One of the major criticisms of the British government that led to the American War for Independence was "taxation without representation." Why are people who are not eligible to vote taxed? Isn't taxing unrepresented people contrary to one of the major reasons why the US exists?

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    Let's go with a thought experiment: "non-naturalized immigrants do not have to pay taxes". Sounds good, no? Sep 2, 2022 at 16:00
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica heh, in france non-national residents can vote in local elections Sep 2, 2022 at 16:01
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica if they freely chose to immigrate, then I think it's fair for them to pay taxes since they knew when moving to the US that they would be taxed without representation. But if they came as refugees, then I do not believe they should be taxed, at least until they have the opportunity to go back to the country they came from and decide to stay in the US.
    – Someone
    Sep 2, 2022 at 16:02
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    Rolled the question back as the question was drastically changed by the edit after people had started answering it.
    – Joe W
    Sep 2, 2022 at 19:22
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    if they came as refugees they will mostly not be paying taxes because they are poor. IF they are rich, IF they are making money in their host country, why should they not pay taxes like everyone else??? Voters already find plenty of reasons to keep refugees out, this looks like handing them a big fat winner: "those damn refugees never pay taxes!". Imagine what a certain POTUS could have done with that. The idea sucks with immigrants in general, it sucks even more with refugees. Sep 2, 2022 at 21:11

4 Answers 4


Two reasons:

First, if you make non-voters* pay less taxes or no taxes, you are in some way making it profitable not to be able to vote, especially for poorer parts of the population, who would exchange their right of representation for desperately needed money. This census suffrage is what the 24th amendment of the US constitution aims to prevent.

You may argue that gaining the right to vote is not voluntary for a person, so there cannot be an incentive for something you can’t choose to do. Well, that’s usually what the text of the law says, but in practice it’s not that clear: You can “mistakenly” lose your ID card, or not register, and use that as a way to lose your ability to vote; there’s always loopholes like that. And rich people would have an incentive not fix those loopholes, so that poor people get the financial incentive not to vote. Not to mention the fact that felons are usually refused the right to vote, so poor people could also be incentivized to commit misdemeanors just serious enough to restrict them from voting.

Also, as a consequence of that consequence, elected officials wouldn’t have an incentive for helping the poor, because it wouldn’t bring them votes in the next election. For the same reason, having IQ tests, an upper age or similar limits for the right to vote is a bad idea – all the disenfranchized people would just get ignored by most of the political class.

Second, non-voting people still use roads, which are fixed using public money. So, making them pay for what they use seems fair.

There’s also work-related taxes and social contributions. These may be specific to France, but a part of the salary gets allocated to a social-security fund which pays pensions, medical care for work-related illnesses or injuries, maternity leaves, and some other things. Regardless of whether you’re a national or whether you are a voter*, you have access to these services, so it’s fair that you pay for that with a part of your salary.

* I use that term from a rights point of view, not a practice point of view

  • The first point does not make much sense. The people in the USA to whom the question refers include classes like felons, who are simply barred from voting. It does not contemplate the idea that by choosing not to vote, one can avoid taxes.
    – Obie 2.0
    Sep 2, 2022 at 17:29
  • Yes it does. If you got exempted from any tax the moment you lose the right to vote, poor people would be incentivized to commit misdemeanors sufficient to forbid them from voting. Sep 2, 2022 at 17:33
  • If you edit your answer to mention that, and not things like losing voter ID cards or not registering which are not relevant, I will reverse my downvote.
    – Obie 2.0
    Sep 2, 2022 at 17:34
  • I'll include it, but how are my other examples not relevent ? They are other valid ways of losing the right to vote, and less risky so probably more used by people in need of a tax relief. Sep 2, 2022 at 17:35
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    @Gouvernathor Territories' residents are under different taxation regimes than residents of the States for the exact reason they're not represented. For example, territorial income tax replaces Federal income tax, unless certain conditions exist. Guam, for example, is outside the customs area of the US, and sets its own tariffs.
    – user71659
    Nov 29, 2022 at 7:32

This seems like a false equivalence. No taxation without representation wasn't because some residents of the colonies couldn't vote.

It was because being a resident automatically meant you paid without having a say in your government. And you could not change that status.

H.R.4958 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)

(1) The phrase “no taxation without representation” was a rallying cry of many American colonists during the period of British rule in the 1760s and early 1770s. The slogan gained widespread notoriety after the passage of the Sugar Act on April 5, 1764.

(2) American colonists increasingly resented having taxes levied upon them without having any legislators they elected who were voting in Parliament in London. The idea that there should be no taxation without representation dated back even further. Benjamin Franklin stated, “it is suppos’d an undoubted Right of Englishmen not to be taxed but by their own Consent given thro’ their Representatives.”.

Is a system where non-voting immigrants pay no taxes a viable system? It certainly doesn't sound, to me, like a system that will produce a society that welcomes immigrants.

