Church gets behind income tax laws

London - The Catholic Church of England and Wales launched a passionate defence on Monday of one of society's most reviled features - taxes.

In a 40-page booklet entitled Taxation For The Common Good, the church argued that instead of an unfair penalty, taxation should be seen as a way all people can play a moral part in public life.

"Taxes are very much based on the principles of solidarity, which is based on the commandment to love your neighbour," former Bishop Howard Tripp, chairperson of the Church's Committee for Public Life, said.

"This document is suggesting taxes are a way to play our part and it is something we should be pleased to do. It's all part of our duty to our neighbour, stemming from our duty as social animals," he said.

The Roman Catholic Church, 4,6 million strong in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, said the booklet was not a party political statement. It makes no specific references to the tax policy of British Chancellor Gordon Brown, who has hiked taxes to help fund the country's ailing health service.

Britons pay a basic rate on income of 22 percent and 40 percent on any earnings over £29 900 pounds (about R300 000), but the church's booklet does not say what level of taxation was "fair."

While acknowledging that loving your neighbour might be easier than loving taxes, Tripp said the motive behind publishing the booklet was to stimulate public discussion and to place taxation on a moral footing.

He said tax dodgers were not helping themselves or their community: "If a person felt bound not to pay some tax to a certain cause they disagree with then they must follow their conscience, but I would urge them to look at other ways to deal with that problem, such as lobbying members of parliament".

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