State revenue from tax is crucial to social and economic development in southern countries and makes them more independent from aid. For most non-governmental organisations tax is a complex topic. The Tax Justice Advocacy Toolkit, launched by Christian Aid, SOMO and partners during the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in February, provides analysis on the topic of tax and guidance, tips and tools on how to develop an advocacy strategy, conduct research, lobby and communicate on tax.

Southern countries lose large revenue from tax due to domestic barriers such as weak and under-resourced revenue authorities, large informal sectors and corruption within the authorities. International barriers, however, are also a major reason for low tax revenues, such as tax competition in an attempt to attract inward investment from international companies by offering lower tax rates or other concessions. Apart from tax competition being harmful to all societies due to a general lowering of tax revenues worldwide, the benefits that are claimed to result from foreign direct investment, such as jobs for the local population, technology transfer and sustainable revenue, typically fails to materialise. Another major barrier for poor countries to raise tax revenues from multinational corporations (MNCs), who benefit from resources, infrastructure and cheap labour in the South, is the use of loopholes in international regulation by MNCs to avoid paying taxes, for example by shifting the profits they make to low-tax jurisdictions.

Redistributing wealth

The Tax Justice Advocacy Toolkit shows why tax justice research and advocacy is vital for civil society and why it should be integral to economic and social justice advocacy. Tax is a source for governments to fund services and infrastructure and tax policy can play an important role in redistributing wealth within an economy. However, many countries tend to have particularly low levels of taxation on income and an over-reliance on consumption taxes, such as Value Added Tax (VAT), which typically disadvantage the poor. Tax justice advocacy can make a difference, as the case studies and examples provided in the Toolkit show. The Women’s Budget Initiative from South Africa, for example, led a successful campaign to remove the VAT on paraffin, which is consumed largely by the poor, and mainly by women.

Moreover, a government that levies tax from its citizens is more accountable to its citizens than a government that receives revenue from foreign direct investment or aid. When tax is raised, citizens will demand transparency on how tax is levied and spent. Finally tax can be used to steer economic activities so they benefit society at large, for example by taxing unhealthy or luxury goods such as tobacco or impelling corporations to shift to environmentally friendly technologies. For these reasons, engaging with tax policy and practice is increasingly considered by many organisations as essential for the achievement of justice, be it in relation to the economy, the environment or gender.

Strengthen capacity

The purpose of this toolkit is to strengthen capacity of civil society organisations to understand and analyse issues relevant to tax in a given country, develop advocacy strategies for tax justice and do engage in tax research. It also empowers organisations to plan and undertake different advocacy activities (for example lobbying, campaigning and media work) and to learn from the experience of others. The Toolkit also contains many inspiring case studies from all over the world that exemplify best practices and achievements that have been made.

The Toolkit is a result of the collaboration between Christian Aid, SOMO and an international reference group consisting of the international Tax Justice Network (TJN), the regional Tax Justice Network TJN Africa and Action for Economic Reforms (Philippines) as well as Jubilee South / Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (Philippines), Freedom from Debt Coalition (Philippines), AFRODAD (Zimbabwe), Perkumpulan Prakarsa (Indonesia) and the Justice Initiative Facility Fund (Vietnam).

Download the Toolkit Tax Justice Advocacy

More info on taxjusticetoolkit.org