Tax dodging bill 'needed within 100 days' of a new government

By staff writers
January 29, 2015

Tougher tax legislation could bring in billions of extra revenue to fight poverty, says charities and church organisations across Britain.

Stopping multinational companies from dodging their taxes, which cheats societies out of billions of pounds of lost revenue, must be a top priority for the next government, of whatever political complexion, a new coalition of 17 non-party British NGOs has declared this week.

The Tax Dodging Bill campaign, whose members include ActionAid, Christian Aid, the Equality Trust, the National Union of Students and Oxfam, is calling for all political parties to pledge to introduce a new Bill in the first 100 days after the election to tackle corporate tax dodging and to make sure the additional revenue raised is used to fight poverty.

A policy paper launched by the coalition estimates that a well-crafted Tax Dodging Bill could bring in at least £3.6 billion a year to the UK treasury – the equivalent of £600 for every household living below the poverty line – as well as billions of pounds a year for developing countries – which could be spent on schools, hospitals and other essential services.

The organisations have proposed a Tax Dodging Bill which would make it harder for big companies to dodge UK taxes, stop them from getting unjustified tax breaks, make the UK tax regime more transparent and ensure UK tax rules don’t incentivise British companies to avoid tax in developing countries.

Christine Allen, of Policy and Public Affairs at Christian Aid said: "Tax dodging by multinationals operating in the UK costs billions of pounds a year in lost revenue, both in this country and in some of the world’s poorest nations. That money is desperately needed to tackle poverty. Tax avoidance is a fundamental moral problem running through our global economy."

The issue of companies neglecting to pay their fair share of taxes has caused widespread public outrage and has been the subject of various pledges by political parties, but campaigners say these moves don’t go far enough and farther reaching changes to tax rules are needed to outlaw this behaviour.

Jenny Ricks, Head of Campaigns at ActionAid added: "It’s clear the British public have had enough of tax dodging and aren’t convinced politicians are doing enough. The tax rules need to change so big companies, whether you’re Google, Amazon, or a UK company operating in poorer countries, pay their fair share. Making sure developing countries can raise their fair share of taxes offers a path out of poverty for billions of people."

Nick Bryer, Head of UK Campaigns at Oxfam declared: "The fact that some of the world’s biggest companies are dodging their taxes, whilst a nearly a billion people are still going hungry is scandalous. To fund the fight against poverty and to tackle increasingly extreme inequality, we need to make sure big companies are paying their fair share, here and in the world’s poorest countries."

A recent public opinion poll showed massive public support for tackling tax avoidance by large companies, with 85 per cent of British adults saying it is ‘morally wrong, even if it is legal’.

In the ComRes poll in November 2014, 78 per cent of respondents also said it was important to them that "large UK companies pay their fair share of tax in developing countries in which they operate."

Toni Pearce, NUS President, explained: "Corporate tax dodging sees those most able to contribute failing to properly do so, leaving the rest of society to pick up the bill. We are clear that we need action from government to ensure that loopholes are shut-down, so that everyone pays their fair share, which is why I want to see all parties committing to introduce a Tax Dodging Bill if they get elected in May."

The organisations launching the coalition are ActionAid, Christian Aid, Church Action on Poverty, Church Urban Fund, Equality Trust, Global Poverty Project, Health Poverty Action, High Pay Centre, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Methodist Tax Justice Network, NUS, Oxfam, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Restless Development, ShareAction, Tax Justice Network and War on Want.

The coalition includes organisations tackling domestic and global poverty, and represents some of the broad range of interests that support tackling tax dodging. Many others, including academics, economists, politicians and parts of the business community also want strong action to tackle tax dodging, although they are not formal members of this coalition.

Those include members and supporters of the Tax Justice Network, such as the Christian beliefs and politics think-tank Ekklesia, and former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow said: "While Ekklesia is not a formal member of the newly-launched Tax Dodging Bill coalition, we support the kind of changes it is advocating.

"As a Christian think-tank concerned with changing the agenda on politics and belief to benefit people and planet, and especially the poorest and most vulnerable or marginalised, we have been commenting, analysing, reporting and advocating on the need for just taxation policies actively since 2008.

"Fairer, more transparent and more effective policies to combat tax avoidance and evasion are part of a range of policies needed to rebalance global, regional, national and local economies in the direction of equality among peoples and environmental justice."

* More on tax justice from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/taxjustice

* Tax Dodging Bill campaign http://taxdodgingbill.org.uk

* Tax Dodging Bill: time for change (via Ekklesia): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21385

* Petition to support the Bill: http://www.taxdodgingbill.org.uk/#signup

* More on General Election 2015 issues from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

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