Launched in February 2014, the Fair Tax Mark is the world’s first independent accreditation scheme for businesses that are transparent about their tax affairs. It is estimated that tax avoidance costs the UK economy £19.1bn a year.
The Phone Co-op, Unity Trust Bank and the Midcounties Co-operative were the first to receive the Fair Tax Mark accreditation. In joining them, SSE has become the first FTSE business to receive a fair tax award.
The mark was launched with support from co-operative businesses. Commenting on the success of the initiative, Co-operatives UK secretary general, Ed Mayo, said: “The Fair Tax Mark pioneers, who are all members of Co-operatives UK, should be proud to have led the way in financial fair play and tax transparency.
“Fair tax is the new fair trade. All it takes is for consumers – people who are taxpayers themselves – to back the companies that pay what they owe.”
Chief executive of the Phone Co-op, Vivian Woodell, said he hoped the mark would gain more exposure with the accreditation of SSE. He said: “The Phone Co-op has always taken the view that we should pay our fair share of taxes. Co-operatives are responsible, corporate citizens and we understand that you don’t get a decent society free of charge.
“Sadly, in the telecoms industry there are many examples of corporate tax avoidance on a large scale, some of which have been widely publicised.
“We know that the public in general is sick of this behaviour by businesses. We are proud to be part of the Fair Tax Mark, which is all about setting good standards and we are delighted that SSE has decided to join us, adding weight to this important movement for responsible corporate behaviour in the area of taxation.”
Richard Murphy, director of the Fair Tax Mark thinks the mark could become as successful as the Fairtrade mark. He said: “We anticipate that the accreditation of a major FTSE 100 company will prove to be a game-changer for the reporting of responsible tax planning in the UK.
“Corporation tax avoidance costs the UK economy billions a year – money that is needed to support vital health, education and social security services in this country.”
“The award of the Fair Tax Mark to SSE is especially welcome given that the company has significantly enhanced the tax disclosure notes within its financial statements and, as a result, has established new benchmarks for corporate disclosure. It has set a standard that other UK-based companies, including multinationals, now need to match.”
To be awarded the Fair Tax Mark, businesses need to comply with a set of criteria, including providing more information than is currently required under the UK company law. This also helps to ensure all stakeholders have access to the necessary details regarding the enterprise’s tax affairs.
Gregor Alexander, SSE’s finance director highlighted the importance of having a third party accrediting the company for tax disclosure.
“SSE has always been open about its tax,” he said, but we’ve taken our transparency to a new level following the advice received from the Fair Tax Mark.”