Priestly Ponderings March 2015


 A Christian View on Tax Avoidance

 Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint is an ex- HSBC head who has recently stepped down from a leading financial services body. This is amid claims that he was in charge of the HSBC when it enabled tax avoidance.  During my articles in the Rostrum I am very unlikely to become involved in politics, particularly party politics. But this is a different issue and is a matter of Ethics which should engage us all. When this issue emerged a few weeks ago it was natural that fingers should point at Lord Green, who also happens to be an Anglican Priest and has been since 1988!  He has written books on the ethics of business, he was appointed as a trade minister in the government and has been appointed by the Church of England to chair a report on leadership training for senior clergy which has proved unpopular with some church members. This clearly causes the church a degree of embarrassment but it’s opposition to tax evasion, or aggressive tax management strategies, remains firm.  And so it should!

 As a priest in the Church of England I firmly believe that our faith, and any normal respect for humanity, requires us to work with and for the poorest in our society, the less able and those who have needs. It grieves me to think that thousands of British bank customers have deposited billions of pounds in Swiss bank accounts in order to avoid tax. This is an avoidance of our responsibility towards the “Common Good”.

 The Christian perspective is quite simple, everything we have is fundamentally God given. Every Sunday, upon receipt of our offertory collection in church, I use the following prayer:  “All things come from thee and of thine own do we give thee”.  Or to put it another way, God created everything and so everything is fundamentally God’s. So, however much of the worlds resources we appropriate for ourselves, or however much we label as “ours”, God’s ownership is primary.  At best our ownership is simply temporary stewardship.  Therefore, all that we have in our private Swiss bank accounts needs to be justified because all that we do have we actually have on loan. The big question is what we do with this money.  Or, let’s put it another way, for whom is this money good news?

  The Revd Jim Brown

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