This year sees the 20th anniversary of the formal launch of the Tax Justice Network. While enormous strides have been made in shifting public narratives around fair taxation and in establishing key policy measures on the global agenda, the international framework for tax remains fundamentally flawed. The sustained influence of elites and their professional enablers has left national governments unable to deliver progressive taxation to support broad-based human well-being, and to underpin the social contract. Almost half a trillion dollars in revenue is lost each year to cross-border tax abuse, starving countries of the resources to respond to crises of climate, inequality, inflation conflict and more.
But the world now stands on the threshold of what would be the biggest single change in global tax history: the first real opportunity for a fully inclusive, intergovernmental framework to set rules and standards and finally to end cross-border tax abuse. Despite sustained opposition there have been multiple, important changes over the last two decades. Now the process towards a UN framework for international tax cooperation can deliver major benefits for all. We are already seeing globally significant, unilateral changes on key aspects of tax transparency, and the convening of regional processes to establish common positions for the UN negotiations ahead.
This series will bring together speakers from the worlds of policy, activism and research to assess the progress made and to explore the key moments and opportunities ahead this year – as well as the threat from active opponents.
The State of Tax Justice 2023 launch
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Tuesday 25 July 13:00 – 15:30 UK BST / 14:00 – 16:30 CEST / 7:00 – 9:30 Colombia
This event will begin with the online launch of the State of Tax Justice 2023 report, including global and country-level estimates of the scale of cross-border tax abuse by multinationals and by individuals with undeclared offshore wealth. This will provide the context to assess the critical ongoing, intergovernmental discussions on the potential for a framework for international tax cooperation under UN auspices – the costs of tax abuse are the potential benefits from a comprehensive UN solution.
Following this event, the stream will switch to an event hosted by civil society organisations in Cartagena, Colombia, which will be the opening session of the civil society days of the first Latin American and Caribbean summit on ‘inclusive, sustainable, and equitable global taxation’. You can find more details here.
Towards a UN tax convention
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Tuesday 26 September 14:00 – 15:30 BST (GMT+1) / 15:00 – 16:30 CEST / 9:00 – 10:30 ET
After years of impasse, UN tax discussions are moving at high speed. At the end of 2022, the General Assembly passed a motion by unanimous consensus which establishes the basis for intergovernmental discussions on a new international tax cooperation framework under UN auspices, and mandates the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to write a report on the options and processes to develop such an instrument. The report will be published and the associated General Assembly day of debate held in September 2023 – and then, it is widely expected, a motion to commence formal negotiations between countries will be tabled.
This event provides a moment to reflect on the Secretary-General’s report, and on the General Assembly debate, and to evaluate the next steps and the prospects for progress. While some OECD member countries have reversed their positions and returned to opposition, it is clear that the OECD’s own process will not deliver significant reductions in corporate tax abuse, even for members. To move towards international tax rule-setting that is effective – allowing each country the sovereignty to determine direct taxes on incomes, profits and wealth, and inclusive of all countries, requires the creation of an international framework for tax cooperation under UN auspices.
We’ll be joined by high-level speakers who will share their expertise and insights on the UN process; on the positions of key countries and groupings, including the G77, United States and European Union; and on the immediate prospects and likely timetable for progress.
The long view of tax justice: 20 years of the Tax Justice Network, and the emerging agenda for the next decade
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Tuesday 24 October 14:00 – 15:30 BST (GMT+1) / 15:00 – 16:30 CEST / 9:00 – 10:30 ET
Tax is our social superpower: a uniquely powerful tool by which we can organise themselves to live better lives, together. Tax can deliver the revenues for inclusive public services; the redistribution to curb deep, overlapping inequalities; the repricing of public goods and bads such as tobacco consumption; and effective political representation, based on a powerful social contract that underpins accountable government. Tax has the potential also to support international reparations, responding to the legacies of colonial violence and extraction, and the unequal distribution of the costs and benefits of exhausting our planet.
Since the formal launch of the Tax Justice Network at the UK Houses of Parliament in 2003, the movement has gone from strength to strength. From a tiny base, the first ten years saw a concerted challenge to damaging, dominant narratives – such as that paying less tax was ‘smart’ (rather than anti-social), or reflected a duty to shareholders (who in fact do better when companies are less aggressive in lowering their tax rates). The policy platform set out in the early years was taken from the margins of niche tax discussions to the centre of the global policy agenda, with the G20 countries mandating the OECD to deliver a series of key measures.
