In the above the content of the Peace Tax Bills and also the reactions on those bills have been sketched.
It seems very important, that the response of those in power, that is the politicians of the big political parties, have been quite negative about the bills.
It is therefore recommended to take their objections and fears against the bills very seriously.
The most important objections heard are the violation of the budget right, the violation of the democratic decision making and the ‘floodgates’ argument.
Further impediments for passing such a bill were the fact that it was difficult to imagine that somebody would not pay taxes for an indivisible collective good and the fear that the equal treatment of all citizens would be endangered.
Another heard objection was the fact that the state budget would be made less clear, that there was not enough reason for a separate fund, and that the internal revenue service would get more work.
Some of them considered even the existence of conscientious objections in this domain of mixed taxes impossible.
Some thought that the bill was not of present interest anymore, others considered the bill only of symbolic character or emphasized the permissive nature of this type of legislation.
In the survey of the bills one could see that there were quite a lot of differences between the bills in the approach of the problems.
The consideration of Paul Tiedemann, namely a provision for conscientious objections in this domain, proposed from the perspective of the decisive majority appears to be wise and attractive.
Two main arguments can be relevant for such a majority:
- The wish to accommodate to conscientious objections;
- The wish to levy taxes in conformity with the tax principle of taxation with the least pain.
To remove the doubts and fears, a general provision for accommodation to conscientious objections against all kinds of tax destination, with the possibility of an examination to the seriousness of the conscientious objections concerned, could have preference.
It is not necessary that a provision for conscientious objections is accompanied with the realisation of some political wishes of the objectors involved. In this way of thinking a straight and meagre proposal could be more preferable.
The fact that in the bills there is no provision at all for the indirect taxes is a very weak point.
Only the British bill and the German bill of 1990 have tried to solve this problem.
In the mentioned German bill a special purpose levy is introduced for defence expenditure.
In the British bill the amount of defence tax is fixed as a fraction in which the military expenditure is the numerator and the number of voters the denominator. Such an average payment can not give a real accommodation in case of conscientious objections, for the proposal is not fit to administer justice to the personal situation.
It is quite imaginable to make also a provision for the indirect taxes. One could for example use the fiction that a person does not spend more or less money for consumption than the amount which is left of his income after he has paid his direct taxes and social insurances premiums, such an amount could be called the
fixed consumption amount.
Of course this is a fiction, because somebody can decide to loan or to save etcetera. Therefore it is necessary to have an appropriate reparation clause, so that the taxpayer can make clear and give evidence that his real consumption amount is higher or lower.
From this fixed or real consumption amount the taxpayer will pay about twenty percent indirect taxes, so as the value added tax and excise duties. This percentage is different in each country. In this way the yearly amount of indirect taxes which somebody pays can be estimated quite correctly.
By means of another reparation clause one can take special situations into account, for example when 40% indirect tax has been paid with regard to the purchase of an (expensive) consumption good.
So it is possible to calculate the amount of the direct and indirect taxes somebody has to pay each year.
In the Australian bill a registration system is proposed. Somebody can demand to be registered as a conscientious objector. An examination by the authorities is possible. This could be necessary inter alia for avoiding that the provision will be abused by some people as an attractive vehicle for political action.
In this registration procedure a person can make clear which departments do and which do not have objected expenditure.
After such registration all the direct tax money of the registered conscientious objector can be transferred to a special account of the Ministry of Finance, after the registered conscientious objector fulfils the two following obligations:
- The first obligation is the payment of administrative costs, say a fixed amount of hundred guilders a year, and
- The second obligation is the payment of an amount equivalent to five percent of the amount of his total tax money, direct and indirect taxes, as mentioned before, without any tax advantage to for example a charity fund or other organisation on the list of tax deductible gifts according to the income tax act or otherwise (each country has its own system).
In this way a threshold is made against too easy use of the provision and the conscientious objector can choose the destination himself. This is necessary because it is a general provision, not only for objections against the military destination of tax money.
A person with a very low income should have to get the right of exemption of these two
threshold-obligations, in the measure where appropriate.
When somebody has given evidence to the authorities that he has fulfilled the two aforementioned obligations, then his tax money will be transferred to a special account of the Ministry of Finance, the amount of the paid direct tax money directly from the tax collector's account and the amount of the paid indirect tax money from the total tax revenue.
From this special account of the Ministry of Finance the money will flow to the accounts of the
not objected to departments.
The Minister of Finance can give the registered conscientious objector then a specification of what he has done with the money transferred to the special account. The specification has to give information about the amount of the earmarked money, how much direct taxes, and how much indirect taxes, the date of earmarking, the date of the transfer to the special account and the destination of the money involved and the date of the transfer to the
not objected to departments.
The Minister of Finance has to inform parliament and publish in the official State Journal each year how many persons have applied for the provision, against which tax destinations the conscientious objections have been directed and the amounts involved.
This could mean an extra guarantee that the provision, which for persons without such objections only has a symbolic expressive character of a bookkeeping nature, has the openness and controllability as necessary in a democracy.
The provision has to be open for physical persons and also for legal bodies, in the same way as is the practice in the Dutch legislation with regard to conscientious objections against compulsory insurance.
With such a provision as sketched roughly above almost all the impediments mentioned in earlier chapters of this paper are taken away.
Of course this sketch is only a meagre provision strictly for accommodation to conscientious objections.
But such a provision cannot evoke the reproach that there is an appearance of violation of the budget right, the dirigibility of the country, the principle of equality etcetera, etcetera.
This does not mean however that a state cannot do more than that. A democratic majority normally has the wisdom and respect for minorities to make appropriate provisions with regard to all kinds of minorities, ethnic, regional, cultural, religious, age etcetera, without violating the principle of equality.
In this framework a State could combine the provision for conscientious objections with for example the establishment of a Peace Fund. But these two things can also be organised independently from each other.
Copyright and responsibility Erik Th.Hummels March 1996
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