It’s tax season and everywhere we look there are pieces about clever tax strategies. Those are about personal tax strategies. But what about societal tax strategies?
The 25 richest people in the United States paid a “true” tax rate of just 3.4 percent, on average. Three of the five richest people in the country—multibillionaires Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk—paid even less.
As ProPublica explains, many of those billionaires use a set of loopholes with a buy, borrow, die strategy that allows them to spend millions of dollars (or more) per year, but show almost no income and therefore pay a vanishingly low income tax rate. Then, on the other side of the spectrum, those who have lower incomes or come from disadvantaged backgrounds, may pay more than their fair share because they don’t have the tools, resources, or professional assistance to minimize their taxes. This inequitable system is detrimental to many who are trying to get ahead, and I find it deeply unjust.
Imagine a country where everyone paid their fair share, where the safety net was well funded so unemployment wouldn’t ruin a financial life, where teachers were paid commensurate with their importance, where buses and subways came often, where public universities were thriving, where parks were beautiful, and where healthcare was high-quality, patient-oriented, and accessible to all.
If our tax system was fairer, we could live in that world!
So how do we get there?
Don’t like tax loopholes? Do something about it!
Systemic problems require systemic change. Quietly skipping loopholes may make one feel good, but doesn’t change the reality much. If we want to make real change, I think we have to work collectively. Thankfully, there are many organizations working hard on this issue and we can support their work in many ways, but especially financially.
Perhaps you just got a tax refund or you realized you are wealthier than average but pay a lower tax rate. Regardless, send a check! But where can you send it?
13 organizations that can use your tax refund to fight for a just tax system
To help our clients and friends learn about organizations worth supporting, I spoke with some national practitioners with decades of experience working on these issues and building power. Based on their insights and my own, I assembled this list of organizations that you might add to your list for consideration. Perhaps you’ll identify a few additional ones that make sense.
Americans for Tax Fairness
The Americans for Tax Fairness group is comprised of over 425 organizations at a state and federal level who are committed to making sustainable, balanced, and equitable decisions about the federal budget and tax system. They focus on educating the American public and mobilizing volunteers and donors to influence policymakers to “support comprehensive, progressive tax reform.” To learn more about Americans for Tax Fairness, click here.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a leader in tax policy work at the federal and state levels and is a major positive influence in this area. They are nonpartisan, and focus on advancing federal and state budget policies that prioritize equitable financial and tax structures regardless of:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- ZIP code
- Immigration status
- Disability status
Citizens for Tax Justice
Citizens for Tax Justice often works in tandem with ITEP at the federal and state level to fight for tax justice as a means to creating social, economic, racial, climate, and gender justice. Their three stated goals are to:
- Create a more progressive federal tax system.
- Enhance tax policies that alleviate poverty and address the racial wealth gap.
- Upend regressive state tax systems.
Along with working to provide education to the American public, they also work in Washington D.C. towards transformative change in the tax system. Learn more about Citizens for Tax Justice here.
DC Fiscal Policy Institute
The DC Fiscal Policy Institute focuses on shaping racially-just tax systems through data gathering, analytics, and education in Washington DC. Their advocacy efforts promote both the dismantling of racist tax and economic policy at a community and national level, but also building new, equitable systems that support a world where “every citizen, no matter their race or ethnicity, has what they need to live to their fullest.” They focus on six core areas of work:
- Revenue & Budget
- Early Childhood & Pre-K to 12 Education
- Inclusive Economy
- Health Equity
- Affordable Housing & Ending Homelessness
- Income & Poverty
Economic Policy Institute
The Economic Policy Institute “has the most sophisticated analytic capacity in the progressive landscape in terms of understanding macroeconomic impact of tax policy.” They focus on researching and educating American voters and politicians about tax inequity, as well as potential solutions, to achieve a more prosperous economy filled with opportunities for all. To learn more about the Economic Policy Institute, click here.
ITEP (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)
ITEP is a non-profit tax policy organization that analyzes tax proposals and provides recommendations that prioritize equitable and sustainable tax systems. Their goal is to create a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable American economy through rigorous, data-driven analysis and education. When I was working on tax equity campaigns, I found their research and engagement very helpful.
ITEP works at the state and federal level. To learn more about ITEP, click here.
Jubilee USA Network
Jubilee USA Network is “is the religious coalition on debt relief and international tax evasion.” They believe in prayer and activism to “advance solutions to end poverty and address inequality.” Their primary areas of focus are:
- Tax inequity
- Trade policies
Millionaires for Humanity
Millionaires for Humanity is an international group of multimillionaires who believe in using their wealth and resources to create systemic change to tackle climate change, poverty, and UN Sustainable Development Goals. To learn more about Millionaires for Humanity, click here.
The Patriotic Millionaires is an organization that focuses on financial and political equality through:
- A fair tax system.
- Livable minimum wage.
- Equal political representation.
Their stated goal is to work toward a more stable and prosperous America where all citizens have the opportunity to be “authentically engaged in the governance process.” The group is comprised of high net worth individuals who want to work together to build an America that works for (not against) every citizen, and eliminates oppressive systems that make the gap between the ultra wealthy and everyone else that much wider. To learn more about Patriotic Millionaires, click here.
Responsible Wealth is a network of business leaders and investors in the top 5% of wealth or income in the United States who believe in closing tax loopholes for the rich and for corporations. This project is run by United For a Fair Economy. To learn more about Responsible Wealth, click here.
This group focuses on 18-35 year olds who are in the wealthiest 10% of the US population, and mobilizes them to leverage their resources for philanthropic purposes and to instigate systemic change for an equitable society. They have a “redistribution pledge” that encourages this generation to prioritize the redistribution of wealth to impact social justice campaigns across the country. To learn more about Resource Generation, click here.
The FACT Coalition
The Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition is an alliance of organizations that work together to create a fair tax system that addresses the challenges and changes of an ever-shifting global economy. Their stated goals are to:
- End the use of anonymous shell companies as vehicles for illicit activity;
- Strengthen, standardize, and enforce anti-money laundering laws;
- Require greater transparency from multinational corporations to promote informed tax policy;
- Ensure that the U.S. constructively engages in global financial transparency initiatives; and
- Eliminate loopholes that allow corporations and individuals to offshore income and avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
The Roosevelt Institute
The Roosevelt Institute is an increasingly influential organization in the areas of corporate power, labor, wages, and race/gender. Their work meaningfully involved taxes but as part of that broader picture. They host several publications, offer a network community and fellowship, and run a think tank that focuses on climate and economic transformation, work power and economic security, race and democracy, corporate power, and macroeconomic analysis. To learn more about The Roosevelt Institute, click here.