Assume your government participates in immoral wars that are unjust according to your personal beliefs and religious doctrine (for example Christian just war theory), is giving support to the government immoral in ethical terms or a sin in religious terms (assume Christianity if needed)? The government also does useful things and it can be claimed the government saves lives as well, and your funds are being partly used for a good cause (fungibility). Note that it is possible other institutions would save those lives if the government didn't.

To put it in other terms, let's say someone asks you for a dollar and with that dollar they will buy some medicine to save someone and a bullet to kill someone.

Of course there will be people who claim they have no choice, but plenty of people go to jail or die for their beliefs (for example Bobby Sands or Jesus), so I don't believe that argument is true. I think if someone is truly religious and trying to go to heaven, or truly trying to live a moral life, then they would want to avoid sinning or being immoral no matter what the consequence and would consider the answer this question.

  • Upon learning/understanding injustice is done at your expense by your proxy, yes. I believe the Cynics would be delighted with this inquiry. – Ron Royston Apr 2 '15 at 15:45
  • If a drug addict has a gun pointed at your head, demanding money, is it necessarily wrong to accede? Taxation is no different. The moral blame for the wrongdoer's actions belong on the wrongdoer, not on their victims, of which you are one. – kbelder Apr 2 '15 at 16:10
  • What if they were demanding something that they couldn't just take from you after they shoot you such as knowledge? And that knowledge would cause harm to many others if the drug addict had it? Agreed, the drug addict is in the wrong. What about the person who divulges the information with the result that it saves him/her self but harms many more? – Carlos Bribiescas Apr 2 '15 at 16:44
  • Just to point it out, there is a workable option in the U.S. Traditional Shakers, some serious Quakers and Mennonites, and most members of the Rainbow Family of Living Light arrange to have taxable income below the zero-tax cutoff by 1) living on barter to one degree or another, 2) allowing the Church or Tribe to hold expensive goods for common use, 3) giving a lot of money to their organizations as charities, and/or 4) (particularly in the case of the Shakers) by carefully keeping everyone's land fully mortgaged with any true equity re-borrowed and invested in Missions. – jobermark Apr 3 '15 at 0:15

As a practical matter, its not moral to refuse to pay taxes because of a single action of the government. In a democracy, you never get your way entirely and every individual can make a creditable moral case that something the government does constitutes an intolerable use of its violence based powers. If everyone felt justified in not paying taxes because they did not like everything the government was doing, everyone could end up morally refusing to pay all taxes.

It follows that if you've reached the point you will no longer financially or otherwise support the government, then morally you shouldn't seek to benefit from it either. Since someone had to be threatened and hurt, if only financially, for you to receive that benefit, if you don't contribute your share, you have no right to ask the government to force others to pay taxes and then give the proceeds directly to you or benefit from some service they pay for e.g. the police or military.

Therefore the moral action is to tolerate government failure and continue to pay taxes until the government's actions in sum become morally intolerable.

For any government to function, a sharp line delineating between individual citizens being are all-in versus all-out. You participate in the political process and fully pay your dictated share of the taxes until you reach that sharp delineation. Then you either, 1) emigrate to another polity or 2) rebel against the total authority of the state and seek to replace it with another that will make better decisions.

Any other actions is vainglorious, self-rightous posturing.


The person above is claiming that it is immoral NOT to support state sponsored mass murder. It doesn't matter if you believe you benefit from taxes. That does not make paying for killing any less immoral, it makes you complicit with it. For example: There are private police forces in Michigan. Say cases of police brutality caused a resident to stop funding the police. Would that person's actions be considered immoral? Instead of the residents who continue to fund the police? Give me a break.

Yes, unlike that situation, taxes are not voluntary, but you have two options: support taking other human beings' lives, or possibly face legal repercussions, which only affect you.

Lastly, tax resistance IS rebelling against the state. If fewer people paid taxes the state would be forced to change its policies. If nobody did, the state would cease to exist.

  • I made some edits which you may roll back or continue editing. If you have a reference that takes a similar view this would strengthen your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome to Philosophy! – Frank Hubeny Feb 8 at 10:44
  • If fewer people paid [income] taxes the state would Change its system of taxation. – Gordon Feb 8 at 16:14
  • My taxes fund a lot of things, including the police. The police do a lot of things, including some police brutality. Would we be better off without police? Without all the things my taxes pay for? Without government? Is it immoral to do something if some of the consequences are bad, but many more are good? To not do something under those conditions? – David Thornley Feb 11 at 18:55

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