The second decade of the Tax Justice Network, coinciding with the first decade of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice – the umbrella body for mass mobilisation organisations across every region of the world – has seen stronger international growth and the further normalisation of positive narratives. Policy progress has been held back, however, by the inability of the OECD to act in the global interest or to withstand lobbying by those who benefit from tax abuse – leaving its reform efforts inevitably partial at best, and consistently skewed against non-members. The focus for tax justice has shifted towards recognising the crucial links with human rights, including women’s rights; and to the restructuring of the global architecture for decision-making, understood as vital if the global inequalities in taxing rights between countries are finally to be ended, and each countries’ peoples empowered to see the progressive taxation to support sustainable human well-being that is demanded by majorities worldwide.
This event will include the findings of an evaluation of the first 20 years of the Tax Justice Network, and look ahead to the next decade. What is the tax justice in each region of the world, and internationally? Where will progress come? Which are the greatest threats, and how will the movement respond?
A climate for tax justice
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Tuesday 21 November 14:00 – 15:30 GMT / 15:00 – 16:30 CET / 9:00 – 10:30 ET
While enormous strides have been made in shifting public narratives around fair taxation and in establishing key policy measures on the global agenda, the international framework for tax remains fundamentally flawed. The sustained influence of elites and their professional enablers has left national governments unable to deliver progressive taxation to support broad-based human well-being, and to underpin the social contract. Countries are on course to lose US$4.7 trillion in tax to tax havens over the next 10 years, starving countries of the resources to respond to crises of climate, inequality, inflation conflict and more.
The escalation of the dual crisis of inequality and climate breakdown demands a radical and truly progressive rethinking of what constitutes fair and effective climate policy. The demands of the climate justice and tax justice movements converge in multiple critical ways.
- Both are progressive movements trying to redress deeply discriminatory practices and legacies that are being upheld by a minority at the expense of everyone else.
- We are at a critical juncture: the role of taxation for climate justice, and the climate finance gap especially, is finally being recognized. While the Paris agreement doesn’t mention tax once, there is increasing consensus that least part of the missing climate finance should come from targeted tax measures.
- Yet, we need to make a distinction between targeted taxes that have climate-related outcomes, such as windfall taxes, and tax justice as an approach. Tax justice offers a holistic, systemic take on parts of the global financial system and how it is organized, with a lot more to offer to climate justice..
At this event, we will discuss the power of fiscal policies for climate justice beyond the important revenue raising function of taxes. We will refer to Good Taxes to designate a progressive and effective overall tax system, and significant individual components of the tax justice agenda including climate-related tax measures. Good Taxes hold huge potential for critical climate outcomes, including but not limited by taxing fossil fuel corporations, the general idea of taxating of greenhouse gases to disincentivize the use of fossil fuels, sectoral taxes on polluting industries, and different approaches to taxing individual wealth.
This event will bring together experts and activists in the fields of inequality, climate and human rights to share their expertise and insights on why a progressive tax system is a necessary building block for a fair transition, and how to reduce inequality and protect vulnerable communities.
The country by country path to global justice
Monday 04 December 20:00-21:30 GMT / 21:00-22:30 CET / 15:00-16:30 EST / Tuesday 5 December 07:00-08:30 AEDT
Australia was expected in June to pass ground-breaking legislation that would require, for the first time, all major multinationals operating in a jurisdiction to publish full, country by country reporting on their economic activities, including profits declared and taxes paid. Even much more limited measures have put a major dent in corporate tax abuse, and the Australian measure can set a new standard that drives global progress. But intense last-minute lobbying led to a delay. Now the world waits to see if the Australian government can stick to their commitment.
We’ll be joined by speakers who have worked closely on the legislative process to explain the nature and politics of this potential breakthrough, and others with international expertise on the benefits of corporate tax transparency. We’ll assess the data to show how far the Australian measure could shed a light on multinationals in other countries, and consider how this could drive demands for a ‘level playing field’ for all companies – in which even the most transparency-resistant multinationals could end up on the side of investors, labour and civil society in calling for public country by country reporting across the board.