We share the following information based on the legal information and guidance we have been given to date. This information does not constitute formal legal advice, and those participating may wish to seek out their own legal advice.
Whilst we share what could happen legally, it is not possible to guess what would happen. In past tax protests, individuals have been singled out for punishment. In other cases, the threat of a tax disobedience has been sufficient to bring about change.
Pledging / before the disobedience begins
Our legal team has advised us that there is nothing illegal in the act of pledging. In addition, we will not share information about who has signed the pledge unless you want us to (as part of our press campaign, for example). We would encourage people to share their involvement on social media and in conversations, in order to build awareness and impact. However, that is a matter of personal choice.
The withholding of tax is a civil offence, not a criminal offense, therefore a related campaign and your sharing on social media could not be deemed a conspiracy, and encouraging others to join could not be considered the crime of counselling.
Once the disobedience begins
Deliberately failing to pay HMRC tax due and owing may give rise to the following potential offences:
fraudulent evasion of income tax
fraudulent evasion of VAT
cheating the public revenue
providing false documents or information to HMRC
We believe the following is more likely to arise if you withhold £50 of a tax return (rather than, say, 50p of VAT in a café)
If you decide to withhold taxes, there will be financial consequences, such as fines added to your bill and, sooner or later, HMRC will demand that you pay up or face legal action. It is likely that your possessions will be seized and you may be taken to court by the HMRC. It is, however, always possible to pay at any stage, having taken the matter as far as you feel able or wish to.
We assume each individual will make their protest and take it as far as they feel comfortable with
In an attempt to settle your debt, the HMRC will value your possessions for their potential sale at auction. This will involve a visit from an HMRC representative and/or bailiffs. After such a visit, you will be given five days to pay the due sum, before your possessions are removed for sale.
Following this, if a sufficient sum is still owed, your case will be taken to the courts. If, upon receipt of a court order, you still choose not to pay the owed taxes, there are a number of possibilities:
property belonging to you held by a third person (such as money in a bank account) may be transferred directly to the HMRC
if you are still receiving an income, you may find money deducted directly from your wage at source
you may be sent to prison
You can be declared bankrupt if the sum owed amounts to more than £5,000, so be mindful of interest and fines.
If you do decide to withhold taxes, always inform the HMRC of what you are doing and why (we will supply templates). This can help to maintain a more pleasant atmosphere and makes it clear to them that, even though what you are doing is illegal, you are not setting out to deliberately cheat or lie to them. Also consider writing a letter to the local press (perhaps with fellow tax rebels), explaining what you are doing and why. Despite this, it is important to remember that all tax unpaid by the due date will be subject to substantial interest charges as well as other costs.
The majority of tax offences are created by statute, with the exception of the offence of cheating the public revenue, which is a common law offence, expressly preserved by the Theft Act 1968. It is possible that this act could be used against the organisers of this pledge, which would be interesting, given the lack of usage against banks that have organised industrial-scale tax evasion!