Introducing the tax advocacy toolkit

A Toolkit for Civil Society

Why this toolkit?

  • understand and analyse the issues surrounding tax in a given country
  • develop advocacy strategies for tax justice
  • do tax research
  • plan and undertake different advocacy activities (for example lobbying, campaigning and media work)
  • learn from the experiences of others already doing tax advocacy.
‘Taxation is not an exclusive domain of economic planners and administrators. It is more importantly the concern of the people. The people should be involved in the process of deciding what to tax, whom to tax, and how to tax, as well as in collecting and spending tax revenues.’
— Citizens’ Review of theTax System, the Philippines, 1994


While some pioneering civil society groups have long been campaigning for fairer tax systems, the critical role of tax in achieving development and social justice has often been neglected by civil society in the North and the South. For many, tax is a complex topic, best left to ‘experts’. But this need not be the case.

Tax may appear technical, but it is an issue too critical to bypass. Fair and effective tax collection is essential for raising the revenue to deliver services that citizens need. It is a powerful tool for redistributing wealth within society to address poverty and inequality. And tax is the glue that builds accountability of governments to their citizens.

For these reasons, engaging with tax policy is increasingly considered essential for the achievement of the wider aims of many organisations. Whether you are working on issues of poverty and social exclusion; access to essential services; aid, debt or trade; governance and accountability; or the impacts of mining or other foreign investors on local communities, there are strong reasons for you to consider integrating advocacy on tax justice into your strategies. Many have already done so.

In recent years, new tax justice networks have emerged, or long-standing coalitions have expanded their reach, across Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America. There have been some great successes, many of which are documented in this toolkit. But there’s a need for many more organisations to take on tax justice if real, long-lasting progress is to be made on the issues outlined above.

This publication is designed to introduce you to key tax topics of relevance to civil society organisations in simple terms, in order to break down the complexity of the issue. We hope the stories of tax justice campaigns around the world will inspire you to action. In addition, we provide detailed guidance, tips and tools on how to go about developing an advocacy strategy on tax; conduct tax-focused research; and lobby, communicate and campaign on tax.

The toolkit is not intended to be read from cover to cover in one sitting. It is designed to allow you to dip in and read the sections that are most relevant to your level of experience and knowledge, your interests and your context. We hope there’s some useful material here for everyone and that it inspires you to take forward, or start, your tax justice advocacy. Around the world, organisations and networks are demanding tax justice in growing numbers. Together we can create a sea change in tax policy that genuinely benefits those living in poverty and creates a more equitable distribution of resources, North and South.

‘[We] recognise the common threat to political progress, economic development and to poverty eradication that results from the unacceptable domestic and international obstacles to effective taxation for development… [and] commit to work together for reform in the areas of domestic taxation, revenues from natural resource extraction and international taxation.’
— Nairobi Declaration onTax and Development, March 2010

How to use the toolkit

Each chapter forms its own building block. You can work through the toolkit chapter by chapter – or select those chapters that interest you most.In every chapter, you will find:

  • information – either on different aspects of the tax issue or on how to develop the skills needed for tax advocacy
  • case studies from different countries
  • practical tools for learning and analysis on tax within your group or organisation
  • interaction pages containing ideas for group exercises in a workshop or training setting.