ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

Tax Dodgers Robbing Women of Rights

Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 15:44

Who’s it affecting?

Orji Theresa is an unpaid nurse and midwife in a local hospital in Abuja, Nigeria, with no water source, no electricity and no government funding. She teaches women how to care for themselves during pregnancy, but being so under-resourced and having no other hospital with medicine nearby, means many women deliver their babies in dangerous circumstances, sometimes on the side of the road. Too often, women die in this process.  

Orji’s salary was previously paid for under a government scheme to tackle poverty. The scheme was scrapped in 2015 by the incoming government, partly because of Nigeria’s dwindling public funds. This is money that could be raised through big companies paying their fair share of tax.

“It’s a great agony to work without being paid. We don’t get paid a single penny.  It’s becoming unbearable,” Orji said.

If foreign companies operating here paid their taxes, it would go a long way to help to equip our hospitals and schools, pay the working staff and boost their efforts.

 Take action today, click here. 

Who’s the villain? 

Nigeria is a country besieged by conflict, a desperate food crisis and one of the world’s highest rates of maternal deaths. This entrenched poverty and hardship occurs in large part because multinational corporations don’t pay their fair share of tax to the Nigerian Government – a story that is not unique. 

Every single year, corporations and high net worth individuals steal an estimated $1 trillion in tax, from us – the public. This grand theft is achieved through a global network of secretive shell companies and trusts, which enable corporations to hide their wealth, making it almost impossible to tax. These shell companies and trusts also enable illegal activities like corruption, fraud and money laundering. In case you haven’t gathered, corporations are the villain. We’re talking, big time villain – think Al Capone meets Darth Vader. 

As a result of this robbery, our public services get slashed by governments – particularly in low income countries, where corporate tax makes up a much larger percentage of public revenue than in wealthy nations. And too often, governments are scared to stand up and demand these big corporations pay their fair share. Instead of enforcing just and equitable tax initiatives, governments around the globe, time and again, have resorted to “austerity measures” and public service cuts in the name of reducing “national debt”. These are policies that pinch pennies from those who have the least, in order to protect the wealth of the rich and incredibly rich. 

This hurts all of us, but it hurts women and girls in low income countries the most. Without well-funded public services, women and girls in low-income countries lose resources critical to their safety, economic equality and access to justice. Without well-funded public services, we see brave women like Orji Theresa working without pay or the resources she needs to save women’s lives.

What’s the solution?

That is why, we have launched a new campaign for tax justice in solidarity with women around the globe. It’s a big mission, huge in fact, but it is achievable and the first action on our agenda is to demand the Australian Government implement a public register of beneficial ownership to help shine a light on individuals and corporations that may be dodging taxes or committing fraud and corruption. 

Here’s how a public register of beneficial ownership would work: the register would collect information on who actually owns the thousands of companies and trusts registered in Australia, allowing us to see who owns what, and where those billions may be hidden.  For example, it could reveal if an Australian company’s ultimate beneficial owner is listed as residing in a tax haven. Once in place, civil society, journalists, and government authorities can use the information to start investigating potential tax-dodgers and demand our governments take action to bring those missing billions back to our communities. 

Take action today

Talk to me about details. Who’s doing what? 

The UK has already introduced a public register of beneficial ownership, called the “People with Significant Control” register. According to Global Witness, the first round of data showed that almost 3000 UK companies listed their beneficial owner as a company with a tax haven address. More than 45 countries around the world are now looking to implement a register of beneficial ownership. 

And Australia? Our Government has said that they’ll take some action on the issue, but they aren’t making any commitments – especially on whether they’ll create a public register. Transparency laws aren’t much use if they aren’t, well, transparent. 

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So, what can I do?

Tax gives nations the resources to fund the public services that create fair and just societies, that support and protect the vulnerable, and bring us together in thriving, compassionate communities. 

That’s why we’re proud to stand behind women like Orji Theresa in her fight for tax justice, and why we’re campaigning to get our government to play its part by implementing a public register of beneficial ownership. 

The first step is to make sure our MPs know about this issue and that it’s a priority for their voters – which is why we’re asking you to champion this issue with your politician. Click here to register to contact your local MP, and we’ll provide you everything you need to make sure they support this critical policy for women’s rights. 

Stand with us and join the global movement for tax justice - for ourselves and for the rights of women across the globe.

Sign up to join our campaign by clicking here and stay up to date with the campaign by following us on following our Facebook and Twitter.