KAIROS at Fair Tax Summit

KAIROS, along with 24 other civil society organizations, co-sponsored a lively conference convened by Canadians for Tax Fairness in Ottawa on March 29-30 of this year. The fact that the summit coincided with the release of federal budget (one that did nothing to make Canadian tax policies more progressive)  made its call for tax justice all the more timely.

Inspired partly by the Occupy Movement’s call to reduce the gap between the 1% ultra-rich and the rest of society, the conference was imbued with a sense that tax fairness is an issue whose time has come. Here are some highlights from various plenary and workshop discussions.

Lind McQuaig, co-author of The Trouble With Billionaires, gave an inspiring keynote address in which she highlighted how not long ago the wealthy paid a much higher share of their income in taxes while today the richest 1% pay a smaller portion of their earnings in taxes than do the poorest 10%.

Linda’s co-author, tax law professor Neil Brooks, emphasized how everyone benefits from the public services supported by taxes, recalling how “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

Diana Gibson from the Parkland Institute exposed as patently false the myth that tax cuts are needed to spur job-creating investments when in fact more jobs are created through spending on public programs.

Alvin Mosioma, coordinator of the Tax Justice Network Africa, presented a devastating critique of the injustices resulting from tax avoidance by the wealthy and transnational corporations. He showed how between 1970 and 2008 Africa lost US$854 billion through capital flight, equivalent to more than ten times as much as the Official Development Assistance it received.

On a hopeful note, Sarah Anderson from the Institute for Policy Studies described how momentum is growing, especially in Europe, for a Financial Transactions Tax on trades in equities, bonds and other financial instruments. KAIROS is following this issue closely because of the potential for revenues from an FTT to fund the fight against climate change and poverty.

A workshop on the Environment and Taxation heard a presentation by Marc Lee from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on how carbon taxes, like the one introduced in British Columbia, can be made both more effective and more equitable for low-income groups. Brigette DePape from the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition presented the case for ending the $1.4 billion in annual federal subsidies to the oil and gas industries citing KAIROS’ study Pumped Up:  How Canada Subsidizes Fossil Fuels at the Expense of Green Alternatives.

For more information on the summit, including links to many of the presentations, visit the Canadians for Tax Fairness website.

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