OPINION: YOUTH AS NON-VIOLENT ACTORS FOR TAX JUSTICE

The problem is not that the leaders do not understand what tax justice means but, are not willing to implement it. The leaders should not implement tax justice because they understand it but, they should implement it because the youth demand it. As the youth demand, they should commit to helping their governments achieve tax justice through the use of non-violent means.

Non-violence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It is always persuading the opponent for the righteousness of your cause. Non-violence action seeks to win friendship and understanding.

This non-violent action should take the shape of sit-down strikes, boycotts, creative through arts, drama, music, poetry and writivism. In this undertaking, the youth have to be organized either as workmates, youth living in similar towns, working in civil society, informal and private sector, digital economy and in the agricultural sector among other classifications.

This approach demands more emphasis on non-violent actions than on theoretical reflection. The first reason why non-violent action is necessary is that; rhetoric in making sure that written tax policies that reflect justice has been done, further rhetoric to have governments implement the documented tax procedures which have failed. Therefore, non-violent action is needed. This is further justified by the fact that even with the existence of accurate tax policy propositions, the authorities must act on them to ensure tax justice.

This non-violent action should aim to unite the youth in any region, nation, and the East African community and implore governments too; stop tax competition, improve tax cooperation among the East African countries, encourage the fairer distribution of the tax burden, ignite discussions on extreme wealth inequality and the disproportionate contribution to the common good by the wealthy. Furthermore; identify trade mispricing, abusive transfer pricing, explore ways on how taxation could diminish the negative externalities especially on climate and health, reform social solidarity so that citizens contribute according to their ability to pay and develop the taxable capacities of those in the poor quintile, advocate for fair global tax governance and the removal of privileges that serve private and corporate wealth holders.

Through non-violence action, the youth should secure their participation in the formulation of tax policies and laws to increase their knowledge and interest of the public, especially the older generation in tax matters.

The tax privileges such as; unnecessary and unjustified tax exemptions to multinationals, which have for long diminished the tax base of private and corporate wealth holders, have transferred the tax burden to the youth whose fractions of wages and salaries have to meet this tax gap.

Some of the challenges that the youth face in the fight for tax justice include: (These look to me more like reforms than challenges, you need to reread this and see for yourself. And ask yourself what your intention was here).

To have a just tax system that considers how the costs and benefits of tax are distributed so as to redistribute wealth and raise enough revenue while encouraging economic activity. The youth should remember that this is not something easy to achieve especially in the East African Community countries where tax injustice has been orchestrated by personal interests and poor ethics.

Nonetheless, the tax regimes in East Africa must be coherent to the precepts of justice, equity and human rights. In doing so, the youth need to focus on how well governments pursue tax justice through the scrutiny of impacts of the tax and fiscal policies and, through nonviolent action demanding the government to work.

There will be a challenge of public backlash due to the stereotypes about youth. To overcome the likely public backlash that may mistake the non-violence actions for hooliganism, the youths will need to be grounded about the knowledge of what they are fighting for. With this knowledge, they can win over the bias of other actors and to be able to encourage them to add their voice to the tax justice non-violent crusade.

The youth have many opportunities in their advocacy for tax justice but the most prominent, is their demographic composition and the existence of tax laws though, not well implemented.

The East African community’s age group between 18 and 35 years of age comprises 60% of the region’s 195.7 million people in the countries of; Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania. Therefore, young people comprise the biggest proportion of the population. The youth are energetic and dynamic and to harness this demographic dividend in the pursuit of tax justice, is to be close to success.

The youth have been more affected by the existence of unjust tax systems than any other age group. Having the largest proportion of the population adversely affected by tax injustice is a reflection of the fact that tax injustice affects almost everyone else apart from the privileged. The youth operate the small-medium enterprises, startups that cripple under the weight of regressive tax systems. In addition, the indirect taxation on consumption has deprived them of the capability to meet the costs of some goods and services. The high taxes on sales and domestic trade of goods and services has also curtailed the growth of youth business initiatives. The unemployment and underemployment rates that skyrocket every day due to regressive tax policies have affected young people as they continue to be frustrated in the job market.

The Community’s greatest asset is its human resources. Having full mobilization and effective involvement of all East Africans; men, women and youth for national development and social progress should be a major instrument of development. In this context, the youth who constitute the largest segment of the population in the EAC should be accorded proportionate recognition and participation in all national and regional development activities.

The second opportunity of the prominent two is that many good tax laws exist. However, realizing that even in the presence of good tax policies, tax policy formulation and implementation alienates tax justice is like a soulless body. Decision-makers and implementers need a non-violent push to create a just society that transcends, minimizing the distortions in tax and expenditure systems.

