Methodist Tax Justice Network
The Methodist Tax Justice Network aims to put tax justice issues at the heart of the Methodist Church's mission, through campaigning, working with partners in the UK and overseas and educating and communicating within the Methodist Connexion.
MTJN aims to put tax justice issues at the heart of the Methodist Church's mission, through campaigning, working with partners in the UK and overseas and educating and communicating within the Methodist Connexion. We run campaigns targeting both companies and government policy, as well as trying to influence the Methodist Church in the UK to make tax justice and defiscalisation an important issue at all levels of church life, from ethical investment and mission work through to training and preaching.
We have a number of resources available to download from this website, including campaign information and educational materials. You can also sign up to our mailing list if you wish to get more information straight to your inbox. If you have any questions or want to get in touch, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Convener - Revd David Haslam
David is a Methodist Minister, semi-retired, but has always been involved in social justice issues. Tax Justice, when he first learned about it from Nicholas Shaxson’s book ‘Treasure Islands’, struck him as one of those crucial campaigns one has to be part of. He worked in London for 35 years but now lives in Evesham with his wife and 9 year-old daughter.
Treasurer - Philip Wetherall
Philip has been a worshipping Methodist in Malvern, Worcestershire, for the last fifty years, holding many posts, including church and circuit steward, in that time. He has been a supporter of Christian Aid for many years. Following early retirement from a career in the scientific civil service, he became treasurer of the local CAB which he gave up to establish a local HomeStart scheme. He is currently treasurer of three organizations. He was introduced to the injustices of corporate tax avoidance at a local Justice & Peace meeting and jumped at the opportunity to campaign for change in this field. His hobbies include gardening, planning (and going on) holidays, photography, going to the theatre and concerts.
Committee Member - John Cooper
John’s career has focused on enabling church members and congregations to connect faith and politics. He currently is a Regional Coordinator for Christian Aid, inspiring supporters to give generously, explore a gospel of justice and take action for Tax and Climate Justice. Previously he has served the national ecumenical Joint Public Issues Team and ran the International Peacemakers Fund of Fellowship of Reconciliation. He brings interest and experience in campaign strategy, social justice, economic justice, climate change, fundraising and co-operative economics. In quieter moments he enjoys reading, digging the allotment or taking his son Arthur out for a bike ride.
Committee Member - Rachel Stephens
Born in Gloucestershire, educated and trained in Bristol, Rachel taught science in UK and Ghana for 13 years, before spending nine years as Connexional Secretary for Overseas Service at MCOD (Methodist Church Overseas Division). After a six year break (with Christians Abroad and CSV), she moved to the Methodist Division of Social Responsibility, as Secretary for International Relief and Development Affairs, including MRDF and WDAF (11 years). Retiring to Birmingham she facilitated DFiD Consultations, was elected Chair of the Birmingham International Council, developed Town Twinning links with Johannesburg and helped local planning for 1998 Human Chain and Jubilee Debt Campaign actions. She continues to work with many overseas partners, and maintains concern and information on UK activities in Justice and Peace fields globally and nationally.
Don't buy from Bad Eggs this Easter...
In December 2015, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Financial Times reported that Mondelez UK, the parent company of Quaker-founded, Birmingham based confectioners Cadbury, had paid absolutely nothing in UK corporation tax in 2014/15, in spite of make UK profits of £96.5m in that financial year. They did this by paying interest on debt bonds listed on the Channel Islands Stock Exchange. These interest payments can be offset as a loss against profits made elsewhere in the group, and therefore Mondelez UK were able to negate all their taxable profits - in spite of these debts having been created as part of Kraft's takeover of Cadbury in 2010 and having nothing to do with the costs of running their UK business.
By avoiding UK corporation tax, Mondelez UK are not fulfilling their social duty to contribute towards the infrastructure and services that help them to run a profitable business in this country. These actions also greatly damage their reputation and bring shame on the name of Cadbury, a British institution and once known as a standard-bearer for corporate social responsibility.
In light of this, we urge our supporters to boycott Cadbury products for Lent, Easter and beyond, and to write to Mondelez UK executives explaining why they are taking this action. The boycott should continue until Mondelez UK make a public statement of their intention to pay UK corporation tax in line with their UK profits. You can download a template letter here. You can also promote our campaign by following us on Twitter (@Methodist_TJN) and/or Facebook (/MethodistTaxJusticeNetwork) and linking to this page with the hashtag #BadEggs.
The Dark Side of Cadbury This isn't the first time that we've tackled Cadbury. The Financial Times and The Guardian revealed in 2013 that they had been engaging in massive tax avoidance schemes for a decade, even before the infamous Kraft takeover. In the ten years before being taken over by Kraft, Cadburys made an average of £100m a year in profits, but only paid an average of £6.4 million per year in tax.
