Late last night I get an email from son-in-law Andrew, “Here’s my Amazon review shouting ‘SHAME ON YOU!’ Please go and like it!! ;-)”
There seems to be a growing indignation against those multinationals – like Amazon – who avoid tax despite their vast wealth.
Starbucks sold nearly £400m worth of goods in the UK last year but paid no corporation tax. The clever plan was to transfer some of their revenue to a sister company in the Netherlands in the form of royalty payments, to buy its coffee beans from Switzerland (of course) and pay high interest rates to borrow money from other parts of the business. Nice accounting.
But the good news is that only yesterday the senior UK management appeared to cave in and agreed to pay more corporation tax. Interesting that HM Revenue and Customs reacted by saying that corporation tax “is not a voluntary tax”. It may, of course, only be window dressing.
It is simply a case of fairness, economic justice. You pay your fair share, both as a company and an individual. After all we all benefit hugely from the resources provided by taxation – security, education, health, transport, the whole complex of civil society. So we contribute, “each according to our means”.
This phrase, used extensively by Karl Marx, originates in the New Testament. We read in Acts 4:32: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”
This was one of the very first results of the Holy Spirit being poured on all believers. They did this voluntarily to show their love of God. It is the very opposite of any me-first, NIMBY mindset. For we are members one of another – and this is demonstrated by our tax structure.
But never forget human nature. So citizens do their best not to pay tax, using fair ways and foul. However, the boundary between legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion is broad and ill-defined.
“There are too many who illegally evade their taxes or use aggressive tax avoidance schemes,” commented the Chancellor in his autumn statement. We can see the consequences of a wide spread refusal, particularly by the wealthy, to pay taxes in Greece. And the poor suffer grievously.
So where does this leave us?
Very simply, in the words of Paul, we pay our taxes. It’s how Christians behave, it’s what we do – even if no one else does. “If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.” Romans 13:6.
You don’t need a bible concordance or a working knowledge of Greek to know what the apostle is saying. But no doubt there will some Christians prepared to pay an astute theologian to argue that Paul was teaching the very opposite!
As disciples we pay our full taxes. We refuse to use devious ways, however legal, to sidestep our responsibility. If I can quote my father here: “I wish I could pay surtax!” (Surtax is the name given upto 1973 to the higher rate income tax). This is how we honour God and acknowledge our debt to society.
Then we campaign to get the big companies who use clever accounting and economic clout to evade their fiscal responsibilities. And there does seem to be a head of steam building up here and as Christians we can lead the way with boycott and trade campaigns. I think we must.
So if you want to join Andrew in his sole protest against Amazon, just go to
Finally, Christmas begins this weekend. Christmas Fair in the Ministry Centre tomorrow afternoon from 2.00 pm and our Toy service this Sunday at 10.45.