Open Letter: A letter to Rishi Sunak on the UN Tax Convention

Date Posted: Friday 23rd February 2024

BudgetFiscal PolicyTaxationWealth Tax

Dear Prime Minister,

As leaders of 22 UK international development and human rights NGOs, we are writing to ask that the UK Government reconsiders its position on the UN Tax Convention and supports the negotiation of the UN framework convention on international tax cooperation.

Every country depends on taxation to deliver key public goods, to meet citizens’ needs and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but this responsibility is undermined by the weakness of current international tax co-operation and by poor transparency.

Revenue losses due to cross-border tax abuse of multinational companies and by wealthy individuals with offshore assets are estimated to amount to US$480 billion each year globally, with high-income countries, including the UK, losing the greatest amounts in absolute terms. Yet these losses make up a much higher share of current tax revenues for lower-income countries, which on average are estimated to suffer losses equivalent to almost half of their public health budgets. To give some context, for the UK, recovering these losses would allow an increase in the NHS budget of around 20%.

As Chancellor, during the UK’s G7 2021 presidency you strongly supported efforts towards a fairer tax system and we welcome the UK’s ongoing commitment to this cause. We commend the UK Government’s commitments in the recent White Paper on international development to create a more equitable and fairer international financial system and to support efforts to design more inclusive multilateralism, giving all countries a voice, a seat at the table and weight in the international financial system. Moreover, the commitment to help “low- and middle income countries get the revenues they are owed from the international tax system” will re-establish the UK’s global reputation as a responsible, fair partner in advancing the SDGs and overcoming our shared global challenges.

However, these commitments cannot be met through the current initiatives led by the OECD. As a club of rich countries, the OECD has neither the legitimacy nor the appropriate governance and mechanisms necessary to conduct globally inclusive, democratic and transparent decision making. The OECD’s ‘two pillar’ proposals embody important technical progress, but have lost most of the original ambition. Delivery of the comprehensive reforms needed will only come through a genuinely globally inclusive forum, which only the UN can offer.

Active support for the UN Tax Convention is an opportunity for the UK to lead the way among its G7 counterparts in advocating for a fairer global tax system and thus rebuilding the trust of lower-income countries.

We therefore urge you to reconsider your government’s opposition to the UN process, and to commit to participate fully in the process of agreeing terms of reference for the negotiations to develop a UN framework convention on international tax cooperation.

Yours sincerely,

Romilly Greenhill

Signed by:

Action for Southern Africa
Amnesty International UK
Christian Aid
Concern Worldwide
Gender and Development Network (GADN)
Global Justice Now
Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR)
Green Economy Coalition
Greenpeace UK
Health Poverty Action
Humanity & Inclusion UK
JustMoney Movement
Results UK
Scotland’s International Development Alliance
Tax Justice UK
The Bretton Woods Project
UK Women’s Budget Group
War on Want
Womankind Worldwide