Webinar on tax justice and women’s rights


On Tuesday 16 June 2015, during the Global Week of Action for Tax Justice, AWID organized a webinar on Tax Justice and Women’s Rights, in partnership with the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) . Over 100 women’s rights and feminist activists participated in a lively discussion linking tax policies to the achievement of women’s human rights & gender equality.

Four expert panelists discussed the various ways in which prevailing tax policies disadvantage women and deny them their equal rights. They contested the male breadwinner model that still dominates taxation policies around the world and that continues to take for granted women’s unpaid work.

Specific advocacy spaces for influencing tax justice at the international level were also discussed, in particular the Third Financing for Development Conference to be held in Addis Ababa in July 2015.

You can listen to the audio of the webinar here.


Two important new resources on tax and gender


UN Women just published one of their periodic flagship reports on The Progress of the World’s Women. This edition is entitled ‘Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights’, and it includes an excellent chapter (4) on macroeconomic policy and gender equality. It’s full of strong analysis on the gendered effects of tax…

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 3.35.13 PM…and it illuminates the contours of a rights-based approach to tax policy, guided by the imperative to move towards substantive equality for women.Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 2.23.33 PM

It’s great to see a UN agency heartily embracing these issues.

Secondly, Tax Justice Focus (the newsletter of TJN) – The Gender Edition includes articles by Mae Buenaventura of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development, Diane Elson of the Women’s Budget Group, Kathleen Lahey of Queens University, and an interview with WfTJ’s very own Mae Hen. It’s a great read.

Diane Elson for TJN on why gender equality requires more tax revenue


The wonderful Professor Diane Elson has written a piece for Tax Justice Network on gender equality and tax justice, drawing on her excellent work as Chair of the UK’s Women’s Budget Group.


This is the third piece in a very welcome recent run of articles focusing on gender and women’s rights on TJN’s website. See ‘How Tax Wars Affect Women‘ (based on an AWID article) and Professor Susan Himmelweit’s article on how the UK political parties’ election promises measure up on tax and gender equality.

Tax justice to end inequality: World Social Forum 2015 Declaration

The following declaration was issued by the Tax Justice Convergence Assembly of the World Social Forum in Tunis, March 27, 2015. This is reposted from the Global Alliance for Tax Justice website, where you can also find PDFs of the statement in Arabic, English, French and Spanish. Women for Tax Justice welcomes this declaration, in particular its recognition of the impact of tax on gender inequality and exhortation to ensure fiscal policies are gender sensitive, and promote gender justice as a key element of tax justice. (We’ve underlined that gender-focused text below, but it’s all worth reading!)


The prevailing international tax rules and practices, as well as the failure of governments to cooperate on international tax matters, continue to undermine the ability of governments in the Global South and the North to ensure that corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of taxes. The recent “Luxembourg Leaks” has confirmed that multinationals continue to dodge taxes with impunity. This is the latest in a long list of corporate tax scandals involving major brand names including Glencore, Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Caterpillar, Deutsche Bank, Zara, McDonald’s, Associated British Foods and many more. Similarly, the recent ‘Swiss Leaks’ has revealed that wealthy individuals hide untaxed fortunes in hidden Swiss bank accounts.

At the same time, many governments themselves act in the interest of corporations, liberally providing tax incentives and signing tax treaties that enable huge outflows of public revenues. As a result, ordinary people all over the world carry a disproportionately heavy burden of raising tax revenues – while public services lack adequate resources to meet the needs of citizens. The continuing imposition of austerity measures and the increasing debt burden aggravate poverty and inequality within and between countries, making the need for tax justice more urgent than ever. Meanwhile, governments are compensating for the lack of available public funding in various ways such as incurring more debt and by entering into risky public-private partnerships with the very same multinational corporations that are dodging taxation. Privatization of vital social services, where profit principally drives service delivery and overrides basic human needs, is rationalized by the need to raise domestic revenues.

Instead of cooperating to solve the problems, the world’s governments continue to invent new tax incentives for multinational corporations and wealthy individuals as part of a global race-to-the bottom. Meanwhile, rigged global tax rules fail to protect the tax bases of the world’s poorest nations against erosion driven by international tax dodging. These global rules, which undermine global cooperation and ignore the interests of the poorest, continue to be negotiated and decided in closed forums of rich nations.

