SHEDDING MORE LIGHT TO TAX JUSTICE -UPHOLDING TAX JUSTICE

What is Tax Justice?
Tax justice simply means fairer systems for taxing. It is certainly not a new concept as it has been addressed by early writers dealing with taxation, especially those who proposed ideas of equity or progressive taxes. 
However, it has become a greater issue globally as taxes are being advocated for in financing government programs. As such, tax justice is also becoming a theme about concerns of loses of potential and actual revenues by government tax authorities through illicit financial flows, corruption and bribery. What is important to note about the tax justice concept is that it recognizes the importance of taxes as a legitimate means for governments to raise revenue. It also seeks to emphasize that such revenues should be used for the intended development programs that address the needs of the citizens.

Why should the public be concerned about tax justice?
It is important for the public to get concerned about tax justice for a number of reasons. First, from the simplest fact that taxes affect the people as they pay various forms of taxes. It is therefore important for the people to have a fairer understanding of how these taxes are derived and how fair they are. Secondly, taxes are also levied on the basic understanding that the government, or authorities levying them have a commitment to provide to the people some benefits in exchange; linked to the concept of quid pro quo – “something for something”. Thirdly, tax justice is now becoming more of a concern because of the issue of stealing involved. This again comes in two ways; the revenue that the public is raising gets stolen by unscrupulous individuals in the tax administration and government, through bribery and corruption. Again, as the majority in the public struggle to pay their fair share of the taxes levied, some more powerful individuals and corporations can avoid paying their due taxes by evading the taxes, or using loopholes in the law. They even take away the excess money they make through such deals to be hidden in other countries with more favourable laws. It is highly probable that such individuals and corporations use more of the natural resources, services and infrastructure that governments provide for the citizens. In an ideal situation, they would be expected to contribute as much as they use. These issues should therefore be of concern to the public.

What does the church teach about tax justice?
What the Catholic Church teaches about tax justice is greatly informed by the overall teaching of the Church about social justice, which is centred around the human person. This personalist principle emphasizes the rights and dignity of the human person, as the image of God, to participate and benefit from taxation. Based on solidarity and subsidiarity, the Church also espouses the idea of active support for those in need and establishing structures that enable the involvement and participation of all. Through these, the Church views the concept of tax justice as enabling for both the citizens and the state, to participate in raising revenue for supporting those in need and establishing a social order through which all can thrive and participate. In this way, they contribute to their individual well-being and that of the country and society in which they exist. Therefore, the Catholic Church’s teaching on tax justice is highly supportive of the idea that all citizens, who are also members of the Church, should pay their fair share of taxes, while interesting themselves in matters relating to taxation.

What is the role of the public in regard to tax justice?
The role of the public in regard to tax justice can be summarized into three: First, the public should take interest in getting to know basic information about taxes and the system of taxation that operates around them. Secondly, they should also seek to understand their roles as individuals in ensuring that they pay their taxes and help their government to raise the revenue required. Thirdly, armed with information, they should be able to make their leaders accountable on how decisions on taxation are arrived at and how the revenue is allocated for the national development priorities.
What is the significance of the report on tax justice that Hakimani has released?
The report that the Jesuit Hakimani Centre has released is aimed at contributing to the debate on tax justice in Kenya, but from the perspective of Catholic Social Teaching. Currently, Kenya is faced with the challenge of increasing poverty and inequality. Many of Kenyans (about 19 million out of 48.5 million) are failing to meet their basic needs and get the needed support for social services from the government. In this regard, the government needs more resources to fund such social services for its people, and taxes can contribute to that. However, Kenya is also caught in the cycle of issues that plague tax justice like the illicit financial flows, corruption, bribery that bedevil the tax systems in countries and globally. In order to survive these and gather the required revenue, the Kenyan Government and its people need to rethink the tax system by reviewing laws and policies and also getting more aware on matters of taxation. Through this, the country and its citizens can realize the national dream of “paying taxes to set the country free”- “Kulipa ushuru ni kulinda uhuru”