Letters: Paying tax is absolutely a moral issue

CBI president Sir Roger Carr’s claim that there can be no moral basis to concerns about tax avoidance is a grave misjudgment (Never mind morals, tax is all about the rules, 21 May).

CBI president Sir Roger Carr’s claim that there can be no moral basis to concerns about tax avoidance is a grave misjudgment (Never mind morals, tax is all about the rules, 21 May). A great many ordinary people see payment – or rather non-payment – of tax as fundamentally a moral question. Perhaps it might be talked about as justice or fairness, but it boils down to the same thing. Christian Aid supporters have been campaigning on matters of tax justice for five years.

At the heart of their concern is the moral question of how societies raise revenues and how that money is spent. We estimate that developing countries lose around $160bn a year in tax revenue from multinational corporations. Contrast this with the UK’s aid budget (£12bn) or the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s estimated cost of tackling global hunger ($50bn a year on top of existing funding to 2025). The fact that tonight one in eight people in the world will go to bed hungry shows that the moral case for a fair and just taxation system is undeniable.
Canon Geoff Daintree
Church advocacy adviser, Christian Aid

• Simon Jenkins is spot-on when he calls on David Cameron to crack down on the UK’s own tax havens (Comment, 22 May). Global Witness’s investigations have found numerous examples of dodgy deals routed through places such as the British Virgin Islands, favoured by tax evaders and corrupt dictators. There is often a misperception that the UK can’t impose its will on these last outposts of empire. In fact, from the decriminalising of homosexuality to banning the death penalty, there are repeated examples of UK governments telling its tax havens what to do, sometimes against their will. After Radio Caroline started broadcasting from the Isle of Man, the UK banned pirate radio stations from there and from the Channel Islands.

If the PM really wants to crack down on tax evasion, corruption and money laundering, he should force the British-linked tax havens to lift their veil of secrecy, for example by requiring them to publish the names of the ultimate owners of companies and trusts registered there.
Robert Palmer
Campaigner, Global Witness

• Paying tax is a social obligation. It is the price we pay for being part of a civilised society and one defining characteristic of such is its willingness to support those who are not considered to be economically productive. This doesn’t just mean the unemployed, the sick, disabled and the old, but also artists, musicians and writers, those who enrich us and our society both intellectually and emotionally.

In the commercial world, businesses view taxation as just another cost of doing business and therefore within their fiduciary responsibility to seek ways of reducing their tax obligation as part of their cost base. This is wrong. The payment of corporate tax should be viewed not as a cost of doing business but as the price for gaining access to society.

Businesses that manipulate the tax rules to reduce or avoid paying tax impoverish the society in which they operate both financially and ethically. Good corporate citizenship requires the commercial world to fully engage in society – by making a fair and equitable contribution to the tax receipts of a nation and by paying its employees an appropriate living wage.
Mike Kellett

• In 1974, the then Tory prime minister, Edward Heath, called an election with the question Who governs Britain? – his premise being that the unions had too much power. Forty years on we can ask the same question in respect of big business (Cut tax and we’ll pay, says Apple boss, 22 May). I thought governments, elected by their peoples, decided tax rates. Apple (and Google, Amazon and the others) rely on their customers to be healthy and well-educated and for the states where their customers live and buy their products to be stable, orderly and defended.

Without all the benefits that a state provides there would be no Apple sales. Big business has grown increasingly arrogant and no longer plays and pays its part in contributing to the costs that are essential to their profits. Perhaps there should be an additional and hugely hefty tax on the products of those companies who are refusing to pay their way, so that in the end they are left with no profits to quarrel about.
Mark Doel