Tax is a thorny issue.
Raise it in most social situations and you will be met with stony silence and stern looks that tell you this is not something people are comfortable discussing in public.
However, tax justice is an issue that Christian Aid has been speaking out against for the last four years and the moment for change is building.
At the Baptist Assembly in 2011, I witnessed the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) endorse our “Trace the Tax” campaign.
Last year, our bright red Tax Justice Bus Tour traveled across Britain and Ireland to bring people, churches, communities and even politicians together in the fight for tax justice.
We passionately believe the fight to end poverty must extend to its root causes, and one of those is tax dodging.
Did you know that for every $10 given in aid to the developing world, $15 slips out through tax dodging?
Christian Aid estimates that tax dodging by some unscrupulous multinational companies costs poor countries $160 billion a year.
This is money that should be spent on essential services, such as schools and hospitals in developing countries.
So what does tax have to do with food?
Well, in 2010 Ghana spent $32 million – donated by other governments – to provide healthy lunches for 713,590 primary children.
At the same time, Ghana loses more than $36 million annually through tax dodging in the mining sector alone.
Aid is crucial in ensuring countries like Ghana are able to feed their citizens, but in the long term they need their own sustainable income, which is where tax comes in.
The scandal that some multinational companies don’t pay their tax is why we’ve joined forces with more than 100 organizations in the Enough Food for Everyone – IF campaign.
Ahead of the budget in March, we want the chancellor to ensure that the government takes responsibility for tax avoidance by British multinational companies overseas while ensuring aid is invested into poor countries.
Tax is always a sacrifice. No one particularly enjoys paying it let alone talking about it. We pay it without a guarantee that we will receive back what we’ve paid in.
In this way, paying tax could be seen as the ultimate action of Jesus’ command to love our neighbor.
Our neighbor in the 21st century may live in a country in which we have no financial interest, but the wisdom of Proverbs 31 compels us to “speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Alasdair Roxburgh is Christian Aid’s churches campaigns manager. He lives in West Sussex with his wife and attends Trafalgar Road Baptist Church, Horsham. To find out more about the campaign and to get involved, visit Christian-Aid.org. This column first appeared on The Baptist Times and is used with permission.