Tackling tax dodging at the Lib Dem Party Conference | ActionAid UK

All the political parties spoke about tackling tax dodging at their Party Conferences this month. The question is - will any Party insist that the poorest countries benefit from global tax reforms?

Barry Johnston, ActionAid's Head of Advocacy with Tessa Munt MP at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference
Barry Johnston, ActionAid's Head of Advocacy with Tessa Munt MP at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference

The ActionAid Advocacy team took our Party Conference show on the road one last time last week, heading to the Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow. As Party faithfuls gathered to vote on Liberal Democrat policy and regroup ahead of next year’s General Election, the air was one of quiet confidence in another coalition after the Polls in May.

Hot off the heels of George Osborne’s announcement of ‘the Google tax’ – a tax to stop technology companies from dodging corporation taxes — the Lib Dems were, unsurprisingly, keen to take some credit for their efforts as part of the coalition, with Danny Alexander making his own announcements on clamping down on tax avoidance.

A race to the top on tax avoidance?

Tessa Munt MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Vince Cable at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, took a strong stance at our fringe event on tax dodging, ‘Race to the Top on Tax Avoidance in 2015’. In her speech she said that the Conservative Conference had indicated that “tax was for the little people”.

Deborah Hargreaves of the High Pay Centre spoke about corporate capture of the tax system, writing tax legislation, “in its own interests.” The event and our Tax Justice Campaign received a ‘cautious’ stamp of approval from speaker Carl Bayley, Chair of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales’ Tax Faculty, who called for a “fair and transparent tax system where everyone pays their fair share”.

It isn’t just politicians who need to worry about public anger 

Half the audience had boycotted companies accused of tax avoidance. In fact, we know that 84% of the public are angry at corporate tax avoidance, blaming politicians as well as companies. Politicians know this too. Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, George Osborne, David Cameron, Danny Alexander and Vince Cable all briefly referred to clamping down on tax dodging during their conference speeches.

Nick Clegg was no exception. Wrapping up conference season on Wednesday, tax dodging made a brief appearance, with a pledge to “close loopholes that unfairly benefit those at the top.” What ActionAid supporters want to know is, will the poorest countries that need these funds the most be a part of this process?

Talking to Party members, one thing is clear. Anger at the colossal injustice of multinationals finding ways to contribute less while ordinary people foot the bill isn’t going anywhere. The question is, will the political Parties heed the public’s call and put tax dodging front and centre of their policies? Any Party that does, and means it, will reap the rewards.

Take action now to keep up the pressure on Party leaders. Get your community on board the Towns Against Tax Dodging Campaign