Richard Murphy a Quaker, commentator and founder of the Tax Justice Network, who has been at the forefront of exposing injustices in the international tax system gave the Beckly lecture at the annual Methodist Conference yesterday (2 July)
In 'The Courage to Pay: tax, faith, honesty and business', Murphy said that the UK has become a tax haven for rich and multinational companies.
"The poorest have been paying more tax." he said. " But for the rich and multinational companies the UK has become a tax haven. The result has been a massive rise in inequality in this country as the rich have got richer and the rest have stood still, or worse."
He pointed out that tax evasion may be costing the European Union €1 trillion a year, and that the use of tax havens by multinational corporations may cost developing countries about £100 billion a year. This is almost exactly the same as total world aid budget .
"There is now a choice to be made," he said. "We can stop tax cheats cheating or cut pensions. We can cut corporation tax rates for large companies or cut the NHS. We can sack staff who could crack down on tax avoidance at HMRC or deny our children a proper education. We can introduce half hearted measures to tackle tax abuse - as the government plans - or force our children to stay at home until they're 25. We can cut the 50p tax rate or provide the capital to create the green investment bank that could put people to work in this country."
Richard Murphy closed his lecture with the words Jesus spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth:"The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me
to tell the poor the good news. He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners and sight to the blind, to set the wounded victims free, to announce the year of God's special favour."
Thanking the Methodist church for its support, he concluded: "That's what Jesus said his ministry was about. I think it's our job to help the poor hear the good news, and with regard to those oppressed by debt, to seek the year of God's special favour."
You can follow Richard Murphy's Tax Research UK blog here: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/