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Tax for the common good

Cover image of the Tax for the Common Good report Christian Aid’s latest report brings together two subjects that are usually far apart: theology and tax.

In Tax for the Common Good, theologians and other authors look at what lessons the Bible may hold about matters such as the purpose of tax, how governments should apply it, how companies and individuals should pay it and what they should expect of governments in return.

While no single ‘Christian’ tax policy can be pieced together from biblical texts, the report argues that some clear directions do emerge, some of which may be controversial.

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The theologian Professor Esther Reed, University of Exeter, explores what Christian ethics can tell us about the taxation of multinational companies.

She argues that such companies are required to pay more tax than the law requires of them, if failure to do so would damage the conditions required for everyone to flourish.

She further argues that the fact of human sinfulness makes it necessary to have coercive measures at national and international level to prevent tax evasion and restrain tax avoidance.

Meanwhile, theologian Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, Director of the Centre for Theology and Community, argues that both individuals and companies benefit from the existence of a robust and accountable state and that such a state is a public good to which all who can should contribute.

He makes a similar argument in relation to companies and also shows how the Bible supports the principle of redistributive taxation, ‘collecting resources on the basis of ability to pay and giving in relation to need’.

He proposes five principles for a good tax system.

In his foreword to the new report, Christian Aid’s Chair, Dr Rowan Williams, expresses his hope that the report will stimulate thought and decisions among people who are able to influence the behaviour and policies of companies, ‘so that tax justice at last becomes a reality’.

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He continues: ‘We at Christian Aid believe that this is crucial to the goal of setting many nations on the path to greater self-determination and ending their reliance on aid.

'With a truly creative understanding of justice, we may be able to have a truly creative role in advancing the freedom of all to both give and receive the gifts of human flourishing.’

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