Friday, 5 October 2012

Tax Bus Blog Friday: Tax - who is responsible?

All this week the Tax Justice Tour has been travelling around Scotland. This seven-week tour around 50 towns and cities across Britain and Ireland has a message of tax justice for poor communities locally and globally. The iniative has educated, inspired and equipped those who have boarded the bus and engaged with the complex issue of tax law.

Hopefully the impact will continue to unpack itself as they pass on what they’ve learned: that tax avoidance is a devastating wrong, morally unacceptable and something we can no longer tolerate. It has a particular sting in an age of austerity and spending cuts. It effectively amounts to robbing the poor, in the UK and in poor countries, of the money that should be spent on education, health and welfare.

But today, on the tour’s last day in Scotland, I pose the question: Whose job is it to make sure that people pay their taxes fairly?

On the one hand there is clearly an issue with very wealthy individuals, companies or institutions using immoral or unjustifiable (or even illegal) means to avoid tax.

There is also a question of what Governments can do in terms of regulations, enforcement, prosecution and closing tax loop-holes.

Christian Aid and the Church of Scotland have also asked for reforms to the international accounting system for large multinational corporations, to ensure transparency in reporting of how much tax they pay and where some tax dodging schemes are cloaked in secrecy and so making corporate accounts report what they do in each country would be one way in shedding light on dodgy practices.

And does society, the media, political and community leaders, the churches, have a role in setting out what is and what is not ok? We need to make the concept of tax dodging as socially repugnant as racism; it is sinful, it is evil, it is harmful. On this last day of the tour in Scotland - as the bus pulls out, we need to recognise that we all have a part in this complex mess. If there is a change coming, then we all need to get on-board! 

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