Introducing Church Action for Tax Justice

This new campaigning group was launched on 17th April 2018 at the House of Lords.  It has developed out of the Methodist Tax Justice Network and seeks to be more ecumenical, embracing all Church denominations.  It intends to work in close association with Tax Justice UK, Tax Justice Europe, the global Tax Justice Network and Christian Aid. Church Action for Tax Justice stands for a fairer and more effective tax system where democratic governments set taxes to reflect the Common Good, and individuals and corporations pay their share.

Why tax justice?

In the context of increasing global inequality and unprecedented environ-mental challenges, the tax system can play a vital role in building more just and sustainable societies and in fostering good relations between human beings.  Tax can:

  • allocate resources towards ensuring quality public services and infrastructure for all
  • redistribute income and wealth, providing the basis for an effective social safety net, and is therefore key to tackling poverty and inequality
  • support a just and orderly transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy and thereby combat climate change
  • ensure everyone pays their fair share so we all have a stake in society

Tax should not be seen as a burden: it’s a way of showing love for our neighbour and creating the type of just society which we find in the teachings of Jesus and the Prophets.  Yet today’s tax system fails to deliver at both national and global level.  Weak regulations mean it is still too easy for large companies and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share.  Estimates of the gap between what the UK government is owed and what it receives annually range between £34bn and £120bn.  Meanwhile developing countries are estimated to be losing between $100bn and $300bn every year.

Rather than being seen as a positive tool to create a more just society, business, media and political narrative seem always to treat tax with negativity, calling it a ‘burden to be lifted’.  This leads to a harmful ‘race to the bottom’ with governments competing to cut tax rates, undermining their tax base, putting further pressure on public services which all need for a healthy society and often increasing the load on those with least ability to pay.

For many people of faith this situation is untenable being both a cause and a symptom of unjust and broken relationships.  The time has come to fundamentally rethink our relationship with tax and have an honest conversation about what we want our tax system to deliver.

The objectives of Church Action for Tax Justice are:

  • Seek to raise awareness throughout the Churches and faith communities of the fundamental relationship between taxation, equality and public services, and the urgent need for Tax Justice at national and international level
  • Campaign for transparency and an end to tax dodging by both corporations and individuals
  • Stimulate a conversation about the society we want to live in and the tax system that could deliver that
  • Encourage Christian and all faith organisations to promote Tax Justice through their education and mission work, and their financial and investment policies

As a first step it is petitioning the Prime Minister to ‘clamp down on tax avoidance in the UK, by increasing the resources available to HMRC to enforce UK tax legislation, stopping the practice of granting amnesties to those who hide their money tax offshore, abolishing ‘non-dom’ status, tightening the regulation of accountants, lawyers and bankers, introducing public registers of beneficial ownership for trusts as well as companies and compelling the UK’s crown dependencies and overseas territories to do the same, mandating public country-by-country reporting for all publicly quoted companies, and publicly reviewing tax breaks for corporates and wealthy individuals’.  Please sign this petition which is available at all three Methodist churches in Malvern.

Philip Wetherall

Lansdowne Social Responsibility Secretary