Tackling tax evasion could help rebuild struggling economy
TAX evasion is big business in Britain.
A total of 98 of the FTSE 100 companies have subsidiaries in tax havens, allowing them to divert profits around the watchful gaze of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The sums are staggering. HMRC estimates £35bn is being lost from the public purse every year due to corporate tax evasion, at a time when £30bn is being cut from public services.
Over the past two years, protests targeting individual companies have shone a light on the issue, but a long-term solution is needed.
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At the moment, companies that choose not to evade taxes are putting themselves at a disad-vantage.
Instead, we must demand a level playing field based on the moral obligation to pay.
We need an end to tax haven secrecy and a legal requirement for parent companies to report their profits country-by-country.
Tax evasion seriously harms those in poverty, and makes government cutbacks hard to avoid.
The results of tax evasion and reduced government revenues can be seen in the day centres and hospital beds being closed, in school budgets being cut, and in the narrowing of access to university education.
In turn, the vulnerable are being left to fend for themselves, while the pathway to sustainable and meaningful employment for a whole generation is being taken away.
Homelessness is on the rise in Britain. People from high-rent areas, such as York, are being forced to move to places like Hull because of housing benefit cutbacks.
Although rents might be more affordable, this only exacerbates the high jobless rate in East Yorkshire.
On top of this, thousands of public sector workers are being made redundant, meaning they have much less money to spend in the local economy.
Church Action on Poverty, along with Christian Aid, has been touring the country talking about poverty and tax.
We've met thousands of people and called on them, whether as individuals, community leaders or politicians, to lend their voices to the call for Tax Justice.
We believe the time is right for Prime Minister David Cameron and fellow world leaders to fix the transparency deficit so governments, including ours, can accurately determine what taxes they are owed.
It may be a long struggle, but the results could be enough to rebuild our economy and strengthen communities.
If you'd like to join us in calling for change, you can add your name to Church Action on Poverty's petition at http://bit.ly/tickfortaxjustice.