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Use and abuse of tax breaks: how tax incentives become harmful

Taxation is essential to raise sufficient, equitable and accountable financing for development. Only through taxation can governments fund public spending on the essential services at the quality and scale necessary to realise the rights of all citizens. Yet many Southern governments decide not to tax certain corporations and companies in the hope that this will attract cross-border investment. Despite mounting evidence that the practice of offering tax incentives is both largely ineffective and detrimental to development, it is widespread. This report explains how tax incentives can become harmful, and discusses what can be done to stop their abuse.

Questionable Values? Policy Report

Why we believe that it is time to stop defending the indefensible across all the world’s tax havens. Following the hurricanes Irma and Maria that devastated a number of Caribbean islands in September this year, the focus has rightly been on supporting the hardest hit and those in greatest need. But as the rebuilding effort develops, many are starting to think more deeply about the long-term sustainability of these islands’ economies, and their ability to protect and provide for their populations in an economically and climatically uncertain future. What type of jobs, and what type of economy, should places such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) be looking to build? This is a question that extends beyond the storm-hit Caribbean. Defensive measures against tax evasion and avoidance are on the rise in the US, the EU and emerging economies, driven in part by the exposure of these activities in successive leaks of information (most recently, the Paradise Papers). Such developments call into question the sustainability of any economic model that relies on providing various combinations of secrecy and low taxation. So far, many small offshore centres, and their supporters, have largely reacted defensively to the threat of change, arguing that media coverage has unfairly maligned ‘tax havens’; that the problem is not as large as portrayed; and that they are already instituting tax and transparency standards better than many large ‘onshore’ economies. However, careful scrutiny of one of the most comprehensive efforts to explain the role of international finance centres and to illustrate the impact that such a territory has on the global economy – the prominent report that the government-backed financial lobby group, BVI Finance, commissioned this year from consultancy firm Capital Economics – demonstrates major weaknesses in the arguments and conclusions presented, and suggests to us that such defences are more concerned with maintaining the status quo than a genuine concern for the wider global economy. Our analysis of the Capital Economics report is an example of why we believe that it is time to stop defending the indefensible across all the world’s tax havens. With public demand building for new regulation, and the ever-present threat of further mass leaks, the UK Government needs to initiate a serious discussion about alternative economic pathways for the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. Alternative futures for offshore tax havens are not only vital for the poorest countries of the world that lose tax revenues each year to the offshore system, but also for the ordinary women and men in places like the BVI, for whom a secure future is dependent on the creation of robust, equitable and sustainable economies.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire (Part 2)

A debilitating drought may bring riots and social unrest in one country, but in a neighbouring country, the same problem may be dealt with by citizen mobilisation towards collective action solutions. To a large extent, governance capacity and community resilience explains the nature and structure of the response. In this report, three case studies – from Angola, Mali, and Honduras – of actual responses to climate change and conflict are presented.

Marsabit County Resilience Study

For several years Christian Aid has worked through partners to build the resilience of pastoralist communities in Marsabit County in northern Kenya. The fieldwork was carried out over two weeks in May 2017 to assess the value of investing in resilience work. 

Benefits? Tax Incentives in Latin America and the Caribbean (Spanish)

Overview of the use of tax incentives that analyses whether or not tax incentives bring benefits to countries and communities.(Spanish)

Developing Climate services in the Phillipines: programme review

A review of the Rice Watch Action Network's Climate Resiliency Field School (CrFS) - a season-long training programme with a focus on sustainable farm training, including increased access to weather and climate forecasts.

Picture Power: Capturing stories of change through photography in Kenya

This report features incredible stories of changes and challenges that the communities captured in photos that they took in their communities as well as data gathered as part of the wider outcome assessment activities.

Growing incomes, empowering people: Afghanistan

Overview of the Comprehensive Support to Vulnerable Families to Increase their Access to Food Facilities programme, 2009-11, funded by the European Commission (EC).

Ghana inclusive market development - case study

When poor communities are asked what they see as their best escape route from poverty, jobs and economic opportunities are central to their response.

Final evaluation of the LEARN project - Ghana

Action for Local Employment, Accountability and Resource Mobilisation (LEARN) was an EU-funded project in Ghana implemented by Christian Aid and its partners.The overall objective was to support actions aimed at promoting an inclusive and empowered Ghana.Action for Local Employment, Accountability and Resource Mobilisation (LEARN) was an EU-funded project in Ghana by Christian Aid and its partners.This report presents the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the project’s final evaluation.

Taxing men and women: why gender is crucial for a fair tax system (report)

This paper aims to stimulate debate and offer guidance to those attempting a gender analysis of their own tax system.