OK, you tell me, some jurisdictions allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. Letting aside that this is not a universally welcomed idea*, local spending and local taxes are typically much lower than national-level taxes and spending.

* in a well-run country, non-citizen residents should enjoy pretty much all the rights of citizens and have a path to attain citizenship, should they wish to do so. The difference, for some people, is then pretty much the right to vote. Others may feel the right to vote should be extended to all residents, but I don't know of any country that fully does that, for all levels of governments.

The EU allowing that is a) limited to local elections and b) takes place in a regional context of a voluntary supranational government (the EU) to which national governments have already transferred some rights (immigration management, via Schengen and the principle of free movement). And, it is limited to EU nationals:

Municipal elections - Your Europe:

If you want to vote in municipal elections in the country where you live,

As an EU national, you will be voting under the same conditions as nationals of the country where you live.

Finally, to be clear, this answer was written before the question got edited to mention felons. It was written from the PoV that exempting non-voters from taxation seems like a really bad idea.

Reasons to withhold voting rights? Well, immigrant vs. citizen status seems reasonable enough. For the rest, that wasn't what I was answering about because it wasn't in the original question. And, for the record, I don't support felon disenfranchisement: it's petty, vengeful and hinders reinsertion.

  • Your explanations only apply for non-citizens getting taxed, but it fails to apply to a lot of other disenfranchized people, such as (in the US) convicted felons, or residents of the District of Columbia. They, too, cannot change their representation status, either at all or without moving to live somewhere else. Granted, moving from DC to Maryland is not as hard as it was to move from the 13 colonies to UK, but for felons it's still a problem. Sep 2, 2022 at 17:47
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    My answer was before the question was edit to add convicts and criminals. I would not have answered this way had this been present on the Q: I find disenfranchisement of criminals petty and counterproductive. Sep 2, 2022 at 18:00

One of the major criticisms of the British government that led to the American War for Independence was "taxation without representation." Why are people who are not eligible to vote taxed?

Non-voters (children, immigrants) are still represented by their state and national representative and senators in a way that the American colonies were not in the British Parliament.

For example, apportionment is based on total population, not eligible voters.

While the interest of an individual person in government in representing these classes of people probably varies immensely, children frequently do write their representatives. A quick Google didn't show me how representatives interact with non-citizens, but some websites offered help with immigration services, which suggests a US House member would respond to a resident non-citizen's request for help with federal immigration agencies.

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    I don't think that people can safely be assumed to have any interest in representing those who cannot vote for them. That is why states with slavery loved the three-fifths representation of enslaved people (compared to none, anyway, although they wanted full representation in apportionment): it let them elect more representatives who would represent their own interests and who almost uniformly had no interest in representing enslaved Black Americans.
    – Obie 2.0
    Sep 2, 2022 at 17:36
  • I was just writing that. The apportionment argument is not a good example, in my opinion. Sep 2, 2022 at 17:37
  • @Obie2.0 Yes, but there is a big gap between "taxation without representation" as criticized by the colonies, where they were governed by people on some wet rainy island on the other side of the ocean. But you don't think that any representatives care about the welfare of the children in their district? My rep is an immigrant: I am sure they care very much about policies affecting non-citizen immigrants in their district. Sep 2, 2022 at 17:39
  • Some representatives care. What is true is that they cannot generally be assumed to. Children are an unusual case, because voters tend to care about them in a way that they may not care about potentially distant non-voting groups (though note that this only goes as far as their concern aligns with what the children want; husbands probably cared about their wives before female suffrage, but their votes reflected their own goals). And immigrants who don't care much about undocumented immigrants are a dime a dozen, for that matter: just look at some of the things that Melania Trump has said.
    – Obie 2.0
    Sep 2, 2022 at 17:42
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    @Obie2.0 And plenty of reps don't care about the people that voted, but not for them. Your point is fine, but I still think that OP doesn't quite understand what "taxation without representation" meant. Sep 2, 2022 at 18:24

The catchphrase was not about letting everybody who paid (direct or indirect) taxes vote. It was about a very specific group of mostly-WASP, reasonably affluent men who wanted the vote for themselves.

At the time of the American Revolution, women, African-Americans, and Native Americans were not allowed to vote. Others who immigrated were expected to naturalize if they wanted to vote, which was possible in about the time between two elections. Concepts like the Green Card did not exist.

Since then, political views changed greatly, and it would be silly to apply 18th century standards to 21st century policies.

  • At the time of the revolution the situation on taxes was a lot different and they didn't have many of the taxes that we have today.
    – Joe W
    Sep 2, 2022 at 16:02
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    No offense, but I doubt the rights of African-Americans and Native Americans figured highly in political motivations in late 18th century North America. This is neither here nor there. Sep 2, 2022 at 16:34
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, that is just my point. "No taxation without representation" applied to gentlemen farmers and the like
    – o.m.
    Sep 2, 2022 at 19:03

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