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Digital Subscriptions > Life and Work > September 2019 > God and Taxes

God and Taxes

Jackie Macadam considers the morality of taxation.

YOU look at your pay slip and the amount paid in tax and you sigh.

Then you think about the National Health Service and all the services we get and we suck it up. That’s life.

But 30 years ago, a tax was introduced that split the UK, both geographically and, some would say, morally.

The Rev David Sinclair, currently working as a Mission partner with the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, remembers the community charge – dubbed the the ‘Poll Tax’ well, but not fondly.

“In the 1980s, when I was in training for the ministry of the Church of Scotland, I was invited to preach in the congregation where I had grown up. I preached on Romans 13, on authorities and obedience and taxes, and on the impending imposition of a new and unpopular tax in Scotland (not, at first, in the rest of the United Kingdom). Local taxation was to move away from a calculation based on the rental value of the house you lived in and, instead, charge each individual in the council area the same (with some exceptions).

“I leant quite heavily on Paul’s reference to conscience as I talked about the plans and about those, including some in the churches, who argued that the tax should neither be collected nor paid. I said that, in spite of my hesitancies and disagreements, I would no doubt end up paying what was demanded of me, but that we should understand those who would not do so, and understand their willingness to risk being imprisoned for that refusal.

“At the door, after the service, one elderly man approached me to tell me that he was not going to shake my hand. Others since may have not shaken my hand for one reason or another; this, however, is the only example I have of someone who came to make sure I knew he was not doing so. A woman passed as our short conversation was going on – and suggested that my interlocutor was bringing me a word from God.

“It may have been that these two people stood to gain from the change being introduced. It may simply have been that it was not acceptable for me to suggest from the pulpit that there should be understanding for civil disobedience. There was no time, nor was it really the place, to reach that amount of detail. The poll tax was divisive, even in the church.

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IN THIS ISSUE GOD AND TAXES The morality of taxation 'I REALLY LOVE MY CHURCH COMMUNITY' Former MEP Catherine Stihler talks about faith CELEBRATING THE GUILD Annual Gathering and Guild Week And much more....