Continuing the tradition of the World Social Forum, which at the WSF in Porto Alegre in 2002 issued a “Universal Declaration on the right to tax justice as a component part of social justice,” and at the WSF in Tunis in 2013 issued a declaration on “Tax Justice for Social Justice,” we demand the following from our governments:

International cooperation for global solutions

  • Establish an inclusive and well-resourced intergovernmental body on tax matters under the auspices of the UN, which can initiate and lead negotiations on a new UN framework convention on international cooperation in tax matters as a first step in the reform of international tax rules.

Automatic information exchange and tax transparency for multinational corporations

  • Adopt a common UN standard of multilateral, automatic exchange of tax information with the option of non-reciprocal information exchange for countries with low capacity.
  • Eliminate secrecy of beneficial ownership worldwide through public registers of beneficial owners.
  • Ensure financial transparency by implementing annual public country-by-country reporting by multinational corporations.
  • Ensure that tax administrations are well resourced.

Progressive tax policies to tackle inequality within countries

  • Reduce inequality by adopting a full range of progressive taxation measures. Tax policy design and implementation must actively seek to reduce income and gender inequality.
  • Make it the highest priority commitment to invest tax funds in the vital human development related public services and public infrastructure (e.g., health, education, water, housing, sanitation, transportation), sustainable development, adequate social protection floors and to reverse climate change.
  • Provide the means for citizens to make their voices heard and hold governments accountable on their tax policy and how revenue raised is spent.
  • Ensure fiscal policies are gender sensitive. This should include assessing and tracking the impact of regressive taxes, such as VAT, and the tax burden, and implementing measures to shift the burden away from poor women and men.
  • Adopt and implement a financial transactions tax.

Fair international tax rules that make multinationals pay their share

  • Ensure the review of Double Taxation Agreements to bring them fully in line with sustainable development and financing for development needs and agenda.
  • Develop solid alternatives to the dysfunctional Arm’s Length Principle.
  • Remove policies and treaties that erode the tax base of other countries

To promote the tax justice agenda, we commit ourselves to:

  1. Continue and strengthen our advocacy and campaign to influence and increase the pressure on decision makers for tax justice. This includes public mobilization and political advocacy to ensure our government leaders deliver vital tax justice decisions in the UN Financing for Development summit in Addis Ababa this July and beyond.
  2. Enhance our efforts to create strong social movements locally and globally to force governments and challenge multinationals to end tax dodging. This includes new campaigns to make multinational corporations pay their share of taxes. We will march this May Day under the banner “Working people pay taxes – corporations must pay their share” and mobilize across civil society for global tax justice action days, including this June 23, World Public Services Day.
  3. Promote gender justice as a key element of tax justice. This includes engaging at the national level to challenge discriminatory tax laws and ensure that tax policies recognize the invisible and unpaid care work of women.
  4. Advance tax justice as a means to deliver climate justice by generating financing, including for adaptation and mitigation.
  5. Work together to transform the current economic system that privileges corporations and the wealthy, drives inequality and hurts our environment. Our vision entails progressive redistributive taxation polices that fund the vital public services, end inequality and poverty, address climate change and lead to sustainable development.

We welcome that Global Alliance for Tax Justice, owned and driven by major regional networks in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe, has invited wide civil society engagement and pledged at this World Social Forum in Tunis 2015 to collaborate and build global synergy for advocacy and campaigns and peoples’ mobilizations for tax justice.

Show us the stats


Here’s an admission: there is a lot we don’t know.

Although the gendered impacts of tax are becoming better and better understood, lack of data is (in most jurisdictions) a major hurdle not only to analyzing the scope of the problem, but also to creating solutions.

For example, tax filers are usually not identified by sex; many women taxpayers are hidden behind joint filing systems (in which their earning is often considered to be supplemental to that of a male breadwinner); expenditure and often income data are collected at household level. In general, governments simply do not collect the sex-disaggregated data needed for tax incidence analysis, and the data that do exist do not have sufficient information to do a full gender analysis.

