Roy Prockter, a Quaker working for Malcolm Gardner Associates in Clacton-on-Sea, refused to pay an outstanding tax bill of around £150 because of his religious beliefs.
But after being summoned to Colchester Magistrates Court last week, he was refused a hearing. ‘The outcome was that there is no possible defence to not paying your tax, so I was not heard,’ said Prockter.
Despite this, Prockter has ‘no intention’ of paying his bill unless it is guaranteed not to be spent on war. He claims the Inland Revenue is contravening the Human Rights Act by not allowing him to practice his Quaker religion, which has been against all war for over 300 years.
He admits that he could end up in serious trouble. ‘I don’t think there’s any question of a fine but the Revenue has various means of extracting money from people, like sending round the bailiffs,’ he said. He confirmed that a possible course of action was to appeal.
Satindar Dogra, a managing associate at law firm Linklaters, said he doesn’t believe Prockter has a particularly good chance. ‘Claims of this sort have come up in the past and they’ve been dismissed,’ he said. ‘In fact claims specifically relating to Quaker beliefs have been dismissed.’
Despite this, the case brings the argument for the hypothecation of tax to the fore. Whether or not taxpayers should be able to determine where their money goes has long been a subject of discussion, but always labelled as unworkable, except in the case of large recipients such as the NHS or police.
‘You obviously can’t have hypothecation down to the last penny,’ said Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of tax at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. ‘There are all sorts of areas where people are not happy about where their tax payments go.’
He added that democracies cannot operate under such a system because ‘if individuals strong beliefs about a particular area they should address it through democratic channels rather than withhold legitimate tax’.
Prockter remained defiant: ‘I do think the [laws governing the] hypothecation of taxes will change,’ he said.
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