Since the takeover, new owners Mondelez International (formerly Kraft) washed their hands of any accusations of the previous administration’s wrongdoing, but it is quite widely known that Mondelez Europe GmbH, the specific arm of the corporation that controls Cadbury, are based in Switzerland for tax purposes.
Mondelez's corporate structure includes a number of holding companies using the Cadbury name based in the Netherlands, where 'participation exemption' laws and favourable bilateral 'double taxation treaties' with both developing countries and tax havens mean that profits can be moved through the Netherlands in order to reduce the tax bill. Furthermore, it was recently revealed that Cadbury under Mondelez have been avoiding tax in India through the setting up of a 'phantom factory' to qualify for tax exemption. This amounts to illegal tax evasion, and India are trying to reclaim the money in an ongoing court case. An MTJN leaflet, The Dark Side of Cadbury, was published as a result of these findings.
Here are just a few suggestions as to how you can campaign to make Cadbury come clean, as well as campaigning for tax justice in general:
Boycott Cadbury - until Mondelez publicly declare their intention to pay tax commensurate with their sales in all countries in which they operate, we will refuse to buy from a company who avoid making their appropriate contributions to wider society. Write to the Mary Barnard, President of Mondelez International's operations in Northern Europe including Mondelez UK – Mondelez and Cadbury need to know that they can no longer get away with the sin of large-scale tax avoidance. You can download a template letter from us, or write your own, and send it to her at: Ms Mary Barnard Mondelez UK Limited Uxbridge Business Park Sanderson Road Uxbridge Middlesex UB8 1DH
Alternatively, email Mary at email@example.com, or email the Mondelez board at Mdlzfirstname.lastname@example.org. Write to your MP and MEP about why they should implement fully public Country-By-Country Reporting, produce Public Registers of Beneficial Ownership in British Overseas Territories such as the Channel Islands, and look into making intra-group interest payments non-tax deductible, to make it more difficult for corporations to use schemes like those used by Mondelez UK. Download The Dark Side of Cadbury for more information.
As well as aiming to spread the message of tax justice, MTJN aims to run active campaigns to get its members, and the church as a whole, engaged in putting a stop to tax avoidance and evasion. There are a number of ways in which you can get involved and help MTJN to combat the negative effects of tax avoidance, both here in the UK and overseas. To find out more, please choose from the campaigns listed above.
Zambia: A Case Study
Due to the Methodist Church's overseas links, MTJN are able to find out first hand how other countries are being affected by tax avoidance. The General Secretary of the United Church of Zambia, Reverend Peggy Mulambya Kabonde, visited the UK in the summer of 2013, and as part of her visit spoke at an MTJN event in the centre of Birmingham. The event, entitled 'More Tax, Less Aid: Too Simple A Solution?', gave Peggy and Zambian business expert Gracewell Mwansa the opportunity to teach us how corporate tax avoidance has affected their country. Zambia is rich in natural resources, and yet still remains among the world's poorest nations, with 60.5% of the population living under the poverty line.
Of particular interest were the mining companies, who have been exploiting Zambia's natural abundance of copper and other minerals while barely paying any tax at all. Peggy explained that the United Church of Zambia were trying to use their influence to get the government to change their position on the amount that mining companies pay. If mining giants like Glencore-Xstrata paid an amount of tax in Zambia that directly related to the export value of the copper produced, then the people of Zambia would be able to see the benefits of their own country's resources in the form of much needed public spending on health, education and infrastructure.
As a result of Peggy's visit and after some further research, MTJN have produced a leaflet on Zambia's battle with corporate tax avoiders - as well as the mining companies, ActionAid's 'Sweet Nothings' campaign lifted the lid on Associated British Food's tax avoidance strategies through their subsidiary Zambia Sugar. This leaflet is available to download for free from our Resources page.
Tax avoidance by companies in the Methodist investment portfolio
Corporate tax avoidance is not a small problem, and nor is it limited to those few companies that have been named and shamed in the media. Unfortunately, as you'll be able to see from the data collected by ActionAid and published in The Guardian in 2013, pretty much every large company is in it up to their necks. The global financial system and the archaic laws that govern international taxation are so outdated and not fit-for-purpose that being able to reduce the corporate tax bill has become an inalienable part of the way transnational corporations do their business.
This is why MTJN have investigated the companies in which the Methodist Church invests. Our research includes well publicised cases like Vodafone and Barclays, as well as some less well known cases including Sainsbury's and the National Grid. To be clear, we do not want to disinvest in the companies who have been avoiding tax - otherwise we would have almost no investments left. We wish to illustrate the scale of the problem, and we are also working with JACEI (the Joint Advisory Committee on Ethical Investment) and CFB (Central Finance Board) to engage these companies and ask some serious questions of them regarding their tax situation. We are a public body with a moral responsibility to speak out against injustice where we see it, and in this instance, the Methodist Church can use its position as a shareholder to become a real voice for change to which companies will listen.
If you want to read our research into the Methodist Church's investments, you can download the research papers from our Resources page.