Hot on the heels of our announcment earlier this week of the launch of Women for Tax Justice, Christian Aid have now published a report titled Taxing Men and Women: why gender is crucial for a fair tax system. This report is very welcome since there is a dearth of research on how different tax systems around the world impact men and women, either through direct taxes or indirect taxes. As Christian Aid notes:
A gender analysis of public expenditure has been a crucial tool for gender equality advocates to hold governments accountable. The gender implications of revenue raising, the other side of fiscal policy, have received less attention. This is probably due to the difficulties in retrieving data to support an understanding of the gender impact of revenue raising. While the majority of women in developing countries do not pay income tax, it is also challenging to establish the gender impact of indirect taxes because data on income and expenditure are collected at household level and are difficult to compare across countries.
Even in developed countries, where a larger proportion of women are engaged in paid employment for much of their adult lives, they may still face discriminatory tax policies that fail to take account of gender specific issues. As Christian Aid points out:
Direct taxes impact women differently from men because women largely earn less, tend to enter and exit the labour market at different stages of their life, and provide unpaid labour and care at home, in family businesses and in the community. The issue of unpaid care is a huge one, which goes beyond tax policy and is indeed crucial for the socio-economic system as a whole. Because of their gendered roles in society, women disproportionately bear the burden of unpaid care. This affects their capacity to participate in paid employment, pay taxes and benefit from social security provisions and public services afforded through the tax system.
These issues need thorough research at country level, and we are greatly heartened that in publishing their report Christian Aid are contributing to the opening up of a crucial area for tax justice research, advocacy and campaigning in all countries (we have only made occasional contributions, but that will steadily change.) Here are CA’s recommendations for how civil society, governments and revenue authorities can contribute to engaging on this issue:
For civil society organisations working on tax justice:
• Include gender analysis at all levels in research, policy formation and advocacy for tax justice.
• Seek to work in alliance with women’s rights organisations, budget monitoring groups and others working to ensure a fair allocation of government’s resources, from raising to expenditure.
• Advocate for gender dynamics around unpaid care to be considered in fiscal policy.
• Assess fiscal policy from a gender equality perspective.
• Assess the gendered impact of indirect taxes,including considering whether incomes and quality of life can be better sustained by expenditure rather than exemptions.
• Consider how fiscal policy affects gender dynamics around unpaid care from a gender equality perspective.
For revenue authorities in developing countries:
• Set up systems to file taxpayers’ data disaggregated by sex and age.
• Cooperate with unions and other organisations representing women working in the informal sector to improve tax collection, including simplification of taxes levied and fair assessment of capacity to pay.
• Invest in capacity building and awareness raising for tax officials on gender issues and improve customer-service relationships.
Read the full Christian Aid report here.