Richard leads international fight for tax justice
Richard Murphy is taking on governments and multi-national corporations around the world from a West Norfolk garden shed in his fight for tax justice, inspired by his Christian faith. Keith Morris reports.
He travels the globe and has worked for governments, political parties, trade unions and charitable foundations in his campaigning role with the Tax Justice Network, researching and countering the pernicious problem of tax avoidance and tax havens.
A chartered accountant and economist, Richard (aged 53) trained with the world’s biggest accountancy firm, KPMG, before setting up and running his own successful firm of accountants in London.
Despite his success in business, Richard felt that something was missing and, as a man with a strong Christian faith he considered taking holy orders, but as a member at St Margaret’s Anglican church in King’s Lynn, and a practising Quaker, Richard was uncertain about the direction to take.
“I knew I was being called to do something very different and felt a definite calling,” explained Richard. “Talking with people it became clear that my Christian vocation was not as a church minister but by providing good news for the poor through my accountancy training.”
The words of Jesus in Luke chapter 4, when he quoted from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, struck a real chord with Richard: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.”
Out of that period of consideration and reflection, Richard met Ann Pettifor of the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which campaigned for a release from debt for the poor. In 2002, Richard travelled to Jersey to meet John Christensen and together they founded the Tax Justice Network.
“It is good for the poor that we pay tax,” Richard told the annual meeting of King’s Lynn Churches Together recently. “Paying tax is actually a good thing because it pays for education, healthcare, pensions and infrastructure. Tax is liberating and is good news for the poor.”
Married to Jacqueline, a GP , and with sons James (ten) and Thomas (nine), Richard now operates from his home in Downham Market and has the ears of the great and the good in political parties and governments across the world.
Much of Richard’s work is done through the internet and he produces the most read economics blog in the whole of the UK - www.taxresearch.org.uk
- which for a website dedicated to tax justice is quite an accomplishment.
Richard has had up to 15,000 page views a day on his blog and his Twitter feed is followed by over 6,000 people.
“It is my way of delivering an important message,” said Richard.
“Alongside the well-known tax havens like Jersey and the Cayman Islands, many people don’t realise that the City of London is also a tax haven which deliberately regulates transactions behind a wall of secrecy and the Tax Justice Network aims to shed light on as many of them as possible.”
Research has shown that there is $11.5 trillion in tax havens across the world and Richard estimates that $150 billion is lost from developing countries every year because of the issue.
Charities like Christian Aid, Oxfam and Action Aid have taken notice of Richard’s research and started their own work but there are huge vested interests out to oppose them.
A system that hides the truth also hides the funding behind pernicious activities like drug and human trafficking, and the looting of resources from developing countries. Multinational companies take huge amounts of money out of developing countries and Richard estimates that from every £1 given in aid to developing countries, 70p is extracted by multinational corporations.
But these issues can also be found very close to home.
“There are two ways of not paying the correct amount of tax; tax evasion, which is illegal and is equivalent to theft and tax avoidance, which means getting round the tax laws and this is unethical,” said Richard.
“In the UK there is estimated to be £25 billion of tax avoidance and £70 billion of tax evasion making the UK government £95 billion short on its tax revenues.
“If the UK government collected all the tax due to it we would not have to endure the current government cuts,” said Richard.
Richard’s faith permeates all that he does and is his driving force, but he is not evangelical about it, preferring the Quaker approach: “You can tell a person’s faith by their actions not by what they say,” said Richard.
“I simply try to live out what I believe by dedicating my life to something that I feel is very important and that I can have an effect on. Prayer is an early part of my day and then I get going and get angry on the blog.”
Article extracts from King’s Lynn Churches Together AGM