The Robin Hood Tax – is it an ethical tax on City trading? A wealth redistribution attack on the City? Or, as I believe, a wildly outside the box strain of viral marketing for the upcoming Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe Robin Hood movie? Whichever, I thought I’d do a quick what’s it all about type blog for the benefit of those even less informed than myself.

The timing is down to the financial crisis and the recession. Because the budget deficit means that funding for certain causes may now be under threat, the Robin Hood Tax aims to ensure that support is maintained. It’s proposed that 50% of revenue would be spent on domestic issues such as poverty and homelessness, with the rest split equally between development in poor countries and tackling climate change.

The tax is backed by a collection of organisations, including: ActionAid; Action for Global Health; Association of Teachers and Lecturers; Barnardo’s; BECTU; Cafod; Christian Aid; Church Action on Poverty; Commonwealth HIV and AIDS Action Group; Comic Relief; Communication Workers Union; Compass Youth; Greenpeace; Health Unlimited; Housing Justice; NUT; Oxfam; The Salvation Army; Save the Children; Stamp Out Poverty; TUC; Unicef; Unite; and War on Want. And from the entertainment world, the tax is strongly backed by actor Bill Nighy and Love Actually director, Richard Curtiss. Similar campaigns are also being proposed in other countries across the globe.

The proposed tax has inspired some criticism, as evidenced by a glance at comments on online threads and forums. Higher profile critics include Mike Devereux, director of the Centre for Business Taxation at Oxford University, who labelled it a “stealth tax”, predicting that financial institutions would remain unscathed as they’d quietly pass on the cost to customers.

Writing in The Telegraph, Toby Young reckoned that no country would impose the tax unilaterally for fear of disadvantaging its own banks: “If Britain introduced a Robin Hood Tax…the international banks that are headquartered here would simply relocate to a country in which their transactions aren’t taxed.”

However, a proposed new trading tax across the pond has yet to result in threats of an exodus. President Obama’s Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee, if approved by Congress, will relieve Wall Street of $90 billion of its (Lincoln) green over the next decade. Although not a Robin Hood Tax – its aim is to recoup some of the $700 billion of taxpayers’ bank bailout cash – the move is an indication of a willingness to deter financial institutions from resuming the high-risk lending practices that triggered the economic crisis.

Whatever side of the fence you’re on, you can show support or opposition by voting YES or No on the Robin Hood Tax website (not so fast Goldman Sachs).