'War tax' protestor facing court again

AN accountant who has twice been taken to court by Inland Revenue for refusing to pay the part of his tax that funds military action is to appear in court again.

By Roddy Ashworth

AN accountant who has twice been taken to court by Inland Revenue for refusing to pay the part of his tax that funds military action is to appear in court again.

Quaker Roy Prockter, from Essex, will appear as a plaintiff on Thursday when he and six other like-minded protesters from around Britain will be in the Court of Appeal in the Strand.

The group, known as the Peace Tax Seven, are arguing that using tax law to force pacifists to pay for activities that include the deliberate killing of other people is a breach of their human right to manifest their beliefs.

Mr Prockter, 56, of Thorpe-le-Soken, near Clacton, will be joined in court by three other Quakers, an Anglican, a Buddhist and one protestor who is not aligned with any specific faith. Their opponent in the case, to be heard on Thursday, is HM Treasury.

Barristers for the seven will argue that conscription continues to this day, and now affects everyone through their taxes, including Income Tax, PAYE, VAT, Excise Duty, and National Insurance.

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The appeal follows a High Court refusal last July to grant them a judicial review of the Government's blanket refusal to amend the tax system to accommodate their beliefs, and comes 13 years after Mr Prockter was first prosecuted in Colchester County Court.

Mr Prockter, who is self-employed, said: “If we win at this hearing, the judges will order a judicial review, or may decide to hear the case themselves, and our understanding of procedure is that if they declare UK tax law incompatible with The Human Rights Act, the government will be on notice and under pressure to change the law.

“This would involve allowing all taxpayers who had deeply-held beliefs that war is wrong to direct the military part of their taxes to a peace-building fund to pay for conflict resolution without violence.

“On the other hand if we lose again, then we will have exhausted UK law, and the route to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg becomes open to us.

“Even if UK law is exhausted, we won't be. I'm convinced that the right to refuse to kill will eventually become everyone's right - and the world will become a safer place because of it.”

Yesterday, a spokesman for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs department said: “As the law stands at present it is not possible for taxpayers to decide to which part of Government expenditure they would like their payments to be allocated.

“All tax receipts go into the consolidated fund and taxes are not earmarked to any particular purpose.

“The obligation to pay taxes is a general one, which has no specific conscientious implication in itself. Tax receipts go into a common Exchequer 'pool' - the consolidated fund - and no part of an individual's taxes can be identified as either funding, or not funding, particular items of expenditure.

“This view was supported by the European Commission of Human Rights who, in considering an individual's rights to divert a proportion of tax to a peace-building fund, stated that no taxpayer can influence or determine the purpose for which his or her contributions are applied once they are collected.

“We appreciate the deeply-held convictions of those people who object to part of their taxes being spent on the military, but the Government cannot support a change of policy to allow conscientious objectors to have the military portion of their taxes spent on non-military causes.”

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