Church-backed coalition seeks to reform corporate taxation system

(Photo: ICRICT)

Tax evasion by multi-national corporations and massively paid celebreties is becoming a cause célèbre among those who seek a more just economic distribution in a skewed world.

A coalition of socially active groups has launched an Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation due to rising inequality and growing public anger over corporate tax dodgers.

The commission is to evaluate proposals for international corporate tax reform at a meeting in New York on March 18 and 19.

"We, as faith leaders, must ask hard questions and demand honest answers as to why people must be desperately poor in the midst of all the global natural resources endowed upon our nations as a free gift from God," said Rev. Suzanne Matale, a commissioner of the group and general secretary of the Zambian Council of Churches

"We must insist on reforming economic and financial structures so that they can be turned into just and life giving systems," said Matale, in a statement released through the World Council of Churches.

Among groups in the commission are the World Council of Churches, Action Aid, Alliance-Sud, Christian Aid, Council for Global Unions, the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, Oxfam, Public Services International and the Tax Justice Network.

The creation and work of ICRICT is supported by the German-based Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

The commission aims to trigger reforms leading towards a fairer, more effective and just international corporate tax system that does not reinforce global inequality and poverty.

One of the commissioners is José Antonio Ocampo, professor and Director of the Economic and Political Development Concentration in the School of International and Public Affairs,

"The world has changed but the international tax system has not. Corporations play governments against each other, for example, in encouraging race-to-the-bottom tax incentives, and the public loses out," said Ocamapo in the statement.

"There are billions of dollars at stake. This commission will shed light on where the rules of the game, and the institutions that govern them, need to change."

The commission will promote debate through a wider and more inclusive discussion of international tax rules to consider reforms.

It will seek to change the taxation system from a perspective of public interest rather than national advantage; and to seek fair, effective and sustainable tax solutions for development.

Other ICRICT members are: Manuel Montes, Eva Joly, Léonce Ndikumana, Ifueko Omoigui Okauru, Govinda Rao, Magdalena Sepúlveda and Joseph Stiglitz.

The commission recommendations will be made available to the public and as input to the annual International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia in July 2015.

"Promoting tax justice, catching corporate 'tax cheats' and discouraging tax evasion are among major action points" described in a report put out by the Ecumenical Justice Program.

"The report is entitled An Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture," said Athena Peralta, the WCC's consultant for the program.

The report was developed in 2014 by an ecumenical panel which also includes ICRICT commissioner Manuel Montes.

The panel, established by the WCC, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the Council for World Mission, promotes strategies for the churches to realize ethical and just financial systems.

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