What’s taxation got to do with it?

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 Credit: Jean Symes

When we talk about addressing inequality or women’s rights, the focus is generally on spending tax dollars – for example, creating a day care program. Such programs are important.

But how taxes are generated – who is taxed and how – has a significant effect on inequality. 

Ghana, for example, has had a decade of high economic growth, with effective poverty reduction and women’s rights programs. Yet inequality in Ghana is higher than ever, and women still face widespread poverty.

The problem is that the “fixes” can’t keep up with the inequalities and poverty created by the tax collection system itself.

Ghanaians point out that their national tax policies are shaped by pressure from multinational corporations to reduce their taxes. And international financial institutions – such as the International Monetary Fund – recommend that governments raise more revenue with flat-rate consumption taxes like sales taxes, while urging governments to give more tax incentives and tax breaks to increase foreign investment. The result of these policies is to increase taxes on the poor, resulting in greater gender and income disparities for Ghanaians.

With the health and economic ravages of COVID-19 firmly in their minds, Ghanaian activists see an opportunity to advocate “taxing for equality”. Most revenues, they say, should be raised through progressive personal and corporate income taxes –with corporations paying their fair share – and far less from flat-rate consumption taxes. They also want to examine Ghana’s special extractive industry tax regimes and tax incentives and deductions, that only benefit those with high incomes.

Together with the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, Tax Justice Network Africa, Canadians for Tax Fairness and Queen’s University, Inter Pares is supporting* Ghanaian civil society’s efforts to generate solid evidence-based tax options that address gender and income inequalities and poverty, stabilize the economy, and produce tax revenues that can fund the social and physical infrastructure for a better future.

*This program is generously supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

How taxes are generated – who is taxed and how – has a significant effect on inequality.

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