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Bishops say why tax matters

THE Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have produced a document on taxation to “inform” Christians on the Government’s consultation over tax, and help them make up their minds on how to vote when the general election comes.

The bishops say that tax should be used to reduce pollution, discourage smoking and excessive drinking, and support marriage and strengthen society. But they insist that their report does not favour any one political view.

Taxation for the Common Good, produced by the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and published by Colloquium, was launched in London on Monday.

The report opposes the “fiction” that “what we own and what we earn are obtained by our own unaided efforts.”

Educated workforce
Instead, it says that a company needs “an educated workforce that has access to healthcare in a peaceful, ordered society. It needs roads and other infrastructure. There are also such intangible things as trust and honesty which reduce the costs of legally enforcing contracts. All of these are provided for by society.”

Taxation contributes to these, says the report: it should provide for the basic living and social standards of civilised society, on which people can build through personal choice. The ballot box is a way of saying how we want our taxes spent. “Taxes and our attitudes to them define, in a profound way, what kind of society we want to live in.”

A just taxation system would promote the common good. “Have we not a duty to think of the needs of our neighbours, as well as the next and future generations?”

Minimax view
The Church backs neither a minimalist nor a maximalist state, says the report. The state should respect the responsibilities of different parts of society, in order to avoid “massive and damaging intervention”.

The bishops warn: “When the gap between the very wealthy and those at the bottom of the range of income becomes too great, the common good is undermined.”
The report is available from the publications department: phone 020 7901 4805.

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