Co-operatives have joined a call to address tax dodging by multinational companies. The campaign, which is supported by a coalition of 17 British organisations, is asking all political parties to pledge to introduce a new Bill to tackle corporate tax dodging.
The Tax Dodging Bill campaign aims to make it harder for big companies to dodge UK taxes, stop them from getting unjustified tax breaks and make the UK tax regime more transparent.
Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said: “Responsibility is one of the core co-operative values and in today’s world that must include paying taxation in a fair and equitable way. As such, Co-operatives UK fully supports all measures, which help ensure that businesses pay their fair share of tax.
“Co-operatives have been at the forefront of the campaign for financial fair play and tax transparency. Our members have put their money where their mouth is by gaining Fair Tax Mark accreditation.”
Tax avoidance costs the UK economy £19.1bn a year. Launched with support from co-operative enterprises, the Fair Tax Mark is the world’s first independent scheme for businesses that are transparent about their tax affairs.
“Midcounties Co-operative, the Phone Co-op and Unity Trust Bank were all Fair Tax Mark pioneers, setting the standard for others to follow by demonstrating their own fair tax credentials. It may seem astonishing that we are even having this debate on tax-dodging – for or against – and it does suggest something is badly awry in terms of the values of corporate Britain,” added Mr Mayo.
Paul Monaghan, director of Up the Ethics and corporate responsibility specialist at Fair Tax Mark, also thinks that the new campaign could help address the issue of tax avoidance. He said: “It’s no surprise to see that co-operatives and social enterprises are front and centre on this important new campaign. Midcounties Co-operative, Unity Trust Bank, Co-operative Energy and the Phone Co-op have all come out in support of the Tax Dodging Bill campaign principles and the need for the UK to tighten up regulation to ensure that business can less easily avoid paying their fair share of tax here and in the developing world.
“As Fair Tax Mark-certified enterprises, they are all publicly committed to paying the right amount of tax in the right place at the right time – however, they recognise that some other businesses are not. Alongside progressive trade bodies Co-operatives UK and Social Enterprise UK, they are calling on the next government to give serious consideration to the provisions of this Bill and stamp out aggressive, artificial tax avoidance.”
The Phone Co-op is among those co-ops pioneering the Fair Tax Mark and backing the Tax Dodging Bill, which chief executive Vivian Woodell calls “an excellent initiative”.
“The Phone Co-op agrees with the Tax Dodging Bill campaign and the need for the UK to tighten up regulation to ensure that big companies can less easily avoid paying their fair share of tax,” he said. “As a Fair Tax Mark certified co-operative, we are publicly committed to paying the right amount of tax in the right place at the right time – however, some other businesses are not. We call on the next government to give serious consideration to the provisions of this Bill, and stamp out aggressive, artificial tax avoidance.”
The Tax Dodging Bill is backed by a number of organisations, including ActionAid, NUS, Oxfam, Christian Aid and the Equality Trust. They launched a policy paper that explains how a well-crafted Tax Dodging Bill could bring in at least £3.6bn a year to the UK treasury. The Bill also aims to address the issue of British companies avoiding tax in developing countries.
Nick Bryer, head of UK campaigns at Oxfam said: “The fact that some of the world’s biggest companies are dodging their taxes, while a nearly a billion people are still going hungry, is scandalous. To fund the fight against poverty and to tackle increasingly extreme inequality, we need to make sure big companies are paying their fair share, here and in the world’s poorest countries.”
More than 85% of British adults think tax avoidance by large companies is morally wrong even if it is legal, and 78% agree that large UK companies should pay their fair share of tax in developing countries in which they operate.