes into escrow accounts rather than turning them over to the government, largely in protest over the Hypo scandal. Höller launched a project called Der Steuerstreik (“the tax strike”) in an attempt to get more business owners to participate in tax resistance.
Wakulima market vendors, 2014
Hundreds of vendors at the Wakulima market in Nakuru, Kenya, refused to pay taxes to the county government in June, 2014 in a tax strike to protest the government’s failure to provide the market the sanitation and sewage services the taxes ostensibly pay for.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, 2014
In August, 2014, Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, a prominent political party in Pakistan, gave a speech in which he called for a “civil disobedience movement” in which “we will not pay taxes, electricity or gas bills,” to the central government, in hopes of forcing the resignation of Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Khan’s party was in charge of the government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and that government itself planned to withhold its federal taxes and utility payments. Asked what they would do if the government responded by cutting off utility service to the province, province Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani said that they would retaliate by cutting off the neighboring province of Punjab from the power generated by the Tarbela Dam, which is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Umbrella Movement, 2014–15
As Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement began to move away from the Occupy Central mode of street protests, it began to promote tax refusal and refusal to pay rent in government-run housing. Benny Tai Yiu-Ting, one of the movement’s organizers, wrote: “Blocking government may be even more powerful than blocking roads. Refusal to pay taxes, delaying rent payments by tenants in public housing estates and filibustering in the Legislative Council, along with other such acts of noncooperation, could make governing more inconvenient. No government can govern effectively if the majority of its people are unwilling to cooperate.”
Puerto Rico, 2015
Vitebsk, Belarus, 2015
Merchants at the Polatsk marketplace in Vitebsk, Belarus went on strike and refused to pay taxes in March, 2015 to protest government harassment of traders who had not purchased enough official paperwork.
Guragon, India, 2015
Ethiopian-Jewish Israelis, 2015
Police brutality, discrimination, and mistreatment towards Israel’s Ethopian Jewish minority led Shlomo Molla, one of the few Ethiopian-Israelis to have been in the Israeli parliament, to call for tax resistance, refusal to serve in the army, and other forms of civil disobedience.
Beni, D.R. Congo, 2015–16
Residents of Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo, launched a tax strike to protest the government’s failure to provide them with adequate security against atrocities committed by the Allied Democratic Forces insurgency. The tax resistance was preceded by a week-long general strike, and later spread to other parts of North Kivu.
Githurai market vendors, 2015
Prino condominiums, 2015
Fifty condominium owners in Prino, Italy, stopped paying the “IMU” municipal property tax to protest the city’s neglect of public spaces, including a filthy public square with a broken fountain that’s become a rubbish heap, poor upkeep of drainage that leads to flooding, and bad traffic management.
Patadar community, 2015
The Patidar community in Gujarat, in pursuit of government-protected minority status, coordinated bank runs and tax resistance in an “economic non-cooperation” movement.
See also: Patidar reservation agitation
The town of Crickhowell, in a protest against the use of tax havens by multinational companies, decided to try to use the same tax haven strategies on a small scale. They teamed up with a television show to try to “offshore” the town in the hopes of spurring the government into closing the loopholes that allow such tax avoidance.
Russian truckers, 2015–16
A new tax on heavy-weight truckers in Russia, and corruption in the way the tax would be administered, led to a trucking strike that unsettled the Putin regime.
Mexican areas, 2015–16
Residents of Uruapan started withholding municipal taxes in 2015, using the money to fund private Neighborhood Watch groups, in exasperation at the inability of law enforcement to protect them from criminals. Resisters also refused to pay certain utility rates. Businesses in Huatulco and Acapulco followed suit in 2016.
Business owners in Eastleigh, Nairobi stopped paying taxes to Nairobi County in protest against the government’s failure to provide basic services. Eastleigh North Ward representative Osman Adow Ibrahim, a member of the County Assembly, wrote: “As your representative, I fully support the decision you have made and have engaged a lawyer to get an injunction through the courts. The law and Constitution of Kenya allows for peaceful protest to get one’s rights. I hope we all stand together on this, so that we get the service we need.”
Indian taxpayers union, 2016
Anjali Damania and Alyque Padamsee started a taxpayers union and launched a tax strike to protest government corruption in India. They were emboldened by a ruling from Justice Arun Chaudhari of the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, in which he said
To eradicate the cancer of corruption — the “hydra-headed monster,” it is now a high time for the citizens to come together to tell their governments that they have had enough. That is the miasma of corruption. If the same continues, taxpayers may resort to refuse to pay taxes by “non-cooperation movement.”
Among their tactics was to print up “zero rupee” notes, resembling currency but containing anti-corruption messages, that people could hand to government officials who demand bribes.
Gay rights tax resistance in Italy
Jewlers in India, 2016
Jewlers in India staged an 18-day strike to protest a new excise tax on gold sales. The government agreed to suspend collection of the charge pending the report from a committee that was formed to look into the jewlers’ grievances. The jewlers are estimated to have lost some $4.5 billion in sales during the strike. This is the third time the government has suspended the tax in response to protests.
Terrorist Victims’ Families in France, 2016
Families of victims of the November 2015 Paris attacks said they would refuse to pay the taxes due from their dead family members, complaining that it was insulting to tax the victims to pay for, among other things, the salaries of the public defenders representing the terrorist suspects.