The UK’s first ever Fair Tax Fortnight (June 9-24) set out to celebrate those companies and organisations that are proud to pay their fair share of corporation tax, and to explore the positive contribution this makes to society.
I’m delighted to say that it did this and then some.
As you might expect, Fair Tax Mark certified organisations where at the forefront of events. Dozens of business (big and small) gathered at the opening conference on June 7th; which was kindly sponsored by SSE plc, with key contributions from the Co-op, Marshalls, Combat Pest Control and Ethical Consumer. Elsewhere, Fair Tax awareness days were organised by the Eighth Day and Unicorn Grocery, whilst Dulas, Ecology Building Society, Midcounties, Phone Coop, The Co-operative Party, Unity Trust Bank and Winder Power were all prominent champions on social media.
Civil society backed the Fortnight in a big way, especially Tax Justice UK, the Tax Justice Network, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Equality Trust and the Women’s Budget Group – with roundtable discussions, debates and film showings organised. We even saw the emergence of “Tax Justice Sunday” midway through the Fortnight, which precipitated debates on local and national radio. Church Action for Tax Justice produced bespoke worship materials to enable faith groups to get involved, including hymns, prayers and bible studies.
We received resounding support from thought leaders across the political spectrum. Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Responsible Tax said: “We hope to see Fair Tax Fortnight become an established part of the calendar, just like Fairtrade Fortnight and Living Wage Week, where organisations that do the right thing when it comes to tax are not only recognised but celebrated. Meg Hiller MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee said: ”What we want to see is the Fair Tax Mark everywhere!”, and a supporting motion was raised at the Scottish Parliament.
There was lots of positive press coverage, not least when we released new polling, which found that seven in ten of the public would rather shop with a business or work for a business which can prove it’s paying its fair share of tax; and nearly two-thirds of people would trust a business with the Fair Tax Mark more than one without it. Three quarters of those questioned supported a call for all companies, whatever their size, to publicly disclose the taxes that they do or don’t pay in the UK, and 6 in 10 believe that the Government and local councils should consider a company’s ethics and how they pay their tax as well as value for money and quality of service provided – with just 15% agreeing that contracts should be awarded regardless of ethics and tax conduct. Currently, tax conduct is rarely, if ever, factored into public procurement.
And last but not least, seven new organisations secured Fair Tax Mark certification during Fair Tax Fortnight – Timpson Group, TUC, Earl Shilton Building Society, Ethical Screening, Ethical Investors, Convivio, Wild Things Drama and the TUC.
This takes the total number of certified Fair Tax Mark outlets and offices to over 6,500, who between them have a combined turnover of almost £50 billion. James Timpson, Chief Executive, Timpson Group marked the occasion by saying: “We are happy and proud to pay our taxes and have always strived to pay tax in the spirit of the law, rather than pursue tax avoidance schemes, which albeit legal, hardly promote a level playing field or a fair contribution to the communities in which we trade. Achieving accreditation from the Fair Tax Mark and ensuring our standards towards tax are the highest they can be, is just one way we can demonstrate to our customers and colleagues our commitment to being a responsible organisation.”
So, all in all, the UK’s first ever celebration of responsible tax was a great success. This was in part because it was well supported by the Friends Provident Foundation and the Joffe Charitable Trust – for which we are deeply grateful. We’ll almost certainly be running an equivalent event in the summer of 2019, with the precise dates announced towards the end of this year.
Paul Monaghan, Chief Executive, Fair Tax Mark