Nick Shaxson ■ Quote of the day – on attitudes to corporate responsibility

Jolyon Maugham

Jolyon Maugham

Our quote of the day comes from Jolyon Maugham, a UK tax barrister. Our quote of the day is the bit in bold, which is a sign of how much success we and our allies have had in changing the debates:

Survey after survey places tax first amongst CSR concerns. Tax structured transactions are in near mortal decline. And litigating even vanilla transactions is perceived to carry prohibitive reputational risks. Yet a route to take matters forward remains elusive.

But here’s a prescription. Business needs to take the initiative. The defensive formulation – “we comply with all relevant tax laws” – will no longer do for a public inflamed on a diet of double Irish and Dutch sandwiches.

Boards need to take ownership of the tax issue. They should publish, with their annual reports, statements of tax policy. What strategy should the tax department pursue? What is the target rate of tax on corporate gains? Will the Group transact purely for tax advantages?”

Some good ideas in this last paragraph.

And now, a quote from our own director John Christensen, to illustrate just how far the thinking has moved, at least in Britain. It concerns a time when he stood up in a meeting about corporate responsibility at Chatham House in London in 2004, urged people to consider that large corporations should consider that paying tax was central to their claims of social responsibility.

“They looked me as if I’d left a dog turd in the middle of the table. When I sat down it felt like there was a 30 second silence, accompanied by looks of utter hostility from all around me. Oh boy. My knees were trembling, my blood was pounding.”

So there’s been some progress. There is plenty of grounds for continued skepticism, for sure, but progress it is.

More thinking on tax and corporate responsibility from David Quentin, here.



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Comments • 1

  • AvatarGeoffrey Willett
    April 3, 2015 - 10:16 pm

    I am naturally pro capitalism, as a bad system, but the best we’ve seen. You cannot blame a younger generation for looking at the behaviours of companies & tax advisors like KPMG, and deciding that it doesn’t work, we need something different.

    Not only the Googles of this world, but anyone who cheats on transfer pricing, just because they can use/abuse laws of several countries, to move all profits to low tax jurisdictions, they destroy the very economy, where they truly made their profits! It is illogical in the long term, if you don’t support the tax system of the well off countries, where you make your profits, then that country will be poorer & lead to lower incomes generally for the people & hence lower profits for the company.

    Look at the middle class in America, this taxt theft, has left all levels of US govt short of money to build/maintain infrastructure, pay teachers, firemen, public servants in general, with the top 1% ticking all their money overseas, or what remains in the US taxed at a ridiculous low %. You want revolution, keep going like this!

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