Pope says pay your taxes

In an encyclical to be published for the 40th anniversary of Paul VI's Populorum Progressio, Pope Benedict plans to condemn tax evasion as "socially unjust" and will denounce "tax havens", Vatican sources say.

The Times Online reports that the pope will denounce the use of "tax havens" and offshore bank accounts by wealthy individuals, since this reduces tax revenues for the benefit of society as a whole.

The encyclical will also focus on humanity's social and economic problems in an era of globalisation, the sources say.

Pope Benedict intends to argue for a world trade and economic system "regulated in such a way as to avoid further injustice and discrimination", according to Vatican watcher Ignazio Ingrao.

The encyclical, drafted during his recent holiday in the mountains of northern Italy, takes its cue from Pope Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples), issued in 1967.

In that document, Pope Paul focused on "those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic diseases and ignorance and are looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilisation". He called on the West to promote an equitable world economic system based on social justice rather than profit.

Last week the Italian centre-left Government of Romano Prodi began a concerted crackdown on tax evaders, saying that it would target individuals with second homes and other signs of "conspicuous wealth". If the black economy is included, unpaid taxes amount to 27 per cent of Italy's gross domestic product.

Mr Prodi, a devout Catholic, urged church leaders to speak out on tax evasion, telling the Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana that a third of Italians heavily evaded taxes, which were needed to plug Italy's huge budget deficit. "Why, when I go to Mass, is this issue almost never touched upon in homilies?" Mr Prodi asked, adding: "If memory serves, St Paul exhorted the faithful to obey authority."

Pope set to declare income tax evasion 'socially unjust' (Times Online, 12/8/07)

Bumper year for German church tax - but people still leaving (CathNews, 17/4/07)

13 Aug 2007