Developments in Germany from 1980 to 1992

Chronology of War Tax Resistance

In the early 1980s some groups in Berlin, Cologne, Heidelberg and Freiburg discuss the problem that they have contributing to funding arms and the military - which they oppose - via their tax payments.

In 1981 some individual taxpayers start refusing to pay part of their income or motor vehicle tax to the tax authorities. They pay the money into special blocked accounts, call upon their employers to do likewise with the automatically deducted income tax of employees, apply for recognition by the tax authorities. Some take legal action on the basis of article 4 of the German Basic Law (Constitution), the basic right to freedom of conscience, claiming their conscience bars them from contributing to funding the military and nuclear arms.

With the growth of the peace movement due to the debate on the dual track agreement, the issue is taken up by entire groups 46 pastors of the Protestant Church of Hesse/Nassau send a letter to their leaders. In Berlin a motion to be tabled at the regional synod is supported by more than 300 signatures. 80 employees of Diakonisches Werk, Stuttgart, request their employer to exempt them from having to co-fund the military.

In 1982 the campaign Ohne Rüstung Leben (Living without arms) include a leaflet To all taxpayers: DISARM YOUR TAXES! in the information they send out.

Peace Dove and DM

In 1983 a national Peace Tax Initiative is founded in Heidelberg.

In 1984 Agape publishing house publish Was gehört dem Kaiser? Das Problem der Kriegssteuern (What is Cesar's? The problem of war taxes) by Wolfgang Krauß.

In 1984 German Quakers come out in favour of legislation enabling taxpayers to replace their military taxes by peaceful alternatives along the lines of conscientious objection to military service. In 1987 Mennonites follow suit.

In 1984 the Bielefeld-based Campaign for War Tax Resistance take up the Dutch example and initiate Campaign 5,72 DM whereby for each new medium-range missile 1 Pfennig is to be withheld from one's motor vehicle tax and to be used for peaceful purposes. 800 taxpayers from all over Germany participate.

Steuern Zu Pflugscharen

In 1985 a group of church workers found the ecumenical campaign Taxes into Ploughshares for joint action in the churches in order to make sure that income tax of war tax resistors employed by a church be spent for peaceful purposes only.

In 1986 a first bill recognizing war tax resistance and providing practical ways of implementing it is submitted in Parliament with its first reading taking place on December 4. 

In autumn 1986 the first international Conference on War Tax Resistance takes place in Tübingen with participants from 14 countries in Europe, America, Japan and Australia.

The issue is taken up at conferences organized by church academies and centres. At a conference in Iserlohn a resolution with demands to the churches is adopted.

In 1988 Peace Tax Initiative launch the campaign Not with my Taxes! - Disarmament from below in which information and practical instructions on how to resist war taxes and raise awareness are distributed.

There are further international conferences on war tax resistance in the Netherlands (1988) and in Italy (1990).

In 1988 discussions are initiated between leaders of me Protestant Church in the Rhineland and representatives of campaign Taxes into Ploughshares, in 1989 also with leaders of the Church of Hesse/Nassau.

In June 1989 there is a first court ruling in Germany, by Freiburg Court of Finance, confirming the seriousness of the plaintiff's decision of conscience in favour of war tax resistance. Others are to follow.

In 1990 the Diocesan Assembly of Pax Christi in Münster diocese unanimously request the church authorities to make war tax resistance possible.

The same request is put forward by a group of Solidarische Kirche (Church in Solidarity – a grouping in the Protestant Church) in Recklinghausen and directed to their employers in the Protestant Church of Westphalia.

In July 1990 the German government issues the following statement on war tax resistance: There is no legally significant conflict of conscience to be solved. The government let it be known that tax authorities received instructions from government ministries to reject or not decide upon requests by war tax resistors.

A bill on exemption from war tax is again submitted to Parliament in 1990 and in February 1991 and referred to the competent committees after its first reading on February 21, 1991.

The second war in the Persian Gulf, which starts in January 1991, entails a conflict of conscience for many citizens because there are announcements of war tax to be levied for the Gulf war. Many individuals, groups, companies and organizations resist taxation as far as possible or, in the case of employees, put forward requests to that effect to their employers and tax authorities. Peace Tax Initiative call for participation in a campaign No Money for War and present information material and practical guidelines, among others a manual on how to resist income and value-added tax.

In March 1991 a Peace Tax Network is founded.

Netzwerk Friedenssteuer

The tax increase of July 1st is repeatedly and explicitly justified both by the German chancellor and the minister of Finance with a reference to having to co-fund the war. Even though it is officially called a solidarity levy (solidarity with East Germans to pay for the costs of unification), many citizens reject it as being a war tax.

After the tax increase of July 1st, the number of war tax resistors rises again. Apart from innumerable individuals, about 200 companies and their employees get involved in war tax resistance. By September, more than 1000 requests for war tax resistance have been submitted to church employers alone. Almost all of them are turned down, 4 local parishes agree.

In June ecumenical campaign Taxes into Ploughshares, Pax Christi and Fellowship of Reconciliation present a brochure on War Tax Resistance - Church Documents from Walpot to Hunthausen, from Seoul to Spandau. The publication ‘Wer will, kann’ (Those who want to can do it) provides information on legal remedies open to employers.

At the request of employees, the reformed parish in Göttingen, a number of peace organizations such as Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ohne Rüstung Leben (Living without arms), Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Betreuung der Kriegsdienstverweigerer (Protestant Working Group for Conscientious Objectors), Graswurzelwerkstatt (Grassroots Workshop) and Freundeskreis Eirene (Friends of Eirene) withhold part of their employees income tax and instead of paying it to the tax authorities pay it into a special account.

Olms publishers publish a book by Dr. Paul Tiedemann, judge at an administrative court, on the basic right to freedom of conscience in Germany: The right to conscientious objection to taxes which provides ample justification from constitutional and tax law for the thesis this right does in fact exist.

Some synods and parish/elders' councils come out in favour of making war tax resistance possible, some have requests to that effect on the agenda of their autumn meetings. Several regional synods decide to have their committees deal with the issue of war tax resistance.

More legal proceedings are initiated at financial courts against tax authorities that rejected requests for remission of war taxes.

The supreme Financial Court rejects the creation of a legal basis for war tax resistance. An appeal is lodged against this ruling at the Federal Constitutional Court.

Peace Tax Initiative develops into Peace Tax Network in 1992. In 5 regions contact persons meet twice a year and send delegates to the network's council where they work together with representatives of the issue-oriented working groups awareness-rising at grassroots level, questions of international cooperation, parliamentary initiatives and bills, Taxes into Ploughshares (in the churches), and legal remedies.

In July 1992 FEST (Forschungsstätte der Evangelischen Studienstiftung - a protestant research centre in Heidelberg) presents a written opinion of 200 pages on theological, economic and legal questions pertaining to war tax resistance. The opinion had been commissioned by the Protestant Church of the Rhineland.

In September a new publication is issued: War Tax Resistance, the Twin of Conscientious Objection to Military Service, Justification - Practice - Discussion.

October 1992

Netzwerk Friedenssteuer, Werwolf 57a, D - 5650 Solingen

‘Steuern zu Pflugscharen’, c/o Martin Arnold, Neissestr. 4, D - 4300 Essen 1