Tax Is Theft

Olly Neville November 12, 2012 17
Tax Is Theft

What is theft? According to the 1968 Theft Act:

1.-(1) A person is guilty of theft, if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly.

(2) It is immaterial whether the appropriation is made with a view to gain, or is made for the thief’s own benefit.

 

What is tax?

Tax is a “pecuniary burden laid upon individuals or property owners to support the government [...] a payment exacted by legislative authority.” A tax “is not a voluntary payment or donation, but an enforced contribution, exacted pursuant to legislative authority” and is “any contribution imposed by government [...] whether under the name of toll, tribute, tallage, gabel, impost, duty, custom, excise, subsidy, aid, supply, or other name” – Black’s law dictionary.

To make it more simple, tax is compulsory (not voluntary) and is enforced. The government, backed up with the threat of force, compels you to give your money to it, regardless of if you wanted to or not.

Taxes appropriate property belonging to another. They have the intention of permanently depriving the other of this property. Is it done dishonestly? Try not paying taxes and see how soon ‘they’ come round, force the money out of you and lock you in prison. If collecting tax is not theft then neither is a mugging.

Interestingly it clearly states that ‘it is immaterial whether the appropriation is made with a view to gain, or is made for the thief’s own benefit.’ This shows that regardless if you think that public services benefit people, or that tax makes society cohesive (etc), if they are not taken voluntarily then they are still theft.

 

While the current legal definition of tax shows that it is theft, my argument is no based on this. Tax is theft because it is taking without consent, breaching peoples property rights. Forcing people to give you (the government) money with threats of violence is a breach of peoples rights. While the current legal definition of theft may make tax theft, tax is theft anyway, despite the fact Government created laws are nonsense (more on this at a later date) due to the lack of consent and a breach of peoples fundemental rights.

On the other hand, the first justification brought up to defend tax is that taxes are commanded by governments, which we elect, and therefore we legitimise government. Well firstly, I have never voted for tax. I have never been asked do I want to be taxed or not. No political party on any ballot paper offers 0% tax. Secondly, these people are falling foul of tyranny of the majority. In democratic countries slavery was legal and different races were seen as superior and inferior and legislated against. Just because a majority of people say tax is OK does not make it so, just as if  51% of people voted to deprive you of all your property. It has democratic justification but is not legitimate or justified in itself; having a majority support something does not make it inherently ‘right’ ‘legitimate’ or ‘good’.

As Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have said, ‘democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.’ Having the majority support for something means nothing, especially when what is supported by the majority is taking away from someone else, be it taking away money, property or their life. A country being a democracy in and of itself does not make its rulings legitimate or even good – democracies around the world are as equally able to commit atrocities as dictatorships.

The second justification often heard is those of public services. Tax is legitimised because I use the roads, the street lighting, and the rubbish collection services. This, frankly, is an overused argument and a whole load of nonsense. The government forces me to use its services. I can’t get a private rubbish collector because the government’s monopoly means it is not viable in the private sector. I can’t leave my house without treading on state roads because the state insists on paying for them. I can’t walk under private street lighting because the government has already put street lights up via taxpayers money.

When someone provides you with something, taking it does not legitimise them taking from you. The classic example is the kidnapper. If I am kidnapped and locked in a cage, taking food from the kidnapper does not legitimise my kidnapping. By eating food provided for free by the kidnapper to keep myself alive I am not consenting to be kidnapped. Equally, by using the roads or any public services I am not consenting to be taxed – I am taking the service (food) that the government (kidnapper) provides. It is the only food (service) that I am able to eat (use) because the kidnapper (government) does not allow others to provide alternatives.

The third comment that is often thrown is that one is consenting to tax simply by staying in the UK. This argument overlooks that tax is used by every country that I can think of, and that to work almost everywhere is to be taxed. If the only choice anywhere is ‘A’, being forced to pick ‘A’ does not mean that one consents to it. Furthermore,  would you say to the person who gets mugged ‘you consent to it by staying in a city where muggers operate?’ Of course not. It is like saying that Jewish people consented to the Holocaust because they lived in Germany or similar occupied territories, an utterly absurd and offensive idea. I do not have to flee to a remote uninhabited island because I do not wish to be stolen from, any more than you do because you wish not to be beaten up, or because you don’t want to have people trespassing on your property. Staying where you are is not consenting.

