Inland Revenue threatens War Resisters' International with seizure of assets due to war tax resistance

The Inland Revenue is threatening War Resisters' International, an international network of pacifist and antimilitarist organisations with more than 80 affiliates in more than 40 countries, with the seizure of assets because the pacifist organisation is withholding a proportion of income tax due to its conscientious objection to paying for war.

War Resisters' International has been withholding tax - usually about 7% of income tax, roughly the proportion of the military budget - since the tax year 2002/03 [1]. In its regular letters to the Inland Revenue, the organisation states:

"The interpretation of human rights is constantly changing, and nowadays there are no doubts any more that conscientious objection to military service is a human right, derived from Art. 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. We are convinced that the same is the case for conscientious objection to military taxation. We therefore dispute that the debt ... constitutes a legal debt, as it is a result of a law which violates basic human rights, as implemented by the Human Rights Act." In addition, the organisation refers to the tradition of civil disobedience, as practised by Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas K Ganghi, or Martin Luther King.

The present dispute is about outstanding taxes for the tax years 2007/08, 2008/09, and 2009/10. In its threatening letter to War Resisters' International, the Inland Revenue does not at all mention human rights aspects, and does not engage with the issues raised by War Resisters' International. The letter simply reads:

"Our records show ... that you have failed to pay this tax on time. You must therefore pay the full amount due immediately ... If you fail to do so we will assume you are unwilling to comply and will take distraint action which involves seizing your assets for sale at public auction."

WRI again replied, demanding to discuss the matter. In its letter from today, the organisation writes: "Again we want to stress that we would very much appreciate discussing this matter with one of your representatives, preferably outside court – and maybe in a public discussion? However, if this matter cannot be resolved outside a court, then we will be prepared to present our arguments in court."

War Resisters' International stresses the human rights of its employees to conscientious objection to paying for war. We demand from the Inland Revenue to engage with our legal and moral arguments put forward.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International

For further information, call +44-20-7278 4040

Notes for journalists

[1] An early exchange of letters with the Inland Revenue can be found at http://wri-irg.org/news/2002/officewtr.htm .

Veröffentlicht in wri-info, 10 September 2010, No. 45