Church leaders have said that while vulnerable people “pay the price” for an underfunded and unprepared NHS, “some large corporations continue to avoid liability, making huge profits while hiding their wealth in tax havens ”.
They urged the British government to follow the example of the Danish, Polish and French governments by refusing to provide state rescue support to businesses registered in tax havens.
In a letter published in The Times, church leaders said, “During this crisis, many of the most vulnerable in our society are paying the price for a health and social protection system that is unfortunately not prepared for an epidemic. Meanwhile, some large corporations continue to avoid liability, making huge profits while hiding their wealth in tax havens.
“Over 80% of the British public think that legal tax evasion is morally wrong. This crisis shows why they are right. Today, at least $ 8 billion [£6.44tn] is found offshore, its wealthy owners hiding their fiscal and social responsibilities. Developing countries are deprived of up to $ 400 billion annually in tax evasion. “
The letter was organized by the Church Action for Tax Justice campaign group and signed by the Rev. Dr. Barbara Glasson, Chair of the Methodist Conference, the Rev. David Mayne, moderator of the Baptist Union Council, and representatives of the United Reformed Church. and the Quaker movement. .
Sir Richard Branson’s plea for the government to lend £ 500 million to his airline Virgin Atlantic has attracted much public and political criticism as he lives in the British Virgin Islands tax-free and has not paid tax. personal taxes in the UK in 14 years. Branson is the seventh richest person in the UK, with an estimated fortune of £ 4.7 billion.
The letter does not name Virgin Atlantic or Branson, which owns 51% of the airline through its company Virgin Group. Virgin Atlantic is registered in the UK, but Branson’s personal holding company, Virgin Group Holdings Ltd, is registered in the British Virgin Islands where there are no taxes. A Branson spokesperson declined to comment on the letter.