Challenging unfair tax practices improves the effectiveness of tax systems in ensuring tax justice. It is factual that there exist well-documented tax policies and laws embedded in the Constitutions of each of the East African states that reflect tax justice but, the implementation of them may be ineffective in ensuring tax justice. Therefore, there is a need for a non-violent force to ensure that governments work towards tax justice.

Even though the youth, who constitute the biggest proportion of educated people in East Africa, is right to think that their contribution to tax justice is through policy formulation, they must remember that some good old policies exist. These old policies need to be implemented first before new ones are made and to do this, they should non-violently get their governments to work on them. The thought in young people to get involved in creating new policies should take into consideration that, the good old policies must be implemented or else even the new policies will face an implementation gap.

Given that the unjust implementation of good tax laws benefits those who implement them unjustly, such as the corporate and private wealth owners, youth must recognize that tax justice is being hampered by the selfish interests of those who govern it. This cannot be given on a silver platter of light approaches such as; simple research and understanding of the tax systems but by use of non-violent action. The government will not act because the youth understand tax justice but, it will act because the youth deliberately and actively demand tax justice.

More importantly, the youth across East Africa should recognize that whereas a mosaic of approaches can be used by the government to ensure tax justice, appreciating the homogeneity across the nations such as; the nature and impact of unjust tax systems should be considered.

To embrace this homogeneity for a more sustainable socioeconomic order, the youth in the non-violent action should coalesce (you could use a simpler word like: unite)  through a set of values and norms with youth in different sectors, countries, regions into one coherent tax justice crusade of shared action. This can be done through employing civic discipline during the application of non-violent action, informing the police about their activities and being non-discriminative on whose tax justice they fight for.

To further this homogeneity, youth in this non-violent action should not let tribe, political party, level of wealth, education, religion and gender differences divide them. This can be done by capitalizing on the cardinal junctions that connect them in the collective need for tax justice rooted in the common good of a socioeconomic order. After structuring these points of contact, the youth will synergize to accomplish tax justice through non-violence means.

Even though this non-violent action should be the cardinal approach employed by youth in East Africa to ensure success in the demand for tax justice, the youth will need to continue to study different concepts of justice. This may include social and distributive, legal, contributive, commutative, intergenerational, ecological, international, retributive justice among others. In this, the youth will identify the unjust tax practices such as; illicit behaviour against existing tax laws especially by the private and corporate wealth owners through the exploitation of tax havens, aggressive tax avoidance, tax evasion and fraud, unequal distribution of the total tax burden without considering the ability to pay, lack of progressivity in tax, unnecessary subsidies or exemptions to the multinationals at the expense of increased tax obligations on the part of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), increased indirect taxes, consumption taxes and Value Added Taxes (VAT) that affect the poor more adversely than the rich among other unjust realities.

This analysis and research of tax systems should not be a substitute approach to non-violence action but rather, a tool of knowledge that will help the youth justify their non-violent actions to themselves and to others.

The need to couple non-violent action with research and analysis of tax systems is for the youth to understand that a just tax is one with a link for the common good. It prevents a disproportionate burden upon the poor. The youth can ensure these through influencing the formulation of laws secured, through hearings and representation.

Through this, the youth will understand that tax law formulation and administration should be transparent and that through the principle of enforceability, appropriate the populations’ tax obligations to the ability to pay. The youth should pursue this cause through non-violent means and in the context of knowledge of advocacy issues.

In representative and accountable governance, the youth contribute to revenues and should influence how tax collection and expenditure ensure tax justice. This State-citizen social contract should strengthen trust and efficiency in and of tax and fiscal systems. For democracies to function well, citizens need to hold their leaders accountable

Taxation being an ancient phenomenon, these unjust practices are too deep-rooted to be swept by lighter approaches. However, they are too fragile to be cleaned by radical approaches. The moderate approach that is neither radical nor light is the application of non-violence means.

Youth as custodians of sustainable development should be part of the authorship of stable tax policies that will ensure tax justice now and, see to it that this tax justice is sustained now and beyond their old age. Therefore, there is no other time in any other age that is more appropriate for the youth of this generation to use non-violent means than now.

For youth to leave the question of tax justice to fraudulent leaders is to put tax justice under siege. Tax justice must be the main standard against which tax policy is assessed, judged but most importantly implemented. To advocate for tax justice using non-violent means is a responsibility that the youth must neither forfeit nor ignore in imploring governments to fix loopholes that have infested tax regimes. In regards to the many good laws that exist but the government is not willing to implement them to pursue tax justice, the use of non-violence means is worth the attempt.

WRITTEN BY; MUYINDA REAGAN, YOUTH RIGHTS AND GOOD GOVERNANCE ACTIVIST

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Frank Byaruhanga is a human rights activist with years of experience in community dialogues, digital communication, advocacy and digital campaigns. He specializes in Media Relation Work, Management and Training with sufficient knowledge in Governance, Accountability, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Youth-led research, Content developer, Creative Activism, Social Media Management and documentary photography.

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