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Coming soon: Fair Tax Fortnight

Apr 16

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16/04/2018 13:33  RssIcon

Fair Tax Mark CEO Paul Monaghan talks tax and upcoming events

In 2014 Ethical Consumer co-founded the Fair Tax Mark and this year we're helping them launch the first annual Fair Tax Fortnight, which kicks off with the Fair Tax Mark annual conference.

We recently caught up with the new Fair Tax Mark CEO Paul Monaghan to talk about the Mark, their up coming events and the shifting attitude of businesses towards paying a fair share of tax.

 

 

Can you give us an update on where FTM is at the moment in terms of the number of companies signed up and how you see the organisation developing over the next year?

Some forty businesses have now secured the Fair Tax Mark – including FTSE-listed corporations (such as SSE and Marshalls), large private businesses (such as Lush), social enterprises (such as the Co-op and Ecology Building Society) and small private corporations (such as Paper Tiger and Combat Pest Control).

Recent accreditations include high-street chains Richer Sounds and AMT Coffee – which means that around 4,500 shops and offices around the UK are now covered by the Fair Tax Mark.

On top of that, we have a further dozen business progressing certification and we are starting to see the emergence of Fair Tax Marks in other countries.

Interest in the Mark is on the up, and this will increase exponentially with the advent of our first ever Fair Tax Fortnight.

What is the thinking behind Fair Tax Fortnight, what are you hoping to achieve?

Corporation Tax is often presented as a burden, but it shouldn’t be. Not when considered against the huge array of public services it helps fund - from education, health and old-age care, through to flood defence, roads and policing. It also plays a crucial role in holding the whole tax system together – helping to counter financial inequalities and rebalance distorted economies.

All too often, tax makes the headlines for the wrong reasons. There is an almost daily stream of stories of evasion and aggressive avoidance - which not only distort our economy but also undermine the opportunity for business to compete fairly.

It is estimated that €600bn of corporate profits are annually shifted to tax havens, with corporate tax revenue losses globally of €200bn per year. Polls of consumers and the public consistently reveal that one of their biggest concerns about business is the fair payment of tax.

Fair Tax Fortnight will celebrate the companies and organisations that are seeking to do the right thing and are proud to pay their fair share of Corporation Tax – i.e., businesses that pay the right amount of Corporation Tax at the right time and in the right place, and who overtly shun the artificial use of tax havens and contrived tax avoidance practices. It will also celebrate and explore the positive contribution that Corporation Tax makes to society, and how this might be optimised.

 

How will the Fortnight work and how can people get involved?

The Fortnight will be supported by a dedicated online platform.

We are encouraging businesses and supporting organisations to organise events during the Fortnight, which we will then upload and promote.

If you would like to arrange an event of your own and have it promoted, please let us know via the easy-to-use forms on the new section of our website.  We will also soon be sharing materials that will enable supporters to engage with the Fortnight via press and social media, and advance the case for tax justice in their locality.

And there will be a Marquee opening Conference in London, on June 7th. It will feature leaders from business, academia, politics and campaigning – who will explore key topics such as responsible tax planning, how to tackle tax avoidance and the case for Corporation Tax. There will also be a range of engaging workshops that will provide access to cutting-edge practitioners and thought-leaders.

 

 

In your conversations with business leaders are you starting to see a shift in the way that they talk and engage with you over the issue of Corporation Tax?

Yes, it’s not just the public that are concerned about tax dodging – numerous business leaders are proud to work for companies that pay the right amount of tax in the right place at the right time, and they find it distasteful that less scrupulous competitors are trying to steal a march by not paying their due taxes.

As with any relatively new certification scheme, initially many business leaders were a little wary of engaging with us – especially as no business has yet secured a Fair Tax Mark without making changes. But as we have grown, and its plain to see that accredited businesses return to us year after year for their re-certification, we are finding that business leaders are emboldened and newly motivated to take a positive public stance on this issue.

 

If you had to give businesses one piece of advice around how they report and communicate their tax paying to their stakeholders what would it be?

Well the first piece of advice would be for them to pursue Fair Tax Mark accreditation!

But outside of that, we would suggest business establish a publicly available tax policy that clearly sets out their approach to the use of tax havens and tax avoidance schemes. We are also clear, that when talking about ‘tax paid’, a business needs to differentiate deferred tax (which may or may not be paid in the future) with current tax (where there is a solid obligation to pay).

 

Do you think that the government and HMRC are starting to take the issue of Corporation Tax avoidance more seriously? And how do you view this government's approach to the issue?

Yes, the UK Government has certainly shown a much greater appetite to take action in recent years on both tax evasion and tax avoidance – the leadership shown on registers of beneficial ownership is one example. This is in large part due to pressure exerted by voters and ethical consumers who have said ‘enough is enough’.
But there is so much more that is needed – such as companies being required to publish a country-by-country breakdown of the income, profits and taxes paid. Only then will we be better able to hold the likes of Google to account for their profit-shifting to low tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions.

 

How do you see the narrative of debate around Fair Tax changing over the next 5 yrs? In what direction would you as an organisation like to push it?

We aim to challenge head-on the narrative that tax is a burden to be reduced, and provide an opportunity for business to pursue best practice and shout about it. The more a vocal set of businesses stand up against tax avoidance, the more likely politicians are to take the necessary legislative action; and, agencies such as HMRC, are to implement legislation robustly. Which in turn advances the cause of a resilient, sustainable and fair economy for the UK.

Groups like the Ethical Consumer have done a great job over the last decade identifying the tax dodgers who need to be shamed and shunned. The Fair Tax Mark and the pending Fair Tax Fortnight are looking to help people additionally identify and celebrate those business who have taken a more responsible path.

 

 

About Paul Monaghan

Paul was a co-founder of the Fair Tax Mark in 2014, and became Chief Executive in September 2017. Previously, he was architect of much of the UK co-operative movement’s ethical and environmental excellence for nearly two decades. The rise and fall of Wigan Athletic keeps him awake at night.

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