Now is an ideal time to take stock of the battle against the Household Tax in 2012 and learn some of the lessons from this historic struggle.
Recently, Phil Hogan has been out trying to shore up his much-damaged reputation, claiming victory on the household Tax registration. He claims 70% have registered for the Household Tax. The reality is completely different. Firstly, he is only operating off the figure of 1.6 million properties in the state. The census actually reveals there are 1.9 million properties, 1.8 million of which are liable. Secondly, by the end of 2012, 40 per cent of properties had defied the government threats and intimidation and had boycotted the tax.
But this doesn’t tell the full story. If you take out the 400,000 properties registered by landlords of multiple properties, then the figures of single homeowners (i.e. ordinary people), is actually closer to 50% boycotting this tax. These figures compare favorably with the movement against Margaret Thatcher’s hated Poll Tax in Britain in the early 1990s were 30% boycotted in the first year. This was an enormous achievement and knocked the government back.
Legally the Household Tax legislation provided for serious sanctions against non-payers including court cases, €2,500 fines and a €100-a-day penalty for each day someone didn’t register. Undoubtedly these sanctions scared a lot of people into paying, but such was the anger and opposition in society, and the success on the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes, that a massive volume of people held out and the government were unable to implement these savage sanctions
The change to the method of collection of the new Property Tax is actually a testament to the success of the Campaign last year. They believed they could achieve 90% compliance by Christmas 2012 and introduce the Property Tax in January 2012. Instead they have had to hold off until July.
There are important lessons we can learn from the Household Tax battle last year. The existence of a campaign managed to harness the anger and opposition in society in general and give it an organised expression through a mass boycott, mass public meetings and big demonstrations and protests. This gave people the confidence to keep up the boycott.
While, the government have tried to remove the boycott as a weapon we can use, boycotting the registration process which will begin in late March, can show the opposition that exists to this tax, and provide the backdrop for building a mass movement that is based on radical mass acts of civil disobedience and political pressure on the politicians and on the unions.