172 billion reasons to close tax loopholes and end tax havens

Aid & development article written on the 17 Jun 2016

A student holds two glasses of water to show the difference in water quality in her school in PNG

By Inequality and International Development Campaign Lead, Sarah Rogan.

I’m concerned about the impact of tax dodging by Australian-based multinational corporations. These corporations are robbing Australians and some of the world’s most vulnerable communities of much needed tax revenue.

Let’s talk about *#x!

“WHAT?” I can hear you say.

Yep, it’s time to talk about tax!

You might think there’s nothing sexy about tax, but everyone wants more … essential public services paid for by tax revenues.

Tax is a hot issue this election; so it’s a great time to talk about how we can all get more of what we want, and take a huge step towards ending poverty at the same time.

Make Tax Fair Now

Tax dodging is depriving you and me of essential public services. But it’s communities in developing countries in our region that are faring the worst.

Oxfam’s recently published report, The Hidden Billions, found that big companies around the world ripped about $172 billion of tax revenue out of the global economy in 2014. Money that could have been used to fight poverty — and generate equality and prosperity — around the world.

That’s a lot of clean water, sanitation, education, vaccinations and other essential services that people are missing out on in places like Ghana, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In 2013, Rebecca (pictured) was a student at Namta Primary School in the Eastern Highlands of PNG. Until then, the school didn’t have the facilities allowing students to wash their hands after using the toilet. Instead, students washed their hands at a muddy waterhole located in the school grounds (Rebecca’s compares a glass of this water to some clean water in the picture above).

This lack of access to clean water meant that children got sick and regularly missed school.

In PNG, around 60% of the population don’t have access to clean water. But funding for water and sanitation programs can change this.

At Namta Primary School, two 9,000-litre water tanks were installed allowing students to wash their hands and access clean drinking water. The project included the building of six new toilets that gave a space for girls to maintain their personal hygiene while menstruating.

Oxfam estimates that tax dodging by Australian multinational corporations will deprive PNG of around $4 million in health and sanitation-related public services over the next five years. This is money that could provide access to life-changing clean water and sanitation for other students like Rebecca.

So what can you do?

Oxfam is calling on all political parties to:

  • Make tax transparent at home and abroad: require multinationals to report publicly on profits made and taxes paid
  • Curb irresponsible use of tax havens: consult with the IMF and the OECD to develop a list of tax havens and legislate further disincentives to prevent companies from using these havens
  • Make multinational ownership public: follow through with the commitment to establish a public registry of the ultimate owners of companies operating in and from Australia
  • Share what we know: have the ATO share financial reports and companies’ tax information with all relevant developing country governments; and
  • Support global action on ending tax dodging: support the introduction of a global tax body to end the use of tax havens to dodge tax.

If large multinational companies paid their fair of tax both here and abroad — instead of shifting their profits to tax havens — we’d have a much fairer world, with far less poverty.

You can help Make Tax Fair

Billions of dollars are hidden in tax havens around the world, fuelling inequality and holding back the fight against poverty. Email our politcal leaders now

Act now