Why are there foodbanks in a rich country?
15 October 2018 by Ben Foley
Quakers are campaigning for a tax system that fosters peace, sustainability, equality and integrity.
From the early days of Quakerism, Quakers have always placed great emphasis on honesty in financial matters, and been clear that "we shall not attempt to evade our proper obligations to the community by way of taxation." (Quaker faith & practice 20.54)
Yet there is more to tax justice than simply paying tax as individuals and organisations.
Our Principles for a new economy briefing (PDF), which set out a Quaker vision for a new economy, states that "the tax system redistributes from richer to poorer, with richer people paying a greater proportion of their income. It also applies to land and wealth. Payment of taxes is viewed as a matter of justice to support those things that contribute to human flourishing such as health care and education whilst discouraging harmful activities such as arms production and those causing pollution, ill health or ecosystem destruction."
Currently, when all taxes are included, poorer people pay a higher proportion of their income in tax than rich people. Meanwhile, unearned income such as rent and dividends is taxed at a lower rate than income from employment.
Tax breaks for oil and gas, and a failure to reflect the true cost of pollution, are leaving us trapped in our fatal dependence on fossil fuels.
Seeing these wrongs, more and more Quakers are being led by their faith to act in support of a just tax system.
Church Action for Tax Justice (CAT) is a coalition of church organisations and secular partners promoting tax as a public good and campaigning for a fairer and more effective tax system. Quakers in Britain helped launch CAT in 2018 and are represented on its steering group. CAT's plans for 2019 include resources for worship and a series of panel events.
This summer, churches around the UK will observe Tax Justice Sunday as part of Fair Tax Week. It is an opportunity to celebrate the organisations that are proud to pay the right amount of tax for the benefit of all, and call for further measures to ensure that large companies are more transparent about the amount of tax they pay.
Tax Justice Sunday is being organised by Church Action for Tax Justice in partnership with the Fair Tax Mark scheme. We will post an update here soon about how you and your Quaker worshipping community can get involved.
The secretive nature of tax dodging makes it very difficult to measure. However, estimates from a range of organisations suggest that governments around the world lose out on at least $500 billion per year from multinational companies alone.
Quakers were a member the Tax Dodging Bill campaign in 2014/15, along with many other organisations including Oxfam, Christian Aid and the Tax Justice Network.
Since then, there has been significant progress on tax transparency, with the UK introducing a public register of beneficial ownership (showing who really owns a company) as well as requiring large companies to report on their activities, profits and tax paid in each country they operate in. However, many loopholes and exemptions remain.
Like many other faith groups Quakers in Britain invest some of our centrally held funds. This give us an opportunity to emphasise the moral and business case for tax responsibility with the companies in which we invest. We have been doing this with selected companies in our centrally-held investment portfolio since 2016, asking them about their tax practices and encouraging them to adopt the highest standards of tax governance and transparency.
Economics and Sustainability Programme Manager
020 7663 1037