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A coalition of civil society and labour groups has launched an Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) in response to rising inequality and mounting public anger over corporate tax cheats. Among the organizations responsible for the establishment of the Commission is the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The Commission aims to trigger reforms leading towards a fairer, more effective and just international corporate tax system that does not reinforce global inequality and poverty.

The Commission will promote debate through a wider and more inclusive discussion of international tax rules to consider reforms from a perspective of public interest rather than national advantage; and to seek fair, effective and sustainable tax solutions for development.

Chaired by José Antonio Ocampo, the ICRICT includes among its members Rev. Suzanne Matale, Manuel Montes, Eva Joly, Léonce Ndikumana, Ifueko Omoigui Okauru, Govinda Rao, Magdalena Sepúlveda and Joseph Stiglitz. The Commission will evaluate proposals for international corporate tax reform at a meeting in New York on 18-19 March. The Commission recommendations will be made available to the public and as input to the annual International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia in July 2015.

“We, as faith leaders, must ask hard questions and demand honest answers as to why people must be desperately poor in the midst of all the global natural resources endowed upon our nations as a free gift from God.  We must insist on reforming economic and financial structures so that they can be turned into just and life giving systems,” said Rev. Suzanne Matale, commissioner of the ICRICT and general secretary of the Zambian Council of Churches.

“We as faith organizations should not only concentrate on treating effects of poverty but must also advocate for just policies,” she added.

“The world has changed but the international tax system has not. Corporations play governments against each other, for example, in encouraging race-to-the-bottom tax incentives, and the public loses out. There are billions of dollars at stake. This Commission will shed light on where the rules of the game, and the institutions that govern them, need to change,” said José Antonio Ocampo.

Ocampo noted that, “Tax policy affects everybody but for too long the debates have been presented as technical and reserved only for tax lawyers and accountants. There is a desperate need to bridge the gap between the technical challenges and everyone’s right to participate and provide solutions.”

“Promoting tax justice, catching corporate ’tax cheats’ and discouraging tax evasion are among the major action points described in the report titled An Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture,” said Athena Peralta, WCC Consultant for the Economic Justice Programme. The report was developed in 2014 by an ecumenical panel which also includes ICRICT commissioner Manuel Montes. The panel, established by the WCC, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the Council for World Mission, promotes strategies for the churches to realize ethical and just financial systems.

Website of the ICRICT

Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture

WCC’s work on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology