1 EAGLETON NOTES: Paying Taxes

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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Paying Taxes

I usually avoid any sort of confrontational post and this is not meant to be either confrontational nor controversial. However  I have always had an aversion to injustice. So when the Archbishop of Canterbury criticised the big companies (singling out Amazon) for not paying tax and called for the abolition of zero hours contracts for workers, I agreed with him and thought nothing further of it.

Then a lot of criticism arose because the church invests some of its £8 billion of investments in Amazon. According to The Financial Times, the Church of England fund has become the top world performer  with a return on assets of 17.1% boosted by investment in global equities and private equity. The Church also uses zero hours contracts.

Then whist considering the criticisms and trying to justify to a friend what the Archbishop had said it suddenly occurred to me that the Church doesn't pay tax either. It is exempt. 

Amazon acts within the law (whether one likes the law or not) as does the Church (whether one likes the law or not). 

Perhaps when the Government finds a way of making companies like Amazon pay tax it should also remove the exemption for the Church.

30 comments:

  1. I think we all should pay taxes. I wish that I were exempt but I'm not. In France we do not declare enough to pay any - but we do declare all of our income. Charities ,I think should not be exempt. Perhaps there should be a rate for a proper charity , emphasis on proper.

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    1. Yes, Potty, I agree - with the emphasis on proper.

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  2. Amen!!! One of my pet peeves is how churches in the U.S. pay no taxes and yet feel free to politicize from the pulpit . Oh, and abuse children!!!

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  3. I'll pass on this one as I know too little about it. In general, I have nothing against paying tax, as I also benefit from other people doing so. As for Amazon, all I know is that I do pay tax when I buy something (mostly e-books and audio books) from there. Come to think of it, I'm not sure where that tax money goes, though!

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    1. Monica, I think e-books is the one area they can't get away with for some reason.

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  4. It's interesting how news about The Church of England's monetary affairs leaked out very soon after The Archbishop's impassioned speech. It is as if there was a concerted attempt to discredit him instead of taking on board his wise if uncomfortable observations.

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    1. YP,whilst I was unaware that the C of E used zero hour contracts my knowledge of the Church's wealth happened to come from an FT article I read perhaps a year ago. It stuck in my mind. The problem is that regardless of who tried to discredit the Archbishop he should have had more sense than to put himself in the position where he, instead of his message, becomes the story. As it is he has drawn attention to, and hopefully opened up the debate about, the fact that the Church pays no tax.

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  5. I'm with you on these two. Altogether too many organizations have schemes where they can avoid paying tax.

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  6. This is really interesting. I think corporations should pay tax. I'm not sure about churches, there are lots of little churches which would be crippled by taxes (I'm trying to imagine my church paying land tax) but then if there is a huge investment fund and money pouring in from it, maybe a tax on that would be a good idea. Or maybe the churches are expected to plough earnings from such funds back into the community? if they are it would be as good as a tax.
    I think churches should be leaders in ethical behaviour, I have long said we (the church) should be doing much better on a lot of important ethical issues and while i'm vague on zero hours contracts, if they are not a great idea for the worker then they should go

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    1. Kylie, I think that the whole debate about churches paying no tax should be opened up and if it is decided that there is consensus that they have a valid case then so be it. Zero hours contracts are controversial and I know people on them who support them.

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  7. You've scuppered my next Sunday posting. I'd already written almost exactly the same words. I agree, of course. I'll probably post my version anyway.

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    1. Cro, go ahead because you'll reach a different and wider audience!

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  8. It is the duty of any company to pay as little as possible in tax and maximise returns to it's shareholders. Change the law.
    Charities should be taxed as should the church.
    State employees should be paid net. What is the point of paying them a salary and then taxing it. It all comes and goes to the same pot.

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    1. I'm not sure how the state employees suggestion would work, Adrian, but I agree it is the duty of a company to maximise it's profits. It is, as you said, the duty of government to maximise it's tax revenue. I just want the Government to achieve that goal although there are so many conflicting interests that may well never happen.

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    2. It wouldn't as most folk on PAYE are never investigated for earnings outwith their salary. Teachers moonlighting with after hours tuition. Nurses working for agencies and throwing sickies to take on another job. State employees would not stand for it. It would just simplify matters. Get caught not declaring income and suffer as I did. I should have joined a union and worked for the state but it's easy to be wise in retrospect.

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  9. Is the Church considered a charity then? Or does it fall under a different tax-exempt umbrella? I don't know much about this area. I think Amazon should pay taxes however. That seems fair since they are a business. I have to pay taxes from the very first dollar I earn.
    Geeb, related question to One Who Seems to Know: I am starting up an Etsy (or maybe Shopify) online shop. If anyone buys any of my prints, cards and hand-printed shopping bags, will I have to pay tax? SInce, technically my 'shop' is not in New Zealand? Or, technically, anywhere?

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    1. Kate, a Church is considered a charity in the UK(and in many countries I believe). Amazon gets around things by operating in many countries and paying its company tax in the most favourable. In Europe I understand that is Luxembourg. I understand that VAT (GST)is still charged in the country where the purchaser lives but is paid by the purchaser through Amazon. My understanding of selling things through ETSY or any similar on-line sales medium is that the income you receive is just part of your business income (and taxable as such) and the expenses of the sales medium are just ordinary business expenses. The complications of VAT/GST depend on the rules of the country you are in and the country you are supplying to. However, most small sales are ignored or exempt.

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    2. Thanks for this Geeb. I suspect many etsy and shopify sales are not confessed, but I'm a Good Girl I Am. I like to have a clean mind. For my own sake. It often means a thin purse but Oh Well.

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  10. I must admit I do not know whether churches (and other religious institutions) pay taxes in Germany, but I do know that we, the citizens, pay church tax if we belong to one of the two main confessions (Roman Catholic or Protestant). Since I do not belong to no organised religion, I do not pay church tax.
    I pay income tax, of course, and every year when I fill in the many many forms the tax guys require, I get some money back from them - which is nice, but it makes me think that something must be wrong in the set up of the system, because it means I regularly pay too much.
    I feel it is my fair share when I live in a country to pay tax, as I benefit from so many things "the state" does.

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    1. Meike, it was interesting to learn something about the German system.

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  11. Well in my humble opinion I think it's a bit rich of the church to be criticizing amazing or whoever on their taxes if they aren't paying. But anyway, things would be alot more fairer if we were all behaving as equals.

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  12. I kind of know what you mean but I think that it is true that the church does try to help people. Its buildings are often a place of retreat when times are hard. Even though we are not Christians we have both found that we have been helped by going to church. I doubt that anyone could say the same about visiting an Amazon warehouse, or even being able to buy a book there cheaper than at the local bookstore :) So I would be inclined to take those things into account too. (actually, I like to drop in on my local bookstore, it's a nice window into a wider world - and is often full of kids, as it has a good children's section with lots of toys)

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    1. Jenny, I wouldn't for one minute argue that the Church doesn't do some good - in many ways. I'm not sure, though that doing good, per se, is a reason for tax exemption. You made a point about your local bookshop. One thing I would say about Amazon is that it reaches the parts that other sellers don't reach. If you live in a remote area of the country Amazon is one of the few sellers who will deliver almost anything and deliver it very quickly: very often next day even on Lewis. John Lewis (my store of choice) takes at least 5 days for anything that could be stuck in an envelope and sent first class. I'm fortunate enough to visit the Great Metropolis (Glasgow) occasionally and visit its bookshops (all two of them - both branches of Waterstones). Actually there is an Oxfam Books and a smaller bookshop in the University area.

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