We do know that:

  • Women overall earn less than men, and are more affected by poverty and disadvantage.
  • Women are more likely to work in low-paying, precarious jobs (often with no benefits, and/or in the informal sector) and they often work longer hours than men when you take unpaid care work into account.
  • In many countries, we have good data and information about how the poorest sectors of society are negatively impacted by tax policy. Because women are over-represented among the poor in most-countries, we can therefore safely say that a disproportionate number of women suffer these impacts.
  • Women do most of the unpaid care work, which includes shopping for groceries and household goods – and therefore will bear the brunt of VAT, which we know is a regressive tax. (Yes, in some households it will be joint income or money earned by a male head of household that will be be used to pay for these goods; but many women are single mothers, and many poor women in two-parent households use their own meagre income to pay for goods that benefit the children and the household, having no access to their male partners’ earnings.)
  • Many policies and tax codes implicitly or explicitly stereotype women as wives and mothers, reliant on a male breadwinner.
  • Women are more reliant on public services, both because of their higher likelihood of poverty and their gender itself (pregnancy, maternity and childcare make it hard for even healthy women to avoid hospitals and health clinics, for example).
  • Women are also more likely than men to work in the public sector.
  • So… we know women are disproportionately affected when government budgets and services and cut. Even as many women are laid off or their benefits cut, their work in the home is increased at these times, as they substitute for the health and care services cut.

However, although some excellent empirical studies have been done (please get in touch/comment below if you have good examples to share!), in most jurisdictions there is a significant lack of disaggregated data to conclusively show the gender distribution and impact of tax – with concrete improvements in recent years very limited in scale.

We know from long experience that without hard quantitative data, legislators and policy-makers are likely to drag their feet or deny there is a problem. Although we hope progress can begin without waiting years for data that will likely back up what we already know and can infer, more and better data will likely be a key persuasion tool moving forward.

Why tackle the links between illicit capital flows, tax policies and gender justice?


Please read this statement, prepared by feminists and allies at the Financial Transparency Coalition and Latindadd Conference “Hidden Money, Hidden Resources: Financing Development with Transparency” Lima, 14 – 15 October 2014. Women for Tax Justice is one of several organizations to endorse the statement so far. Please email nicole(@)dawnnet.org if your organization would like to endorse the statement.

Why tackle the links between illicit capital flows, tax policies and gender justice?

The loss of tax revenues due to international tax evasion and avoidance significantly reduce the funds available to finance policies aimed at fulfilling the human rights of women and girls and gender justice.

Due to the structural nature of gender inequality and its intersection with other categories such as age, race-ethnicity, sexual orientation and income, women in most of societies continue to be overrepresented in the lowest quintiles of the income distribution, continue to be the most responsible for unpaid and care work, continue to be concentrated in the most precarious and poorly paid jobs, are still a minority in the spaces of representation and leadership in political, labor or territories, still face gender-based violence, human trafficking, and continue to have their sexual and reproductive rights and autonomy limited.

Under international human rights law, states have the duty to mobilize the maximum available resources, including through combating tax evasion and avoidance, to implement public policies for the realization of the human rights of women and girls. State intervention in areas such as social protection, productive diversification and employment, education, care, sexual and reproductive health are essential to reverse multiple discrimination and structural gender inequalities. When the state does not mobilize sufficient resources or provides inaccessible and low quality services, gender inequalities are perpetuated or exacerbated. In turn, in a context where the private sector and multilateral institutions promote public-private partnerships as a privileged strategy to finance development, combating illicit financial flows is an alternative to substantially increase state revenue and provide the necessary resources to fulfill state obligations concerning human rights and non-discrimination.

International tax evasion and avoidance has negative impacts on vertical equity, in the North / South gap and the progressiveness of the tax systems of developing countries that disproportionately affect women.

Tax evasion and avoidance not only affect horizontal equity as individuals and companies with the same capacity to pay are not contributing in the same way, but also reduces the redistributive impact of tax policy. According to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, “tax abuse by corporations and high net-worth individuals forces Governments to raise revenue from other sources: often through regressive taxes, the burden of which falls hardest on the poor. Therefore, if States do not tackle tax abuse, they are likely to be disproportionately benefiting wealthy individuals to the detriment of the most disadvantaged” (A/HRC/26/28, 2014, p. 15) [1].

