A detailed guide for investors and businesses seeking a more socially responsible approach to corporate tax has been published today by ActionAid.
The guide, Tax responsibility: an investor guide, timed to coincide with the spring AGM season, draws on the first comprehensive survey of the FTSE100’s tax policies, practices and reporting. It shows how aggressive tax practices are now generating reputational and regulatory risks for companies in developing countries as well as the UK. ActionAid hopes investors and other corporate stakeholders will use the criteria set out in the guide to probe and improve companies’ tax planning, management and practice.
In three sections, the guide summarises the risks for companies associated with aggressive tax practices, especially in developing countries. It outlines seven criteria on tax responsibility, providing questions investors can use to help determine a company's risk and performance.
Mike Lewis, ActionAid Tax Justice Policy Adviser, said: "Investors are demanding more information about the tax practices and positions of the companies they invest in. Everyone would benefit from clear benchmarks which allow companies to communicate their practices clearly, and investors to gauge risks.
"With aggressive tax policies undermining the ability of developing countries to tackle poverty, and increasing regulatory and reputational risks for both companies and investors, irresponsible tax behaviour is increasingly under the spotlight. Businesses, investors and governments need to find common interests and standards. That starts with investors seeking out tax-responsible businesses around the world."
ActionAid surveyed all 100 of the London Stock Exchange’s largest companies, (78 of which operate in developing countries), against these criteria and found that although many of the UK’s largest companies remain opaque, there are some emerging good practices. Some multinationals like Legal & General, now specifically rule out the use of tax structures deemed risky by revenue authorities. Some, like Centrica, go further than their legal requirements to report on their tax structures and positions around the world.
ActionAid has been campaigning on tax justice since 2008 because governments in some of the poorest countries we work in lose more money to tax havens than they receive in aid each year. This is money that could be invested in essential public services like teachers, doctors, roads and water.