How to- tax disobedience

How We Will Rebel

It is really, really important that the British people embrace their spirit of defiance and disobedience. How far any given individual wishes to take this is down to them. The amounts of money involved may be pretty small for some people- this is fine! The point is to move beyond petitions into dissent! When we start the disobedience we will communicate with participants about how to proceed in more detail. As an overview:

Participants can choose one or both of the following methods (based on individual circumstances and motivation) for the disobedience:

  • VAT resistance – only pay for take-always on cold food, when in reality you are “eating in”
  • Tax return – refuse to pay £50 of tax owed

Steps for the VAT resistance- based tax rebellion:

  • Do you ever meet a friend for a drink in a café where you can also order takeaways? You should be charged differently for take-away orders on cold food. You need to find a café where this is the case, because the difference in price is all money that goes to central Government / HMRC. So if you ask for a take-away cake, smoothie or sandwich for example (it needs to be cold food) you will pay less VAT at 20%. Something that cost £1.20 as eat in will only cost £1 as a takeaway for example. The café DOESN’T lose any money- only Government does. By buying cake as a take-away when you actually eat in you can participate in a tax disobedience- how cool is that!?
  • Some cafés (like Greggs and Costas) have the difference between take-away prices and eat-in prices displayed so it is easy to see the difference. (Greggs are a “Fair tax” company by the way- believed to be paying their dues re corporation tax[i], with Costas it is less clear, but they are often chosen over Starbucks for this reason[ii]).
  • Some independent cafes have a “take-away” button on their till (but some won’t so you may need to ask in a few cafés to find a suitable one). In our research we managed to get a vegan / gluten free yogurt smoothie in an independent café with the VAT taken off, so in principle dietary differences shouldn’t exclude people from this civil disobedience. (A note to café owners, you may wish to ensure you have a clear approach to takeaway prices).
  • Once you have located a café where you can get cold food as a take-away, ask at the counter for some as a takeaway BUT find a place to sit in and eat. Sit in the café and eat / drink your order. You might choose a quieter more hidden corner where you’re less likely to be noticed.
  • If a member of the staff challenges you, inform them that you are participating in the Golden Rule Tax Disobedience (having a leaflet ready to hand to them that we will produce), that you understand they didn’t give you permission to stay in the restaurant, but you would prefer it if they allowed you to finish your protest. A local café, or workers in a corporation, may well be sympathetic to your cause. Small cafés can’t compete with the tax-dodging arrangements of cafés like Starbucks.
  • It’s best not to get the café’s open permission to do this – otherwise they could be implicated in the act of civil disobedience. They do have the right to treat you as a trespasser if they find you out and then ask you to leave. It would be best to leave at that point if they do ask you to, though delaying tactics are possible.
  • HAVE LOTS OF FUN figuring out how best to do this. Which cafés are easier to hide in the corner in, which are lenient, and so forth!
  • How much money did you choose not to give to the Government? Get a receipt for your order. The cold food will cost less than the eat in prices. The difference is VAT that the café sends to the taxman, which is an increase of 20%. You can use a VAT calculator here: Something that costs £1.20 to eat in for example, costs £1.00 as a takeaway.
  • Once you know how much the money is that you have ensured HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs = “the tax man”) will not get as part of your protest, choose a way to give this money away- you may wish to build a sum up over time. (We are explicitly urging you not to be a tax dodger – the money must go to a good cause!).  This could be an oragnisation like Disabled People Against Cuts, or OurNHS (make an additional donation if you ca), you could leave the money in the tips jar of the café or keep it if you have suffered from benefits cuts.
  • Make sure you share your protest; don’t say the exact location you did this in, but be sure to contact HMRC to say you have participated.
    (We will supply sample letters, email addresses, tweets, Facebook posts, etc.)

Steps for the tax return-based tax disobedience:

  • When the disobedience begins, write to HMRC informing them that you are participating in the Golden Rule Tax Disobedience and that when your next tax payment is due you will be withholding £50[iii].
  • Ensure you send your £50 to one of the campaigning organisations below or one of your own choosing (again, don’t become a tax dodger! – the money must go to a good cause!).

Don’t keep hold of the money!

If you have been a victim of welfare reform, you may feel justified in retaining the small sums involved in the VAT-based tax disobedience. Or especially if it is a small independent café, you might wish to put the money in the tips jar. Otherwise it is essential that money saved is given away (with a donation where possible) to a grass-roots campaigning organisation or to sympathetic investigative journalists for example:

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)




[iii] If you choose to do more that is your choice. Be mindful that bankruptcy laws can be enacted when debts, including fines amount to £5000 or more.