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Oxfam Calls For Tax On Corps. Benefiting From Pandemic

By Matt Thompson · September 10, 2020, 1:29 PM EDT

Global development charity Oxfam on Thursday recommended governments worldwide implement an extraordinary profits tax on companies that have benefited from the novel coronavirus pandemic, with data from a U.K. group indicating support for tax increases on corporations and the wealthy.

Thirty-two of the world's largest companies could see their profits jump by a total of $109 billion, in large part due to the pandemic, an Oxfam report said. On the same day, watchdog Tax Justice U.K. released polling that indicates support across the political spectrum for raising annual wealth taxes and increasing the tax companies pay on their profits.

To prevent "superprofitable companies" from manipulating their position of strength, Oxfam said, "it is time to consider properly taxing the excess profits of the world's largest companies during the pandemic."

An additional $104 billion could be raised from the world's 32 most profitable companies by governments around the world to assist them in dealing with the economic fallout from the pandemic, Oxfam said.

Chiara Putaturo, a tax policy adviser at Oxfam, told Law360 that an excess profits tax — which the group is calling a pandemic profits tax — should be implemented as soon as possible.

"It is conceived as a one-off and exceptional tax," she said. "It is a way to ask those corporations that can afford it to contribute more … in light of the fact that a lot of them were undertaxed in the past."

Oxfam International chief Chema Vera said the pandemic "has been tragic for the many but good for a privileged few."

"We are at a critical juncture," he said. "We have a choice between returning to 'business as usual' or learning from this moment."

Tax Justice U.K., in collaboration with polling company Survation and the University of Sheffield, questioned British voters from across the political spectrum and found broad and increasing support for raising taxes on the wealthy and profitable companies.

Polling carried out between the 2019 U.K. general election and the middle of the lockdown found "significant" support for taxes on wealth, with 74% wanting to see the wealthy taxed more, including 64% of Conservative voters and 88% of Labour voters.

Conservative Party voters' willingness to personally pay more in tax has increased during the crisis, the survey found, from 41% in March to 46% in a June poll. Conservative support for higher taxes on wealth also increased during the lockdown.

Those who voted Conservative in 2019 were often more supportive of increasing specific taxes on wealth than the general public, the Tax Justice U.K. report said.

"We don't need overall tax rises now, but we do need tax rebalancing," the group's director, Robert Palmer, told Law360. "The pandemic has entrenched inequality, and some of the wealthiest people have done OK." 

Palmer said the tax system needs to be more progressive now.

"That means taxing wealth and companies more, while exploring ways to put more money into the pockets of the poorest — for example, by making benefits more generous," he said.

--Editing by Neil Cohen.

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