Pay your taxes, Archbishop of Canterbury urges businesses

(L-R) Bank of England Governor Mark Carney; Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury; International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Philipp Hildebrand, Vice-Chair, BlackRock, Inc; leave after participating in a panel discussion during the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Washington October 12, 2014

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the spiritual head of the Church of England, has said he is not anti-business but he believes profit-making organizations should pay their taxes.

Rev. Justin Welby is also the senior bishop in the 88-million strong Anglican Communion and has faced criticism from some people for his criticism of the excesses of capitalism and the level of inequality in society.

He spoke about taxes to the BBC the day before he spoke to lawmakers from different parties in the UK Parliament on January 5.

In the interview he said there "needs to be simplification in tax so that people are responsible in the right place."

Before he assumed his position as Anglican leader and before he became a priest Welby has worked in the banking and oil industry.

His entry into the debate about the role of business coincides with campaigning for a national general election that has to be held in the United Kingdom before May 7.

In an interview with the BBC at his church's administrative headquarters in Lambeth Palace, Archbishop Welby said that businesses, which create jobs and local wealth, also need to consider how they use their powerful positions to support society.

"Business is important, we need to affirm the significance of those who generate and create wealth," said Welby.

Yet it is important that they contribute to the societies in which they operate by paying taxes.

"There has always been the principle that you pay the tax where you earn the money," he told the BBC. "If you earn the money in a country, the revenue service of that country needs to get a fair share of what you have earned."

"It comes back to the very simple principle that we see in what Jesus Christ spoke of - the importance of paying what's due. The Bible speaks of it endlessly," he said.

He noted, however, that a big problem for tax collection is "this unbelievably complex tax system internationally and in each country, well in most countries."


He quipped, ""Somebody said the other day that the tax system is of biblical proportions, well the Bible is only 1000 pages, how many tax systems are only 1000 pages? They are several hundred times that."

When he spoke to parliamentary members at Westminster, the archbishop said that capitalism is the only known viable economic system, but due to greed, it can never be totally free and fair.

"No better firm of allocation of resources has been found," said Welby. "And the alternatives have always led to inhumanity and even tyranny."

In a reference to the Scottish economist who is seen as the founding father of free-market capitalism, he noted, "Adam Smith famously spoke with equal conviction of the dangers of market manipulation as he did of the invisible hand.

"The experience of 2008 shows that the complexity of human motivation and greed can never be left to the market to deal with," said the archbishop referring to the global financial crisis that began then.

"There is no such thing as a level playing field if human beings are involved, and there is no such thing as a fully fair and free market.

"It doesn't exist.

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