2016 Tax Justice and Human Rights Essay Competition

Passionate about tax justice and human rights? Enter Oxfam and the Tax Justice Network essay competition.
Passionate about tax justice and human rights? Oxfam and the Tax Justice Network looked for a 3,500 word essay outlining how you would use human rights law to challenge tax injustice.

Oxfam and the Tax Justice Network have joined together to launch a tax justice and human rights essay competition for legal students and professionals. With tax justice rising up the human rights agenda, we wanted to hear your ideas on how human rights law can be used in the fight against tax dodging.

The Winners

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Oxfam and Tax Justice Network essay competition. These are: 

Tax justice is a human rights issue

International tax dodging by multinational corporations and wealthy elites costs countries both rich and poor billions of dollars a year in lost revenues. This is undermining vital public services where they are most needed and further driving inequality at a time when the richest 62 people in the world have as much wealth as half the world’s population.  Overall, substantial damage is done to human rights through the use of tax havens, the opacity of corporate accounting, the manipulation of trade prices and the disguising of beneficial ownership. But national and international fora may provide scope for redress.

What we wanted

We invited 3,500-word complaints to identify the plaintiffs, defendants, remedies sought, and arguments that are considered enforceable in an existing legal forum. We seeked complaints that could form the basis of effective  advice to developing countries, or to groups of citizens in countries at any income level who have suffered, and wanted to know how they could best use law to protect their or their people’s human rights in the face of tax injustice.

Examples of unjust tax behaviours:

  • A tax haven facilitates systematic mispricing of commodity trade to allow extractive sector multinationals to strip profits from a developing country;
  • An accounting firm markets a profit-shifting mechanism that enables massive corporate tax avoidance, with demonstrable revenue impact in an OECD country where austerity measures are worsening health of the poorest;
  • A state provides anonymous company ownership which is central to grand corruption in a different country.

Competition details

The competition launched on Tuesday 26th January, and entries were judged by a panel of eminent lawyers chaired by Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, a Senior Research Fellow at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) who from 2008 to 2014 was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

Terms and conditions

  1. Entries must be submitted by email to taxjusticecompetition@oxfam.org.uk in word or PDF format only before midnight (GMT) on 13th March 2016.
  2. The competition is international and entries must be written in English, French or Spanish.
  3. All entries will be considered for the main prize. The student prize is open to entrants in full or part-time education during the competition. Entrants must state if they want to be considered for the student prize, and state their educational institution/course.
  4. Entries over the word count will be cut off at the word count limit and considered only on that basis.
  5. One essay per entrant.
  6. Suspected plagiarism will result in disqualification. Plagiarism is the 'use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author without authorisation and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author' (dictionary.com). If using existing writing material, do cite appropriately.
  7. The winner is responsible for arranging their own visa (if needed) to attend Tax Justice Network’s annual research workshop which will take place in London. The prize of economy class fare is subject to the winner having the visa to travel.
  8. By entering the competition each contestant consents to the use of his/her name and the full essay or extracts in any media or publicity carried out by Oxfam or Tax Justice Network.
  9. Please note: winners and runners-up will have their full names, essays and photographs displayed on the Oxfam and Tax Justice Network websites and social media channels.
  10. By submitting a response you are agreeing to be contacted by Oxfam and /or the Tax Justice Network in the future. You will be able to unsubscribe at any time by sending an email to taxjusticecompetition@oxfam.org.uk