Marta's Story

 

As a small business owner in Ghana Marta is subject to strict tax obligations enforced by the government; “if we don’t pay, they come with a padlock”. Meanwhile some wealthy multinational corporations operating in Ghana are able to avoid paying their fair share tax, increasing the burden on the country's poor. 

 

 

The story

Marta sells Club Beer, which is produced by SABMiller, at her small stall in Accra Ghana.  Working from 6.30am to 8pm each day, and employing three people, she earns approximately $4140 a year. Next door the Accra Brewery, owned by SABMiller, employs over 300 people and sells over $52 million worth of beer each year. While Marta's stall pays approximately $85 in tax each year, Accra Brewery pays no corporate tax.

To find out more about Marta read our blog on 'Marta's Story' here.

So what’s the issue?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leona Helmsley, or ‘The Queen of Mean’, became president of the Helmsley Hotels in 1980, an estate worth over $5 billion. On August 30, 1989 Helmsley was convicted of sixteen counts of assisting in the filing of false corporate and partnership tax returns, amongst other tax avoidance, fraud and conspiracy charges. There are many wealthy individuals and corporations who seek to pay their fair share in the countries where they operate but Helmsley's attitude demonstrates the enormous issue that faces the poor who carry the burden of tax when powerful groups take advantage of a broken global tax system.


SABMiller

Through various means SABMiller is able to transfer its profits out of Ghana and into tax havens. Shifting their profits out of the country allows them to avoid the taxes they should be paying to the government of Ghana; taxes which provide education, healthcare and infrastructure to help lift people out of poverty. When wealthy multinationals avoid paying their fair share of taxes, the burden is passed on to small business owners and individuals like Marta.

Read more about how SABMiller avoids paying taxes here

How can we change this?

There is currently no effective mechanism for countries to cooperate and share accurate information about each other’s taxpayers. This creates a veil of darkness that allows some rich multinationals like SAB Miller to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. We have the opportunity to help lift this veil of secrecy. 
One way to address this issue is through establishing a mechanism for the automatic exchange of tax information. 

Some exchange of information is currently occurring between developed nations, and is proving to help governments recover significant amounts of tax revenue. However developing nations do not currently have access to this exchange of information. As such Australia should call on the OECD and the G20 to establish a mechanism which would facilitate developing countries having access to the automatic exchange of tax information. 

Learn more  

What’s your story?

Our desire is to see Marta’s story affect the way we live out our own stories. Take some time to reflect and pray.

Consider the following words from Rev David Shepherd, and reflect on the different attitudes towards work, tax and the global community.

“The heart and soul can find fulfilment in doing worthwhile work, in making a modest personal income and in contributing to the wealth of the whole community through taxation.”

In Proverbs 16:11 we get some insight into how contrary corruption is to God’s character; “The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness.”

Reflect on God’s character in comparison to the daily experience of Marta. Pray that God will bring light to the injustice she experiences and that He will empower churches across Australia to lead the way in shining the light on tax dodging.