The Irish Independent reported over Christmas that the government are planning a mass state-wide leaflet drop in early February encouraging people to register for the household tax and threatening them with dire consequences if they fail to do so.
The government are threatening people with the possibility of being brought before a District Court judge if they fail to register; being slapped with a “Class C” fine (up to a maximum of €2,500) if the judge finds that they should have registered for the tax; and new legislation which would allow for fines to be deducted from wage packets or social welfare payments.
The threats coming thick and fast from Fine Gael and Labour are truly scandalous. Bankers and developers who bankrupted the entire country are being rewarded with bailouts. Ordinary working people who take a stand against an unjust tax being used to fund that bailout are being threatened with fines 25 times the size of that tax! Never has the phrase “one law for the rich and one law for the rest” been so apt.
Why are they putting so much emphasis on household tax registration? Because they simply do not have the information on home ownership that they need in order to levy the property tax in 2013 and the water tax in 2014. Registration for the household tax will provide them with the information that they need for the database to levy these two new taxes.
The Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes is launching a massive nationwide campaign against household tax registration under the slogan “Don’t Register Don’t Pay”.
If the majority of ordinary people heed this advice it will make the government’s threats of fines and deductions unworkable.
If, for example, more than a million households refused to register the local authorities would not be able to get a respectable fraction of them before a judge even if the District Courts were to operate nationwide on a 24/7 basis to pursue non-payers – something, by the way, that would create an enormous political backlash for the government.
Furthermore, the campaign will approach trade unionists and ask them to organise to ensure that their trade unions boycott all work which assists the government in implementing fines and deductions.
The early indications are that a significant number of ordinary people have already made up their minds not to register and not to pay and that very many others are open to persuasion. Given the scale of the fines and sanctions the government are threatening, this says something about the mood and determination of many people.
Of course, there are many other people who oppose the tax, are supportive of the campaign, but are considering registration when faced with such drastic penalties.
This campaign will say to those people that they should hold off from registration. No penalty can possibly kick in before 31 March. We aim to establish mass non-registration as a fact on the ground by St Patrick’s Day (a full two weeks before the registration deadline). Hopefully, the campaign for non-registration will be so strong by this time that the majority of people in this category can be persuaded to stand firm and join a force capable of making the government’s threats unworkable.
The campaign will organise a major national gathering of anti-household tax activists – most likely an indoor rally – on Saturday, 24 March to assist this process.
Of course the campaign will have to be ready for the possibility that if the government are struggling the registration deadline could be extended, the threats stepped up and the battle continued into April or even beyond.
If after all this a huge block of ordinary people have defied registration it would be an incredible achievement and a real defeat for the government. Such a level of defiance would impart real confidence for all those fighting austerity and could potentially inspire a broader fightback against it.
The battle against registration is not the entire war. Huge battles against the property tax and the water tax lie ahead. But it is the first battle in a wider war and a key one at that.
The Socialist Party will strain every muscle to fight this battle to the best of our abilities in the weeks that lie ahead.