If you are happy to pay tax then good for you; it does not mean that all others are too. Just because you are happy to give money to something does not mean that everyone else is as well.

Finally, you will have noted the complete absence of the term social contract in this piece. Simply put that is because I have never signed a social contract. If a contract isn’t based on consent, it isn’t worth the paper it is signed on, and I haven’t even seen, let alone signed, any sort of ‘social’ contract.

 

Update:

There has been some quibble in the comment section about the term dishonest, I will therefore quote the 1968 Theft Act again:

A person’s appropriation of property belonging to another is not to be regarded as dishonest:

(a) if he appropriates the property in the belief that he has in law the right to deprive the other of it, on behalf of himself or of a third person; or

(b) if he appropriates the property in the belief that he would have the other’s consent if the other knew of the appropriation and the circumstances of it; or

(c) (except where the property came to him as trustee or personal representative) if he appropriates the property in the belief that the person to whom the property belongs cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps.’

Government obviously fills a) because it makes the law, but this is irrelevant in the same way that the Holocaust was legal because Hitler made the laws, and is typical Government hypocrisy saying that something is legal for them and not for others just because.

Government sometimes fills b) but there are significant numbers who object to tax and would not pay if they were not forced to, thus its safe to assume that consent is not given in many cases,

Government clearly fails c)

Is tax dishonest, well Government only fills a) because it says it does. Without deeper justification than that, ‘because I say so’ cannot be seen as ‘honest’ but merely a rhetorical trick to make it seem so. Government could fulfill b) by making tax voluntary. However, as it starts tax is taking via coercion and the threat of force, taking without consent backed up purely by ‘muscle’ is most certainly dishonest (if it isn’t then I assume you are happy for me to wave a gun in your face and take your wallet? Thought not)

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  • http://twitter.com/chrstinadarling/status/268036092354252800/ @chrstinadarling

    Why taxation is theft http://t.co/lYl875Bv

  • Laveen Ladharam

    Nice involvment of statute, but what you forget is that the definition of ‘dishonest’ as under the Theft Act 1968, and subsequent criminal acts such as the 78 Act and the Fraud Act etc.

    This is given to us by the case ‘R v Ghosh’ [1982] EWCA Crim 2 (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/1982/2.html).

    This has both a subjective and objective level to it. The subjective level is that (1) does the ordinary decent person (i.e. the man on the Clapham Omnibus) believe the action to be dishonest, and if so (2) does said person believe his actions to be viewed as Theft in the eyes of the decent honest person.

    The ordinary decent person would not regard theft as taxation as they would see taxation being necessary to pay for things like the armed forces, police, public services. Secondly, even if the honest person saw it as dishonest, it is unlikely that HMG and Parliament would see it as such.

    Ergo the argument presented is fundamentally flawed.

  • Alasdair

    “having a majority support something does not make it inherently ‘right’ ‘legitimate’ or ‘good’.”

    Except that that’s how democracy works. It’s always nice to see people arguing against democracy, it means I know I can ignore their views on other issues. :)

    More seriously: yes, I would say there are certain things that would be illegitimate for a government to do, even a democratically elected one carryingout the will of the people. For example, a government should not kill its own citizens, except in extreme and emergency situations (e.g. a police officer killing a terrorist to prevent a bombing).

    But taking a small proportion of someone’s income is nothing like taking someone’s life. Paying tax does not remotely infringe anybody’s human rights. Property ownership is not an absolute right: in certain circumstances, the government has the right to deprive you of your property, for example in order to enforce a fine or debt.

    If you are going to take an absolutist approach to taxes, then I can only assume you take a similarly absolutist approach to the government depriving people of liberty: presumably, you are also against prisons? Indeed, if you don’t think governments can ever have any legitimate powers, presumably you’re against government altogether?

    To which all I can say is: fair enough. If you want to live in an anarchist society, feel free to move to one: I think there are parts of Somalia, Yemen and northern Pakistan where there is effectively no state. But the vast majority of people would rather live under a government which they can rely on to protect them from harm, and so the vast majority of people accept the necessity of paying taxes. If 99% of people think taxation is justified, I would suggest that they’ve got it right and you haven’t. After all, why should everyone else have to change their ways just because *you* object?

