Though complicated, taxes are a key building block of society. When tax works, it pays for roads, schools, hospitals and much more. But when they aren't paid there is a real human impact with the world's poorest women and children paying the price for the lack of public services. Read on to hear from people affected by tax dodging, and what we can do to stop this.
Chrissy is a taxpayer
36-year-old Chrissy Mgemezulu is a mother of five children. In order to provide for her family she works 12 hours a day, six days a week at her market stall. The 7,000 kwacha (£6.60) she makes a day isn’t enough to cover all their needs. On top of this, she pays 100 kwacha (9p) a day in market tax as well VAT on the products she buys from the wholesalers.
Like most mothers, Chrissy wants a brighter future for her children, saying: “I want my children to go to good schools and get a good quality education. But with the current standard, it is very unlikely as I don’t have the money I need to send all of my children to school.”
In Malawi parents often have to pay for exam fees, books and uniforms – things that tax could pay for. Coupled with the fact that schools can be very far away from communities, these barriers often prevent children like Chrissy’s from attending.
A fair tax system could provide much needed funding to help make sure that all children get a quality education.
Rose is a taxpayer
Rose Tambala is 53 and a market stall trader in Lilongwe, Malawi. Like Chrissy, she pays market tax everyday, as well as VAT on the products she sells.
With seven children, Rose works hard in order to provide for her family. But the lack of services that are available worries her.
Talking about her local healthcare services, Rose says: “Even when you go to the hospital you have to pay something in order to access the services, these so called public services are not for free. It all costs money.”
She continues: “It would make me very happy if the government provided more public services, because our children would benefit and potentially find work in the new hospitals and schools!”
So why is it that both Rose and Chrissy pay a proportion of their small income to the Malawian tax authority, but have next to no access to the most basic of public services? There are many reasons for this, but one key reason is that the UK's tax treaty repeatedly bans Malawi from taxing UK companies operating there. This means that the Malawian government doesn't have anywhere near the tax revenue they need to fund sufficient public services.
The importance of tax treaties
If you’ve been following our campaign, you’ll know that we’ve been hard at work making sure the UK government puts the fight against poverty at the heart of its tax policy. This means tackling the system that enables tax dodging head on.
In a world where we can land a rover on Mars, decode the human genome and smash protons together in a 17 mile long tunnel, making sure that Malawi isn't hamstrung by a tax treaty signed in 1955 is perfectly within our power.
A fairer tax treaty would be an important step forward towards transforming the lives of women like Chrissy and Rose. All that is needed is the political will from both governments to commit to a treaty which benefits the people of both countries, rather than the one which is already relatively rich. That's why we urgently need your support!
That’s great! How do I support the campaign?
We’re calling on David Gauke, the man responsible for tax treaties, to review all of the UK’s agreements and make sure they are fair towards developing countries. Especially in Malawi, the world's poorest country.
Our government have to reply to letters sent from MPs and getting more of them pressuring the government will make them more likely to act. So please, email your local MP and call on them to pressure David Gauke to make tax fair, everywhere. Email your MP to make tax fair
This project is funded by the European Union