Today is world public services day: sign the tax pledge!
This year’s World Public Services Day (23 June) has been devoted by the global Public Services International (PSI) to the increasingly salient issue of tax, and in particular, the need for the rich to pay more.
A ‘Fair Share Commitment’ has been launched today, signed by over 200 unions, NGOs, faith and community groups around the world, including in Britain the TUC (as well as public sector and teacher unions), Action Aid, Christian Aid, Oxfam, War on Want. And, of course, Tax Justice Network – it’s almost like they were made for a campaign like this one! Your organisation can sign the pledge too.
Interestingly, the current wave of popular tax activism (which in the 1970s and 1980s meant groups campaigning against tax – something the mis-named Tax Payers’ Alliance still does) is mostly aimed at tax avoidance (eg UK Uncut, or the Enough Food IF campaign), or taxation on things people feel is under-taxed or actually harmful (eg the Robin Hood Tax campaign.) The call for more progressive taxation in and of itself, such as raising income tax on higher incomes, has been left mostly to Governments and even intergovernmental organisations like the OECD (well, I’m stretching a point, but the OECD has at least drawn attention to the negative impact of declining progressivity in tax systems.)
I suspect that if we’re really going to win the battle for better funded public services, we need to move deeper into the case for progressive taxation. This isn’t because tackling tax avoidance or implementing new taxes wouldn’t yield significant amounts of money, nor even that it is difficult to implement such policies.
It’s because such taxes don’t do the job of addressing inequality, or developing social solidarity, as well as a progressive tax on income. That’s why the right-wing response to our calls for the rich to pay more than the poor is to means-test universal benefits or target transfer payments on the very poorest. We need to move beyond dividing society into rich or poor (or, as much campaigning does at the moment, mirroring the right-wing attack on the undeserving poor with a left-wing attack on the undeserving rich.)
Anyway, for today, just enjoy the undoubtedly positive, worthy-of-your-support ‘Fair Share Commitment’, which is this:
People around the world, from the south to the north, are raising their voices in a united demand: it’s time for tax justice.
Tax justice must be put into action to end poverty, inequality and climate change. Multinational corporations, financiers and the very rich must pay their fair share of taxes. National and international systems that support tax avoidance and tax havens must be stopped. Governments must enforce fair, progressive, transparent and sufficiently resourced tax administrations. It’s time for the people of every country to receive our fair share in public services and social protection.
We call on world and community leaders, organisations and people to join together to take action. We demand that governments deliver tax justice now!