Can you avoid the tax avoiders?

Richer Sounds - one of the Fair Tax Mark accredited high street retailers

Tax avoidance; a huge issue that’s not going away. Tax matters. It helps to fund vital public services, and when paid fairly, ensures a level playing field for businesses large and small.

Our research found that seven in ten of the public would rather shop (69%), or work for a business (70%) which can prove it’s paying its fair share of tax; and three quarters (74%) supported a call for all companies of all sizes to publicly disclose the taxes they pay in the UK.

Richer Sounds - one of the Fair Tax Mark accredited high street retailersYet despite these sentiments, the growing market worth of the most notorious tax avoiders show that their misconduct has yet to hit their bottom-line. Worryingly, our research also found that younger adults, under 35’s, are far less likely to see tax avoidance as an issue.

How do we get Millenials and Generation Z to take on the cause in the same way they have others, like support for renewable energy? Because it’s no coincidence that Apple boast that they are “globally powered by 100 percent renewable energy”; Amazon’s Jeff Bezos posts videos of himself atop their latest wind-farm; and Google proudly declare that that they have exceeded the target for their operations to run on 100 percent renewable power.

If consumers could be mobilised to encourage an end to the brazen tax avoidance practiced by the same companies, this might be similarly game changing.

For change to happen it’s often necessary for ‘good guys’ to show via positive example what’s possible.

That’s why we focus less on boycotts and more on championing businesses paying tax responsibly. Choosing to use the products and services of Fair Tax Mark certified firms is a great way to show you care about tax justice.

Lush were one of the first businesses to secure the Fair Tax Mark, which is particularly impressive given they operate in 49 countries. So you can enjoy their bath bombs and bubble bars with a clean conscience.

The Co-Op Group is another national high-street brand committed to responsible tax practices, which extend to not only their food retail outlets, but the insurance and funeral businesses as well. The same goes for a host of regional co-op societies such as Scotmid, East of England and Midcounties. The latter even operate a chain of childcare nurseries – creating cradle to grave fair tax options!

Buying online doesn’t mean you have to forgo ethical shopping. If you’re looking for electronic goods, say a TV, headphones or home cinema equipment, then Richer Sounds, with its high street and online stores is a great option.

Dry cleaning, key cutting, shoe repairs, photo printing and even locksmith services are available across the UK via 2,000 stores in the Timpson Group; the latest retailer to receive Fair Tax Mark certification.

Whilst some coffee chains might have been in the press for tax avoidance, AMT Coffee, with 53 outlets in train stations, airports and NHS hospitals are proud to pay their fair share, so you can get a caffeine hit from a business contributing to the public services we all rely on.

Financial services are a growth area, with Earl Shilton and Ecology Building Societies, Unity Trust Bank and Ethical Investors all certified – opening up everything from mortgages and savings products through to financial advice.

SSE, the UK’s leading generator of electricity from renewable sources, were the first FTSE100 business to secure fair tax accreditation. They make a great option for utilities and telecomms, as do Co-op Energy and the Phone Co-op.

The Fair Tax Mark isn’t the only way to help identify businesses doing the right thing. The team at Ethical Consumer painstakingly research the ethical credentials of thousands of products and services, from electric cars, to restaurants and chocolate bars. Tax practice is one of the key areas they assess, so you can, for a small subscription, create your own personal ethical rating system positioning tax alongside other issues, such as workers rights, or animal welfare.

And, if you’ve got time, talk to your MP – let them know tax is an issue you care about. Ultimately, we need Parliament to close the numerous loopholes that immoral businesses exploit to artificially reduce their tax contributions. Organisations like Tax Justice UK have content ready to help you have that conversation. Because when we’re positive about tax we can make a difference.

This article was first published in inews.