Christian economists contend that we need to be open to rendering more of our own income to increase the tax base, for the sake of others and for the common good.
Seven Christian economists have expressed their ideas and concerns in the current issue of St Mark's Review – A Taxing Issue, guest edited by Dr Brendan Long (pictured), Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (ACC&C) at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Canberra.
St Mark's Review is a journal of Christian thought and opinion published by St Mark's National Theological Centre, a partner in CSU School of Theology.
"Of the many creatures in the world of public policy, there is an interesting species, rare but not endangered – the Christian economist or the theological economist," Dr Long said.
"In this volume of the St Mark's Review the reflections of seven members of this species seek to answer the question, what can Christian thought say about tax policy in contemporary Australia?"
Dr Long said the Christian economists are calling for tax reform that is more progressive; that provides for increases in tax revenue to fund social expenditure; and that eliminate loopholes enjoyed by richer Australians.
"The Christian economists sound a strong and consistent refrain," he said.
"Their chant is that taxation policy perspectives must reflect a distributional bias towards those on lower incomes. Tax policy is a matter of distributional justice. These Christian economists highlight how the Australian tax system has moved away from what Christians see as the basic ethics of redistribution.
"They also sing a number of new cadences, particularly in new proposals for tax reform aligning with Christian ethics."
In his article, Dr Long sees in Pope Francis' emerging approach to economics a call to curb the excesses of a consumerist society that is consistent with increasing the GST tax take to fund progressive social services.
Professor Geoff Brennan, from the Australian National University (ANU), writes that that the key issue for the Christian economist is to accept the need to increase the tax base.
Baptist Care Australia, a peak body of Christian social service delivery, calls for reform to reduce unethical tax avoidance and argues that increasing the tax on superannuation would yield significant revenue to fund social services.
Dr Kieran Sharpe of the University of NSW (UNSW) proposes the creation of a 'fairness fund' to fuel social investment and counter disadvantage.
Mr Les Clarke calls for land to be seen as a 'gift' enjoyed for the common good, rather than as personal property, and argues for a broad-based levy on land.
Professor Asher of UNSW makes a similar call for the tax base to more adequately capture the gains in land value enjoyed by higher income earners.
These articles can be found in St Mark's Review, A Taxing Issue: Christian perspectives on economics and tax reform in Australia, Number 235, May 2016 (1).