December 2022 NewsLetter Newsletter

Report on Amnesty Talk – Tax is a Human Rights Issue

We held our first Amnesty Talk for more than two years on Zoom on 29 November and were delighted that 25 people attended, despite England playing Wales in the football World Cup at the same time! It was an instructive, enlightening and thought-provoking talk. Professor Murphy asked, ‘can taxation contribute to a fairer society’? The answer was a resounding ‘yes’ but he added that, in practice, it rarely does. The government does not, in his opinion, have to raise taxes to fund government expenditure – it can tell the Bank of England to make payments at any time, and so taxes can be used to redistribute wealth and tackle inequality. They can be used to prevent harm (e.g. by increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol) and to promote good (e.g. by limiting taxes on books and ‘green’ activities).    

Professor Murphy considers that taxation is the most powerful instrument to shape society. It could, for example, be used to help migrants/refugees and certain charities more, and also to restrict help to other so-called charities such as private schools. He also suggested that the UN Declaration of Human Rights which does not appear to relate to taxation can, by a sensible reading, underpin the idea that taxation can make a better world. Tax should not discriminate but only ask from people what they are equitably able to provide.

Professor Murphy put forward the view that progressive taxation does not exist in the UK as the wealthy pay less tax than the less well off. He believes multi-national companies should provide much more information so that profits can be allocated to the correct country and they pay tax in the right jurisdiction. He explained that tax works differently in developing countries and that tax havens cause harm to such countries. He is currently working on how to design out anomalies, and a global initiative for fiscal transparency. His tips for campaigning for a fairer tax society are initially to inform ourselves without trying to be an expert on the whole subject: take one issue and concentrate on it. Also, be angry and contact the media about injustices, engage with phone-in programmes, write to local newspapers and our MPs. For more on his ideas, see the following article: