Liz Nelson ■ Tax abuse and human rights: NEW REPORT

Human rights and the four 'Rs' of Tax Justice

“Tax justice is a feminist issue. Tax is a human rights issue.”

Today the Tax Justice Network publishes a new report Tax Justice and human rights: The 4 Rs and the realisation of rights. The report focuses on two main bodies of argument. The first addresses the failure of tax and broader fiscal systems to deliver intersectional equality and human rights. The second highlights how those failures are caused by illicit financial flows and the actors and structures behind them. Together, these arguments provide the backbone of the case for tax justice to be understood fundamentally as a feminist issue and human rights issue. They support the recognition of human rights’ dependence on tax justice to deliver rights and intersectional equality.

Our report, written with contributions from researchers at the Universities of Leicester and St Andrews School of Medicine (GRADE) in the UK and presented at the annual Tax Justice Network conference today (6th July), models the impact that the $427 billion lost globally could have if it went to governments rather than tax havens. GRADE modelling tells us that if there were an increase in government revenue equivalent to the tax abuse, for countries where there is data available, the additional numbers accessing their fundamental human rights projected over a ten year period would be as follows:

• Sanitation – 34 million people.
• Drinking water – 17 million people.
• An additional year at school – 3 million children.
• Mortality reduction – 600,000 children and 73,000 mothers.

This shocking analysis reinforces previous research acknowledging the importance of revenue to make a well-functioning, democratic and accountable government that fulfils its obligation as a duty bearer of human rights. It also underlines that while the absolute scale of revenue lost from tax abuse in high income countries is greater than in lower-income countries, smaller losses have a more profound impact on improving the rights of people in low income countries.

Women and girls who make up over half of the world’s global poor can therefore disproportionately benefit from increased access to sanitation and drinking water, and to additional years in education. Through progressive advancement of these ‘gatekeeper’ rights, women and girls – especially those most marginalised, gain increased opportunities for greater well-being and development.

Finally, the report calls for a shift in power. It recommends an urgent step change in the reform of global tax rules. Specifically, the report calls on governments to establish an ABC of tax transparency and to support the FACTI Panel recommendations for greater fiscal accountability and transparency. Pivotal to this is the establishment of a UN Tax Convention that will set international standards of transparency and cooperation, a UN intergovernmental body to set global tax rules and a decisive shift of power away from the OECD, the existing tax ‘rule setter’ and widely acknowledged as a ‘rich countries club’. The establishment of a Centre for Monitoring Taxing Rights is seen as crucial in analysing and understanding the impact of the scale and distribution of tax and to ensure that structurally and systemically the approach to policy reform is both gendered and intersectional and can support the advancement of the full range of human rights.

Download the report here

The press release is here

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