In turn, tax regimes are not gender neutral. Women and men experience the impact of tax policies as part of the workforce, as consumers, producers and as responsible for the “care economy” within and outside households. In this sense, regressive tax structures have disproportionate impacts on women.

The Rapporteur’s report notes that:

  • “Women, who tend to use larger portions of their income on basic goods because of gender norms that assign them responsibility for the care of dependents, bear the regressive brunt of consumption taxes” (A/HRC/26/28, 2014, p. 12).
  • “Certain tax arrangements that directly or indirectly disincentivize women’s participation in the labour force or promote the male bread-winner family model could threaten women’s enjoyment of human rights”. (A/HRC/26/28, 2014, p. 6) [2]
  • “Policymakers should be aware of the extent to which tax policies, such as the treatment of income derived from jointly-owned assets of married couples, strengthen or break down gender inequalities, or discriminate against different types of households” (A/HRC/26/28, 2014, p. 13)
  • States must review tax structures, codes and instruments for explicit and implicit gender bias and ensure they do not reinforce existing gender inequalities, including through their impact on unpaid care work.(A/HRC/26/28, 2014, p. 20)

Therefore, increasing the tax base in a progressive way would imply shifting the burden of taxes away from women, people living in poverty and other marginalized groups such as gays, lesbians and trans who are at the bottom of the income distribution towards highly profitable sectors such as the financial sector and the extractive industries that are benefiting from tax incentives and subsidies and using strategies of tax evasion and avoidance to shift their profits to low-tax jurisdictions.

To combat tax evasion and avoidance and their impacts on the ability of states to guarantee human rights, and especially women’s rights, and reduce inequalities at the global level, it is necessary to reverse the “race to the bottom”, to move towards a new social contract that shifts from tax competition to tax cooperation, and towards transparency and public availability of financial information. Furthermore, the global network of facilitators (banks, consulting firms, investment advisors and legal and tax advisors) and financial secrecy jurisdictions [3] that serve as a den for both capital flight as a result of tax evasion and avoidance and money from networks of drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings (for labor slavery, sexual exploitation and trafficking of organs) that disproportionately affect women and children in developing countries -79% of trafficking in human beings is performed for the purpose of sexual exploitation- must be confronted. Therefore, we need a radical change in the international tax and financial architecture oriented towards development, equity and human rights for all.

The following organizations endorse the statement (as of 1st December 2014):

  • Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, India
  • Christian Aid
  • Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)
  • Red latinoamericana sobre Deuda, Desarrollo y Derechos (LATIDADD)
  • Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y El Caribe
  • Tax Justice Network
  • Women for Tax Justice
  • Center for Economic and Social Rights


[1] A/HRC/26/28. (2014). Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (No. A/HRC/26/28). Human Rights Council, United Nations. Recuperado a partir de http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session26/Documents/A_HRC_26_28_ENG.doc

[2] For example, in the case of Ecuador, since 2008, in households with one person perceiving income, expenses of the dependent person (usually the woman) can be deducted in the tax return of the taxpayer person. However, if the dependent person enters the labor market and his/her salary does not exceed the base exempted, household expenses should be deducted by both taxpayers separately. This implies that the payment of taxes tends to be greater for the first taxpayer because he/she can not deduct the expenses of the person entering the labor market. Source: Vásconez, Alison and Paola, Gutiérrez (2010). “Ruptures and continuities of the tax and transfer system in Ecuador: Analysis and Proposals” in Taxation and Gender Equity, María Pasos Morán and Maribel Rodríguez. Madrid, Spain: Fundación Carolina. CeALCI.

[3] Tax Justice Network elaborates a Financial Secrecy Index ranking jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their activities. More information available at_ http://www.financialsecrecyindex.com/

BEPS and the Politics of Tax Power


– Guest post by Erika Dayle Siu

As the G20 Leaders meet this weekend in Brisbane, Australia, the OECD is set to deliver the first part of the BEPS Action Plan, already endorsed by the G20 Finance Ministers in September. BEPS — short for ‘base erosion and profit shifting’ — is the negative effect of tax avoidance by multinational corporations on a country’s ability to fund education, healthcare and other public goods. The problem is especially acute in low-income countries that depend largely on tax revenues from multinationals doing business within their borders. However, because the international tax rules have been fashioned by the home countries of the biggest multinationals, the deck is stacked against developing countries and the profits shift out through loopholes in the tax system.

