Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Tax day is coming! No matter how you feel about the government and the things it does, you can't help but feel a twinge of pain as you send your painstaking calculations (and possibly a hefty check) to the IRS.

But what if you didn't have to pay any taxes? What if you rose up and refused to pay taxes ever again? Science fiction and fantasy are full of tax revolts. From Heinlein to Doctor Who, people all over the solar system — and the universe at large — have nixed the tax man. Here's our list of the fiercest, most unstoppable tax revolts.


Opposing the tax-collectors is no easy business — just ask the Joker. In the storyline "Joker's Millions" (in Detective Comics and later in the animated Batman series), he inherits a gangster's huge fortune, only to learn that he owes tons of inheritance taxes. One of the Joker's henchmen suggests he just not pay, to which the Joker responds: "I may be mad enough to go after the Batman, but the IRS? Noooo thank you!"

So here are some space colonists, supervillains and adventurers who were foolhardy enough to go where the Joker feared to tread:

Rocket Robin Hood.
This popular Canadian animated series from 1966 placed the classic characters of the Robin Hood legend into deep space, setting them in "the astonishing year 3000" on the New Sherwood Forest Asteroid. Rocket Robin Hood, a descendent of the original, alongside space-age renditions of Friar Tuck, Little John and Will Scarlet, continue their battle against despotism and heavy taxation by combating such villains as Prince John, the Sheriff of N.O.T.T. (National Outer-space Terrestrial Territories), Dr. Medulla, and The Warlord of Saturn.

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Deathstalker Rebellion.
No, Simon Green's novel is not a sequel to the amazingly cheesetastic fantasy movie series. Rather, it's about a historian turned outlaw named Owen Deathstalker who finances his own personal rebellion against an evil empire by hacking the "Income Tax and Tithe Headquarters." Owen transfers billions in tax revenues from the government to the rebels' accounts. Unfortunately, he inadvertently takes out his own planet's defense system, forcing Deathstalker and his band to fight both the empire and invading aliens simultaneously. Cover art by Patrick J. Jones, via CGHub.

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Star Trek
The Path to 2409, an extended timeline chronicling the future history of the Star Trek universe, mentions a Ferengi tax revolt on Stardate 2386: "On Ferenginar protests rage for two days after Rom introduces free schooling using tax revenues. The protests are brought to an end when Rom introduces a scheme requiring a permit to protest, using the funding from said permits to fund the new education system." Ah, that Rom.

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Atlas Shrugged
Now a major (well, somewhat major) motion picture! Ayn Rand's classic novel involves libertarian heroes who fight against "parasites" and "looters" who impose high taxes in a dystopian United States. Taxes are going sky-high — at one point, the state of California imposes an Emergency State Tax of 50 percent of all corporate gross income, ahead of all other taxes. Thus, all the thinkers and creative geniuses whose work is being taxed to death go on strike against the unfairness.

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Alongside Night
In this novel by J. Neil Schulman, the United States is on the brink of economic collapse and trading foreign currency is outlawed. So the "Agorist Undergroud" forms a literally underground anarcho-capitalist economy beneath Manhattan. The rebel Cadre hopes to "starve the government to death." The author is directing his story into a film set for release next year, starring Kevin Sorbo. Which means we'll get to hear Sorbo saying lines like, "The government is like a wounded rhino, starting to charge anything in its path."

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Caesar's Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century
In this 1890 novel by Ignatius Donnelly, New York of 1988 is a futuristic marvel with transparent sidewalks and television newspapers. And delicacies include edible spiders! The only trouble is, a wealthy oligarchy is oppressing the people, and imposing heavy taxes through the puppet government. So it's time for an uprising to overthrow the oligarchs and restore rule by the people. (Although really, this novel is more of an attack on plutocracy. At one point, a character says, "In short, the most utterly useless, destructive and damnable crop a country can grow is millionaires. If a community were to send. to India and import a lot of man-eating tigers, and turn them loose on the streets, to prey on men, women and children, they would not inflict a tithe of the misery that is caused by a like number of millionaires."

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

She-Ra: Princess of Power
Multiple episodes of this show involve the nefarious villain Hordak imposing heavy taxes on the people of Eternia, which is enforced by his evil robotic tax collector, Dylamug. In episode 53, "Unexpected Ally," a poor family living in a Horde town is unable to pay their taxes and is thrown into jail by General Sunder — who winds up sympathizing with them and going with them to join She-Ra's rebellion. In another episode, "Assault on the Hive," the evil Catra has been terrorizing a poor village of the Bee People on Etheria and collecting heavy taxes, but She-Ra stops him and gives the people their tax money back.

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Lord of Light
In this Roger Zelazny novel, Mahasamatman (aka Sam) is a supposed Hindu god who leads a rebellion against his fellow "gods" on an alien planet — and along the way he casts down some holy tax collectors. (Thanks juvious_one!)

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Doctor Who
When the Master replaces King John with an evil shape-changing robot, the first thing the robot king wants to do is impose more taxes on the poor noblemen like Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam. Damned robot kings. But that's not the most famous example of people chafing under the yoke of taxes on Doctor Who — there's also "The Sunmakers," which is writer Robert Holmes' screed against the British taxation system — the evil guards are even called the Inner Retinue, after Britain's Internal Revenue. Plus there are lots of other in-jokes about tax forms. The people living on Pluto are being taxed to death — literally — by the Collector and the Gatherer, and at one point, Leela observes that "everybody runs from the tax man." Leela comes from a planet with no taxes (and no money, for that matter) so she gets very steamed — literally — about the situation.

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Firefly
Joss Whedon's seldom discussed television show takes place after the failed "Unification War", where citizens of outer worlds tried to resist a takeover by the supra-governmental "Alliance". Following the "Battle of Serenity Valley", the formerly independent governments were replaced by Alliance Governors, who taxed the outlying planet's citizens, sending the money back to the major Alliance homeworlds, where only "full citizens" (those who had not fought with the Independents) were allowed to vote. This "taxation without representation" made it easy for former "Browncoats", such as insurgent Malcolm Reynolds to justify all sorts of under-the-table business practices.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
It may have escaped your notice that this entire film is about a tax revolt. Albeit an infamously convoluted one, that the Brookings Institution is probably still trying to understand. Just read the film's opening crawl:

Turmoil has engulfed the
Galactic Republic. The taxation
of trade routes to outlying star
systems is in dispute.

Hoping to resolve the matter
with a blockade of deadly
battleships, the greedy Trade
Federation has stopped all
shipping to the small planet
of Naboo.

Nobody Pays Taxes Today: Tax Revolts from Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
And finally, Robert Heinlein's classic novel concerns a former penal colony on the moon, whose prisoners, since released, are now economic slaves to Earth — until they revolt. An excerpt: "You have put your finger on the dilemma of all government - and the reason I am an anarchist. The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys. I was not joking when I told them to dig into their own pouches. It may not be possible to do away with government - sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive - and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby?"