  • Alasdair

    Sorry for going on a bit here, I just realised a more fundamental flaw in your argument.

    If you don’t believe in law or democratic government (which seems to be the consequence of your arguments here), how can you even have a concept of ‘theft’ in the first place?

    If democratic laws have no legitimacy, then the Theft Act is meaningless. If they do, then taxation is legitimate. So which is it?

  • http://twitter.com/Bobski1984/status/268049432417800192/ @Bobski1984

    Tax Is Theft http://t.co/BBcaS2Cu << A huge dose of “sound” right here @OllyNeville

  • http://www.thebackbencher.co.uk Olly Neville

    Somalia Klaxon, not an anarchist society, it is a fail state. Plus no one should be forced to move to not be stolen from.

    Others should change as they are imposing on me, they are breaching things like the harm principle and the non aggression principle. Just like others should change if their hurting me, they should also change if they are taking from me or depriving me of things.

    The theft act is just showing that tax is theft even under the current system, law does not come from Government, law comes from the individual. There is a big difference between actual law based on rights and Government law based on what the Government wants.

    You seem to be very certain that whatever the Government does is legal and fine because they say it is. Would you agree that all genocides committed by Governments are fine then? You talk randomly about what Government can or can’t do but you give no justification, everything you say appears to be based on just what you think, where are your first principles or your overall justification for your world views.

    Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting for dinner, It’s always nice to see people arguing for democracy, it means I know I can ignore their views on other issues.

  • http://www.thebackbencher.co.uk Olly Neville

    @Laveen the argument does not rest on the theft act so even if you could remove that it would not take anything from the argument itself. Law as I say above is not made by Government.

    Dishonest as you say is based on a majority or ordinary view, and basing law on majority view is fundementally unsound and invalid, again you get the problem that there are fundemental rights that even a 99% can’t remove. If the average man wants to take away all property from Gingers, or Jews then they have no more justification for doing it than they do for taking 50% of property from certain parts of society. A majority decision cannot over rule peoples rights otherwise you are in complete agreement with Governments that committ atrocities against its people

  • http://twitter.com/OllyNeville/status/268053979106275330/ Olly Neville (@OllyNeville)

    Smacking down socialists on the @Backbencher #TaxIsTheft http://t.co/TAI8HZXm

  • Jayne

    I find it extremely unpleasant that you continually compare taxation (which can be argued to have some social benefit, and affects everyone from any social background/colour/race) to the Genocide, which had zero benefit and affected only a small, less privileged section of humanity. Please rethink your comparisons.

    -Jewish and rather annoyed.

  • http://www.thebackbencher.co.uk Olly Neville

    I don’t compare tax to genocide. I compare saying it is ok for Government to steal with saying it is ok for Government to kill on a mass scale. The justification for one is the justification for the other

  • http://twitter.com/OllyNeville/status/268108950484963328/ Olly Neville (@OllyNeville)

    Does anyone else read this and think ‘he is comparing tax itself to the killling of millions’ http://t.co/TAI8HZXm #facepalm

  • Guillermo

    Olly, if it helps, I agree with your views. Furthermore I would add that the system of “progressive” taxes is discriminatory based on income, which in my opinion is as bad as discriminating based on sex, race or religion.

  • http://www.thebackbencher.co.uk Olly Neville

    @Guillermo

    Thank you, those who agree don’t often comment so it tends to look one sided so I really appreciate it. I agree on progressive taxes, the fairest form of tax is flat taxes, but then no theft is really fair

    Ill be expanding on this article tomorrow with another one to further flesh out one of the arguments tailored to the comments I have got, so thank you everyone supportive or not for giving me your (constructive or not) criticism

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  • http://giraffefriendlydialectic.blogspot.co.uk/ Duncan

    That definition of theft claims the term applies to a guilty ‘person’…with the best will in the world I can’t see how that transitively applies to government.

  • http://www.thebackbencher.co.uk Olly Neville

    Government, like corporations, are made up of people. When a company defrauds you its directors and employees are punished, so too with Government, it may not be able to steal from you as like a company its not actually a thing, just a collection of people. So the Government workers, the MPs, the tax collectors etc they are the theives

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