But as many have observed, BEPS was never really about securing more development revenues for the “little guys.” BEPS began as an argument between Europe and the US over the lack of tax revenues from Apple, Google, Starbucks and the like and the OECD stepped in to forge a compromise. There’s a bit of a wrinkle, though—four big wrinkles in fact: Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Thus far, the UN Tax Committee has been the tolerated platform for the BRICS to campaign for a bigger slice of the tax pie, but since the G20 is involved in BEPS, the traditional OECD fixes have been called into question. For years, the OECD countries have opposed the G77 and China’s demands to upgrade the UN Tax Committee from a group of experts serving in their personal capacity to governmental representatives. But now as the G20/OECD BEPS forges ahead, calls for upgrading the UN Committee have only strengthened.

In September, the G20 Finance Ministers acknowledged another wrinkle—the non-G20, non-OECD countries that actually have the most skin in the game. At the recent October meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, Finance Ministers from some low-income African countries lamented their lack of decision-making power in global tax discussions and demanded their fair share of tax revenues. As a result, after the BEPS ship had set its course with sails aloft, the G20 Finance Ministers called for more inclusion through “a new structured dialogue process, with clear avenues for developing countries to work together and directly input into the process.”

The OECD has now invited a dozen low-income countries to participate in the BEPS process, though not with full legal authority, because that would involve a legal process too lengthy for the expedited journey ahead. Donor appeals have been made to finance their participation and bring them up to speed on each of the pre-determined BEPS Action Points. In this setting, we are assured that their voice will be heard and that the BEPS solutions will incorporate developing country input.

Yet another wrinkly question looms large: “Whose problems and solutions are they?” Are not the BEPS Action points pre-existing OECD work plans? Shouldn’t more fundamental issues—like a more equitable source-residence tax split and a unitary entity principle that merges all the affiliates of a corporate group—be discussed before prescribing ‘capacity building’ remedies to symptoms of a fatal deficiency? The little wrinkles, added together, are a big gaping hole that can only be filled by a globally representative institution. Capacity building alone cannot patch it up. The G20 alone cannot patch it up. Only full representation in the political process can create a tax system that works for the global economy.

Although the BEPS process began with a “big boy” squabble, it has opened up a much greater fissure, at a critical time when global leaders are also negotiating financing for the post-2015 development agenda. After the failure to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, largely through the inability to pay the tab, the consensus is growing that protecting a country’s power to tax profits earned within its borders is essential in funding sustainable development—and this cannot be achieved merely through capacity building to reinforce the OECD tax playbook. The rules and the institutions need to change and the biggest pressure for reform is coming from the margins.

Women are familiar with the margins. As professionals, women understand that merging family and work commitments in a system designed by men means we incur the associated opportunity costs. As the leading purchasers of household consumer goods, women know that we bear a disproportionate tax burden in regressive tax systems. As the predominant providers of unpaid care, women also understand what it’s like for our work to go unaccounted for in the tax system.

To pay in, but not to get anything back.

And we know what it’s like to hear, generation after generation, that there just aren’t accepted principles to account for our experience or ideas.

And we know what it’s like to hear that we should restrain our objections because dissension might prevent incremental reforms from taking place.

And we certainly know what it’s like to have our demands sidelined and tabled for future processes.

However, we also know when to say, Enough is enough.

We need institutions that represent us all on equal footing in all matters. But most importantly in tax matters. Taxes fund institutions that level the playing field—in health, education, the environment, housing and infrastructure, and so many other facets of life. But we need proper rules to collect taxes equitably and not rules that reinforce inequality. Such rules can only emerge from fully representative institutions.

Copyright Erika Dayle Siu

Erika Dayle Siu is a Tax and Development Consultant, specializing in international tax and its impact on sustainable development. Erika has worked with the United Nations Development Programme, the International Centre for Taxation and Development, New Rules for Global Finance and other civil society organizations working for tax justice.