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Emergency help for tax-haven firms opposed by faith leaders

01 May 2020


The coastline of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

The coastline of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

A COALITION of faith leaders has demanded that the Government refuse to offer any taxpayer-funded bailouts to companies that use tax havens.

In a letter published in The Times on Monday, signatories from the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union, the United Reformed Church, and the Quakers welcomed the news that Denmark, Poland, and France would not give any support to firms registered in tax havens.

“During this crisis many of the most vulnerable people in our society are paying the price for a health and welfare system woefully unprepared for a pandemic. Meanwhile, some large corporations continue to avoid responsibility, making huge profits yet hiding their wealth in tax havens,” the signatories wrote.

“When the pandemic ends we cannot go back to business as usual. If we are to build an economic system that prioritises the wellbeing of people and the planet then a fair tax system where all pay their fair share is essential.”

Among the signatories were the former Archbishop of Canterbury the Rt Revd Lord Williams, and the former Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, as well as the Moderators of the Baptist Union Council and the United Reformed Church, and the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Dr Barbara Glasson. It was organised by the group Church Action for Tax Justice (CATJ)

The national co-ordinator of CATJ, Dr Justin Thacker, wrote in a blog that there was about £6.4 trillion currently stored in tax havens around the world, much of which should have been paid in other nations in tax.

“Led by the UN, the global community could decide to tackle these offshore gold mines once and for all and so provide funds for tackling the current health crisis,” he wrote.

The idea of denying bailouts to companies deemed not to be paying their fair share has won backing from the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, and the former Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell.

But the Government has declined to follow suit. On Monday, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was challenged in the House of Commons on his approach to tax-avoiding companies during the coronavirus crisis, but he did not endorse the suggestion of cutting off emergency funding for such firms.

“We are all in this together,” he said in response to a question from the Labour MP Peter Kyle. “It is right that during this process people act responsibly, and that is something I have urged all businesses to do.”

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