Former Finance Minster makes Shrewsbury Tick

Published: 28th February 2012

A former Finance Minister was among the speakers calling for openness and honesty in the tax affairs of multi-national companies at a campaign event in Shrewsbury last night.

Ricardo Barrientos, a former Vice-Minister for Public Finance in Guatemala and a leading expert on the economies of Central America shocked his audience as he explained that 50% of children in Guatemala are malnourished despite being far from the poorest country in central America. The problems are partly down to the low collection rate of taxes. He emphasised that paying taxes isnt enjoyable but is both a moral and intellectual obligation on everyone.

The Rt Rev Mark Rylands brought home how the avoidance of tax constitutes a broken relationship between people and state:

Am I my brothers keeper? asked Cain about his brother Abel. Its not rocket science. God cares for his world, for the poor and he asks us to do the same, to reflect his nature in the way we interact with people. Paying taxes is about caring for our neighbours

He described how this came home to him;

Ill never forget meeting a tin miner is south America and realising that one of the consequences of being able to feast on cheap baked beans is a family of five living on less than $20 each week with the father knowing he had a life expectancy of just 38 years.

The event was organised by Christian Aid and Christians Against Poverty as part of a 100-stop tour on board a double-decker Tax Justice bus. Earlier in the day the bus had visited Stafford and Stoke. The Venerable Godfrey Stone, Archdeacon of Stoke, said there: 27% of children are malnourished in Stoke so we can recognise the problems. Tax would make a difference both here and internationally. Loving our neighbour means paying our taxes for the benefit of all. Christians are good at persuading, so we need to persuade politicians that what is moral should be law.

The issues of tax dodging are equally valid in the UK and abroad, and intricately linked. By moving money and declaring profits in low or zero-tax areas like the Cayman and Channel Islands, companies and wealthy individuals avoid paying tax in the countries where profits are actually made: Estimates put that at $160 billion in developing countries, one-and-a-half times the entire global aid budget each year. And in the UK 35billion of unpaid tax, more than the governments budget deficit for this year.

Ironically, part of the problem in the UK is cuts to HMRC that collects and polices tax dodging including jobs in Telford according to David Wright MP for Telford & Wrekin who also supported the event. Its not acceptable when people and companies avoid taxes in this country or internationally

When asked how the public could get involved, Luke Pullman of Christian Aid suggested writing to MPs and signing a petition calling on the Prime Minister to push for measures that would require:

  • Companies to report on the profits they make and taxes they pay in every country in which they operate.
  • Tax havens to automatically share information about the money flowing through them with other countries.

The tour continues until 15 October, and it is still possible to get involved by Ticking for Tax Justice here

The Tax Justice Bus in Shrewsbury with speakers and supporters including the Mayor of Shrewsbury and David Wright MP.

For more pictures of the event click here

Page last updated: Tuesday 28th February 2012 8:51 PM
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