The household tax was fought to a standstill by a campaign which involved perhaps 20,000 – 30,000 people taking some kind of action linked to 700,000 people who simply didn’t register and didn’t pay.
However, the threat to deduct property tax from wages and social welfare means that non-registration will now need to be linked to a campaign to force the government to back down on the tax or at least on deductions before the 1 July deductions deadline.
Clearly, this makes the fight against the property tax a stiffer challenge. However, the anti-austerity mood within society is greater now than 12 months ago. More and more families walk a financial precipice every day. If the anti-austerity mood in society comes to the surface, if a campaign is built which can help bring it to the surface, then a real fight against the property tax can be built.
This means exerting pressure on the Revenue Commissioners who must be made to rue the day they ever agreed to take this job on. Even more so, it will mean exerting pressure on the government. Although their parliamentary majority is large, both government parties are on the back foot. This is particularly the case with the Labour Party. Hated by wide numbers of working class people, weakened by defections and with their support set to plummet as Budget austerity kicks in Labour are the government’s weak link. Massive pressure must be brought to bear on them.
This can only be achieved by a campaign which is much bigger, much more active and more militant than the campaign against the household tax.
Such a campaign will have to employ a wide variety of tactics – mass street protest, direct action protest, mass boycott of registration, trade union action and exertion of huge political pressure up to and including standing slates of anti-property tax and anti-austerity candidates in elections.
Set the date for national protest
The Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes should set the date now for a mass, national demonstration against the property tax. This should be after 1.9 million households receive their Revenue forms but before the 30 April deadline for settling household tax arrears – probably mid-April. The Campaign should set the target of building an attendance at this protest which goes significantly beyond the largest protest organised in 2012 against the household tax (15,000).
Regional protests on 23 March (European Trade Union Congress Day of Action) and 9 Feb could be used to build for such a major national demonstration.
Serious consideration should be given to direct action protests such as occupations linked to such mass demonstrations.
As another article on this site argues in greater detail, a systematic approach needs to be taken to building support in workplaces and trade unions. A sufficient base of support needs to be built to put union leaders under real pressure for industrial action at a critical point if the government don’t back down on the deductions threat.
Official correspondence and deadlines will come thick and fast in March, April and May. In March, 1.9 million households will receive correspondence from Revenue with forms for self-assessment. Those who don’t pay household tax arrears by 30 April then face the imposition of new penalties culminating on the 1 July with them owing €200 which will be rolled into the property tax. 7 May will be the deadline for returning forms to Revenue (28 May for returning electronically).
A mass of public meetings and mass leaflet distribution will be necessary calling for maintenance of household tax non-payment and boycott of property tax registration.
Large numbers of households boycotting registration, linked to a rising campaign of mass protest and civil disobedience can put the government under real pressure.
A discussion should be initiated among campaigners about standing a slate of anti-property tax and anti-austerity campaigners in the 2014 Local and European Elections as well as standing a candidate in the Meath East by-election. The threat to politicians of the Government parties – “Axe the Tax or Watch Your Vote Collapse” – will be all the more credible if this step is taken in the run-in to the 1 July deductions deadline.
The potential of the strategies and tactics referred to above will not be met unless mass, active campaigns are built at grassroots level. The January-February period must be used to put these in place through the organisation of public meetings and involvement of those who attend in mass door-to-door campaigning aimed at focusing pressure on the government parties.
The campaign groups in Dublin West and Limerick have discussed the type of campaign that now needs to be built and have changed their names to Campaign Against Property Tax and Austerity. All who want to fight the tax should have urgent local discussions in January about the type of campaign we need to build and consider similar action.