‘Our tax system is built on mutual distrust.’

Quaker values on justice and the climate come together in a carbon tax, says David Maxwell

‘Helping everybody to feel more united could revitalise democracy.’ | Photo: The New York Public Library / Unsplash.

At Yearly Meeting Gathering 2014, Richard Murphy gave the Salter Lecture on tax justice. In his following book, The Joy of Tax, he describes the Quaker testimonies of Peace, Equality, Truth and Simplicity as the ‘underpinnings of a good tax system’.

Simplicity, he claimed, is what everyone seems to say that they want, and never get. The reason? Our tax system is built on mutual distrust. To beat tax avoidance, tax law grows by up to 1,000 pages each year, laying out tax law upon tax law to try to close loopholes – and, in the process, creating new ones. One attempt at simplicity was Margaret Thatcher’s infamous poll tax, a single flat tax rate per capita. So strong was the opposition to that tax that rioting preceded its introduction in March 1990. By November Thatcher had resigned after many challenges from within her own political party. There were too many loopholes in her proposal.

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