Churches and charity urge government to make tax fairer

Leaders from the Baptist, Methodist and United ReformedChurches, together with the Christian charity Church Action onPoverty (CAP), are calling upon the chancellor to make a thoroughrevision of the taxation system a central part of Tuesday's budget.The four organisations are specifically calling for Mr Osborne tomake changes to ensure that taxes are shared fairly amongst all taxpayers.

Under the current system the poorest pay around 46 per cent oftheir income in taxes, compared to the 34 per cent of income paidby the wealthiest. An equal sharing of this tax burden is the veryleast that fairness demands, the group said.

In common with CAP, the three denominations have a natural concernfor the poorest and weakest in society and a long tradition ofcampaigning on issues of justice and fairness. John Marsh,moderator of the general assembly of the United Reformed Church,said: "It's clear that our country's fiscal deficit should betackled and I have no doubt that deep cuts will be announced inTuesday's budget. There are only two way to reduce the deficit -increase the money coming in and reduce the money going out - andwe urge the chancellor to consider the moral dimensions ofboth."

Building on this, Paul Morrison, policy adviser for the MethodistChurch, said: "We believe that paying fair taxes is the moral dutyof all. However, it's possible legally to side step that moralobligation: for example, some footballers currently playing in theEngland World Cup squad in South Africa get part of their earningspaid into 'image rights companies' - thus avoiding UK income tax onsome of their very high wages."

Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the Baptist Union of GreatBritain, added: "It is the duty of the government to levy taxesfairly on those who can afford to pay and it is the duty of thosewho can pay, to pay their fair share. There are many legal ways toreduce a tax bill but we are asking, when public services are beingcut and many are losing their jobs, is this ethical? Are thesemeasures legal? Yes, perfectly. Is it fair? Absolutely not!"

In the next few months Church Action on Poverty will be workingwith a number of groups applying the Fairness Test to individualchanges in tax and spending. This test will apply simple values ofjustice to spending cuts and tax rises:

• Are the people affected by cuts the ones who benefitted from theboom?

• Can the people affected afford the cuts?

• Are the people contributing tax the people who benefitted?

• Are people contributing tax proportionate to their ability topay?

Niall Cooper, national coordinator for CAP, said: "Raising fairtaxes puts justice and morality at the heart of domestic economicpolicy, not only protecting the essential services that the mostvulnerable members of our society rely on, but also rectifying theinequalities built into our taxation system."