Civil society speaks out: Platform for Collaboration on Tax
The Global Alliance for Tax Justice worked with members and partners to present several panels at the February 2017 conference organised by the so-called Platform for Collaboration on Tax, created in 2016 by the UN, OECD, IMF and WB. The conference focused on tax as a way of financing the delivery of the SDGs.
GATJ representatives included Dereje Alemayehu, Chair, Dennis Howlett, Treasurer and Caroline Othim, Campaigns and Policy Coordinator Africa. Dereje spoke at the civil society side event on IFFs and the SDGs while Dennis and Caroline were co-facilitators of the side event Mobilizing Resources for Gender Equality.
The final conference statement here was prepared by the conference organisers and was not in any way negotiated with the governments or CSO participants attending. There were a majority of male speakers on the official panels.
Mobilising Resources for Gender Equality
This CSO side event was co-hosted by GATJ, Bretton Woods Project, CESR, Christian Aid, DAWN, PSI, TJN. Margaret Brew-Ward from ActionAid presented the findings of their study in Ghana on indirect and informal taxes affecting women as well women’s access to key public services.
Corina Rodríguez Enríquez from DAWN talked about the inequalities in Latin America that result not from any explicit gender bias in tax systems, but from implicit ones such as overreliance on consumption taxes, interrelation of tax and women’s economic situation, tax competition etc. She also stressed the links between IFFs and crime affecting women, such as women trafficking.
Kathleen Lahey of Queens University highlighted the large body of research that recognize the net after tax impact of regressive tax systems (esp. since rise of VAT in 1990-ies) on women. She also talked about the cost of childcare and its impact on women’s decision to undertake paid work.
Kate Donald from the Center for Economic and Social Rights highlighted the links between tax and human rights. She brought up the CEDAW study on how the Swiss tax system affect women’s rights and the contribution of tax to the delivery of SDGs, esp. around SDG 5 and 10.
Emma Burgisser from the Bretton Woods Project talked about the IMF’s increasingly integrating gender perspective in their work in the countries, but failing to reflect it in their tax advise (e.g. still focusing too much on VAT). She also called for the IMF to start measuring impact of tax reforms on women.
Liz Nelson from the TJN reminded the Bogota declaration on tax and women’s rights.
All panelists stressed the need for more and better data. In the audience discussion, comments included:
- The Platform should promote direct taxes over indirect and see what role it can play in ensuring proper allocation;
- Cross-border trade is often run by women and simplified border tax regimes could benefit them;
- VAT revenues could be earmarked for education;
- With the right rates, exemptions and thresholds, VAT can be made progressive (GIZ experience from Malawi) – a comment disputed by Lahey;
- More research is needed into what products are most used by women which could help adjust VAT rates for them;
- Presumptive taxation tends to lead to overtaxing women.
Key takeaways from the conference:
The formal programme of the conference focused more on technical rather than political challenges in taxation. In general, the Platform is an advisory, not a political body, which means that it cannot play the role that G77 and NGOs have envisaged for a truly inclusive intergovernmental UN Global Tax Commission.
The conference was dominated by the input of the IMF and the OECD which shows a rather worrisome imbalance between the Platform member organisations, especially if they will aim to unify their advice to the countries. There is a risk that the UNTC’s (often more progressive) intellectual input can be lost.
At the same time, there seems to be an increased recognition for the role of regional tax administration forums (such as ATAF), which have just created a global platform for cooperation between each other.
The key initiative pushed by the Platform (and the IMF in particular) are the Mid-Term Revenue Strategies (MTRSs) which are currently being piloted in 10 countries (including Uganda).