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Tax and worship #2

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Tax and worship #2

It has always been one of the great ironies of international development that some of the poorest countries on earth have the greatest riches. Many African, Asian and South American nations have vast reserves of natural resources. So why don’t they get more of the profits from exploiting them? ... the key problem is tax avoidance by international companies.
— (Savior Mwambwa of the Centre for Trade Policy and Development in Zambia in an interview with the BBC 9 March 2012)

A few weeks ago Fiona and I were involved with the Micah Challenge Voices for Justice conference in Canberra.  I started blogging about some of the issues we were confronted with there…sorry for those who have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment! 

In the last blog (read it here) I brought up the concept of tax avoidance or dodging, and the impact that these business practices are having on developing countries.  As I was reading into it more, one of the case studies really hit home for me.  

Last year, I had the privilege to travel to Zambia with World Vision to see the amazing impact they are having in helping local communities. One of the things pressed home for me during this trip was how systemic some of the underlying issues were.  We had the opportunity to meet with some of the local government officials in the Kaoma / Luampa region.  These people had such a heart to see their communities supported and developed, but were really limited in their capacity to implement changes because they just didn’t have the money to do things.  They were so appreciative of World Vision and the other NGO’s, who’s support and finances made some of these things possible - for example, the regions best medial services were provided by the local mission hospital.  But they still dreamed of so much more that could be done.


One of the big issues (among many) in Zambia is that a majority of local trade happens in the 'informal economy’.  One thing that really struck me was that even with over 50% unemployment, in our two weeks there I would have seen no more than 5 beggers.  The people have amazing initiative…on every road were makeshift stalls selling anything you could want…from food and clothes to sunglasses and phone chargers, to tyres and building supplies!  One enduring image was the man who was selling shoes amongst the peak hour traffic…running alongside a car as the driver tried one on!    But an issue with this informal economy it that it generates no tax income for public services like education and health.

But the problem isn’t just a domestic issue - Zambia has a wealth of natural resources, and plenty of foreign ‘investment’.  However, due to tax avoidance practices, much of this resource wealth benefits the foreign investors more than the Zambians themselves.

In February 2012, the Government of Zambia announced an audit of mining companies operating in that country, believing it was owed up to a $1 billion in unpaid taxes. According to Christian Aid more than half of the copper exported from Zambia in 2008 was supposedly sent to the tax haven of Switzerland, but Swiss import data shows no Zambian copper passed through that country.

Read the complete article here...

You might think this sounds pretty extreme?  It is...but it is also 'normal business practice' and is played out in similar ways all across the world.  In the words of Eric Schmidt (Google CEO - 'Don't be Evil') "It's called capitalism.  We are proudly capitalistic.  I'm not confused by this."  So is he right...is there nothing evil about this?  What has this got to do with God and worship?  And what difference can you make in an issue so widespread and deeply entrenched in our culture?We'll explore these issues in the next post...

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Songs from Voices for Justice

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Songs from Voices for Justice

We must go
Live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward
Keep us just from singing
Move us into action
We must go
— God of Justice,Tim Hughes

It was such a privilege to be a part of the Micah Challenge Australia "Voices for Justice" conference to do just that -  remember and reflect on God’s heart and passion to alleviate suffering, and then, in His name and strength, step into the political system and speak up for those who are impacted by injustice.

But its pretty clear God wants us to keep singing about this as well - so many of the Psalms appeal to God’s justice, righteousness and compassion.

He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed.
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects foreigners and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but He frustrates the ways of the wicked
— Psalm 146:6-9

Here’s some of the songs we learned over the weekend (plus a few more) that you might want to introduce in your church.  I pray they might help align your hearts with God’s and encourage you as you move into action!

Walk in Love - Charts and Lyrics.  On the album "We Are Alive"

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Tax and worship

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Tax and worship

I don’t know if you think much about tax?  I generally avoid thinking about it until its that time of the year again.  But its really important - tax is good!  Public health care, roads and transport, education, emergency services…even the ABC and Peppa Pig are things we enjoy because of public funding through tax.  

Over the last couple of days at Voices for Justice, we’ve been learning a lot about tax dodging - basically, the way that corporations and individuals take advantage of ‘creative accounting’ and tax havens to minimise the amount of corporate tax they pay,  For example, you may have heard about the example of Google in Australia - that while they made an estimated $1,000,000,000 profit in the Australia market in 2011, they paid only $74,176 in tax (no…that’s not a typo…there’s no missing zeros!)  That a lot of money not being returned into the infrastructure and services of the Australian community.  Read about it here.  And they’re not alone…this is common business practice - at least 61 of the ASX Top 100 companies have subsidiaries companies in tax haven countries.

However, the effect it has to us pales in comparison with the impact these business practices have on developing nations...


How does that make you feel?  Is this something we should care about? What has it got to do with worship? I’ll share some more thoughts tomorrow…

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Voices for Justice

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Voices for Justice

I'm really looking forward to leading the singing at Voices for Justice over the weekend - not only the opportunity to sing and serve, but it will be a unique opportunity to learn, grow, be challenged, repent and speak up for the values of God's Kingdom and the people he loves.  I'll keep the blogs and tweets coming, so keep checking back if you want to share the journey with me.  

But you can also get involved from where ever you are right now...post a 'shine the light' selfie and shoot it to your local MP this weekend...we'll be talking about the impacts of tax dodging and corruption with them next week, so let your voice be heard as well.  Read more about it at www.shinethelight.com.au

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