Legal Information

This legal information is largely specific to UK law and is offered as a guidance only. Laws may change. All information should be checked before undertaking any actions and independent legal advice sought.

Pledging to undertake an action hosted on the Compassionate Revolution site is not an illegal act. For example stating that you would be willing to withhold payment of a tax if others join you is not illegal. You may wish to share information about your pledge with other people including where they might make a similar pledge. If you actively encourage people to pledge too you could be committing a crime of counseling, i.e. encouraging someone to commit a crime. Therefore only share information and don’t encourage participation. People who join need to make up their own mind to participate.

At the point when a pledge turns into action, we will expect “pledge holders” i.e. those who initiated pledges, to give as much legal information as they can, so that pledgees can make a final informed choice as to whether they wish to proceed.

Tax resistance has been a key part of many social movements, from Indian independence to the suffragettes, to the poll tax, which brought down Mrs Thatcher.  Those who join a pledge and subsequently decide not to pay tax, until the campaign demands are met, will breach various laws and face fines and other potential consequences. If tens of thousands of people resist small amounts of tax by way of a protest, pursuing everyone could “clog up the system”. It is possible a few may be selected to provide example, rather than pursuing everyone, either way a risk remains. Pursuing individuals for a small amount of tax withheld for social justice, as part of a large social movement, may appear disproportionate in the face of large scale tax evasion that has gone unprosecuted. Though individuals may be called upon to suffer consequences, they may also be doing a great service to a wider movement in shining a light on the disparity in rules for ordinary people over the rich and powerful. Consequences include:

Car tax

A failure to pay vehicle excise duty (car tax) is a criminal offence under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994.  As well as an automatic penalty of £80, the individual will be liable to a fine in excess of £1,000.  The law also provides for such unlicensed vehicles to be clamped, impounded or even crushed.

Income Tax

Individuals who do not pay or submit their income tax or capital gains tax returns will be liable to penalties for non-compliance.  In a situation where the non-compliance is deliberate but not concealed the individual would be liable to a fine of 70% the potential lost revenue. There are further penalties for failing to deliver tax returns on time with an initial £100 penalty followed by a possible further daily penalty of up to £60.  Case law makes it clear that political objections do not justify failure to make returns nor do objections to the taxation system.

There are criminal offences of providing false statements in income tax returns or fraudulently evading income tax though a pledge campaign would be quite open to HMRC as to their reasons for not paying their income tax. 

Council tax

Failure to pay council tax is also a criminal offence.  The local authority can apply for a Liability Order which the Magistrates Court will make if it is satisfied that the council tax is payable and has not been paid. It is therefore a strict liability offence.  The local authority will then be entitled to call in bailiffs to levy “distress” (to take household goods to meet the value of the council tax owed).  If there are insufficient goods to levy the amount the local authority can apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant committing debtor to prison. As can be seen from cases that hit the media of ‘pensioner martyrs’ who have been jailed for refusing to pay their council tax, local authorities are not adverse to pursuing defaulters. It is also possible for the local authority to undertake an attachment to earnings order, where the authority applies to a court for an order requiring an employer to deduct a regular amount from a debtors wage. Debts can be taken from benefits. The authority can apply for a charging order over the debtors property if the debt exceeds £1000. Committal to prison is possible after unsuccessful enforcement agent actions, for willful refusal.

Other actions

  • There is nothing illegal in threatening to not abide by a law before it comes into force.
  • Occupations of buildings can result in charges of aggravated trespass and criminal damage.
  • Moving news papers in newsagent,s for example turning them over or placing them elsewhere, does not appear to be illegal
  • Placing stickers on free newspapers does not appear to be illegal
  • Debt refusals are likely to be subject to civil not criminal proceedings. Debt recovery can  include bankruptcy proceedings in the UK if the debt exceeds £750 (this may increase to £5000 in 2015).