Read our latest guest blog by Graham Drummond, Head of Communications at the Fair Tax Foundation.
To say that the British public is concerned about corporate tax avoidance is an understatement. In the IBE Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics 2022 survey, they voted it the number one issue business most needs to address. And it hasn’t come out of anywhere – ‘corporate tax avoidance’ has dominated the top spot every single year for the last decade and is now at a record high.
This public unrest around fairness is further evidenced by the rise of votes given to ‘bribery and corruption', which entered the top 3 for the first time last year and now sits in second place.
These results are in line with our own recent Fair Tax Foundation polling, which found that:
- three-quarters of respondents would rather shop with (74%) or work for (75%) businesses that can prove that they are paying their fair share of tax;
- nearly four in five (77%) believe all companies, whatever their size, should have to publicly disclose the taxes that they do or don’t pay in the UK;
- over two-thirds (66%) believe the Government and local councils should consider a company’s ethics and how they pay their tax, as well as value for money and quality of service provided when awarding contracts to companies.
A significantly heightened disquiet
There has been so much dialogue, debate and coverage on both corporation tax and bribery in the last year, and this has likely boosted public awareness of many relevant issues. From the progression of a global minimum tax rate to the Russian invasion of Ukraine highlighting the UK’s role as a global hub for dirty money and corruption.
Profit shifting by multinationals is still a regular feature across UK media. Stories of aggressive tax practices and corporations actively using tax havens are still commonplace, as public attention is perhaps further heightened by coverage of investors increasingly piling pressure on global corporations to disclose their tax activities and adopt public Country-by-Country reporting.
Add to all that the coverage of fraud suffered by the UK’s covid support schemes and a host of other headlines, and it’s easy to see why the British public has never been more concerned.
Businesses need to evidence their tax transparency
It's never been clearer that the British public wants business to do the right thing when it comes to tax.
We know the vast majority of businesses quietly get on with paying their fair share and recognise they help the communities in which they operate to deliver valuable public services like education, healthcare, policing, roads and more.
Unfortunately though, simply telling stakeholders that your business is doing this isn’t enough – they want proof.
Our latest UK public polling found that three quarters (74%) believe it’s important to celebrate those businesses who can demonstrate they pay the right amount of tax and who overtly shun the artificial use of tax havens and contrived tax avoidance practices.
Being able to show your business is engaging in responsible tax conduct is now more important than ever, and the businesses that come to us for our Fair Tax Mark accreditation know this too. To their customers, investors and employees they’ve been independently assessed and scored by an impartial organisation and have something solid to show for it. They’ve accomplished the gold standard of responsible tax conduct.
The public understands the value of an independent accreditation too. In our latest survey, nearly three times as many people trust the Fair Tax Mark as a company’s auditors to provide accurate information on whether a company was paying the right amount of tax.
What does the future hold?
We’re keeping an eye out for what the next set of IBE polling data reveals, and whether we’re still yet to see corporate tax avoidance concern peak.
Tax avoidance is a public issue that will not quietly go away, and that the IBE findings correlate to our own is not a coincidence.
To gain the trust of the British public, it’s up to businesses to show they’re paying the right amount, in the right place, at the right time.
Head of Communications, Fair Tax Foundation
Graham Drummond is the Head of Communications at the Fair Tax Foundation, which provides the Fair Tax Mark accreditation for businesses.