Tax avoidance impoverishes the vulnerable and is morally unacceptable, says Church

Today the Methodist Church called on the UK government andmultinational businesses to end tax avoidance schemes whichimpoverish the vulnerable. It claims that as public services arebeing cut, the injustice of tax avoidance is becoming moreacute.

The Methodist Conference heard that the Treasury admits to notcollecting a record high of £42 billion in tax in the latestavailable figures. But independent analysts estimate the amount oflost tax to be much higher at £120 billion. The poorest 10% pay amuch greater proportion of their income to the Government in taxthan the wealthiest tenth (46% compared to 34%).

"Having a team of expensive lawyers doesn't absolve you of themoral responsibility to pay a fair level of tax," said PaulMorrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser. "Taxation shouldn't be agame of strategy where you win by paying the least. Paying tax is amoral obligation - it is unacceptable to engage in complexfinancial arrangements in order to wriggle out of paying your fairshare."

Britain's 20 largest companies between them operate a vast networkof over 1,000 offshore companies, potentially allowing thecompanies and their clients to avoid huge sums in tax. TheMethodist Church is adding its voice to the ever-growing number oforganisations demanding tax justice and is supporting ChristianAid's tax campaign, which calls on the Government to end tax havensecrecy. The campaign also argues that multinational companiesshould be required to publish financial information such as theprofits they make and the taxes they pay for each country in whichthey operate.

The Church is also supporting Church Action on Poverty's 'Close theGap' campaign, which highlights the impact of the 'Tax Gap' in theUK.

"Every pound avoided in tax is a pound less to spend on childcare,social care, health or education," said Niall Cooper, NationalCoordinator of Church Action on Poverty. "At a time when spendingcuts are having a real and damaging impact on the lives of some ofthe poorest and most vulnerable people in the country, it ismorally indefensible for some of Britain's richest companies to beavoiding paying their fair share of UK taxes."

The report, entitled Of Equal Value: Poverty and Inequality in theUK, adopted by the Conference, also asks all Methodists to examinetheir own practices to ensure they pay all the taxes they owe, bothlegally and morally.