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Spotlight on: Tax Justice UK

Tax Justice UK protest
Tax Justice UK protest

Author: Lucy Anderson Jones, development manager

Tax Justice UK is a non-partisan campaigning and advocacy organisation that wants to ensure everyone in the UK benefits from an effective tax system. We've funded the organisation since 2019 to support them in their work campaigning for a wealth tax. Here, development manager Lucy Jones outlines why this is such an important issue, and the work they are doing.

The UK is facing multiple long-term crises which Londoners experience daily. Public services - libraries, hospitals, schools  - are on their knees. Inequality is rampant. Climate and environmental breakdown are getting rapidly worse. People are highly sceptical about politics, with wealth and power concentrated in the hands of the wealthy few.

The biggest gap between rich and poor is found in London. After housing costs, nearly 30% of Londoners live in poverty ( Institute for Fiscal Studies); this compares with 22% in the UK generally. In contrast,  16% of Londoners are amongst the wealthiest in the country.

Londoners literally see wealth inequality.  Stand in Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest boroughs in the UK,  and look at the City’s architectural ‘bling’ and you see not opportunity but division.

Trust for London helped us to build a powerful coalition of  100+ groups calling for tax reform. They come from the new economy sector, groups working to close tax loopholes allowing the rich and powerful to hide their wealth and to prevent poverty and climate change. Our partners include funders like Trust for London, charities and not-for-profit organisations, church groups, think tanks, parliamentarians of all political persuasions, academics,  business associations and the Patriotic Millionaires - super-rich people themselves.  All campaigning together to fundamentally change the tax system.

Since working with Trust for London our individual supporter base has ballooned from 16,000 to nearly 54,000 people. They consistently tell us that they want to be active campaigners.

Trust for London recognises closing down tax loopholes and ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share of tax could benefit the services we all depend on; schools, hospitals, and social services and get rid of the food banks now seen as ‘normal’ for key workers.

Whilst most of TJ-UK’s work is concentrated on Westminster and the national political scene, we believe that it's important to be working at a local level too. We were keen to work on a campaign that would specifically benefit Londoners.

Fellow Trust for London grantee, The Fair Tax Foundation, had found that £37.5bn of public contracts in the UK were won by companies with links to tax havens between 2014 – 19 alone. Money, including Londoners’ money, that could be paying firefighters, nurses, and teachers, fixing hospitals and schools as well as combating climate change.  The Foundation launched a campaign to demand that Councils commit to not employing multi-national firms who exploit gaps in tax rules to move profits to low or no-tax locations by signing up to a fair tax standard.

We mobilised our supporters - including in London - to pressure councils to end this abuse of public money. During the campaign they sent more than 16,000 messages to councillors, urging them to sign up to the Councils for Fair Tax demands not to work with companies with links to tax havens.

The campaign really hit home in London where five local authorities have signed up, including Barnet, Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond Upon Thames, Southwark and Westminster with more pending. Across the country, 22 new councils have signed up to the pledge since we joined the campaign doubling the number of fair accredited councils.

Tax justice matters at all levels from the global to the local and during this campaign we were struck by how many councils became engaged as a direct result of the pressure brought to bear by our London supporters who want tax justice in their streets, neighborhoods and communities. It's a great example of what can be achieved when we are able to work together with funders like Trust for London.