A “historic day” for the Fair Tax Mark at #ftm15

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A huge thank you to all who attended the Fair Tax Mark’s first ever conference #ftm15 on the 12th of June and to our sponsors MidCounties and SSE who helped make it happen. We’re still buoyant from all the positive energy created by bringing so many actors from the Fair Tax movement together, as Ed Mayo, General Secretary of Co-ops UK said, it was a ‘historic day’.

We had packed schedule of fantastic contributions ranging from NGOs to FTSE 100 companies. With so many headline acts, it was no wonder Paul Monaghan of Fair Tax kicked off proceedings by dubbing the day ‘the Glastonbury of tax’ – we even had a true tax rock-star on stage, Margaret Hodge, MP.

The veteran tax campaigner delivered a barnstorming speech about her time as the head of the Public Accounts Committee, recounting the way in which she took on giants such as Amazon, Google and Starbucks and forced them to reveal how they avoided paying billions in corporation tax.

Her talk urged civil society to keep up its work campaigning ‘to keep the tax nerve raw’ and to express the very real public anger on the issue, as well as stating firmly, that “tackling tax avoidance is not an anti-business agenda it’s a pro-fairness agenda”.

Business leaders for fair tax

The other headliners of the day were the superstar businesses who are leading by example and championing Fair Tax. Out of the 20 plus businesses now engaged with the Mark, we heard from

We learned that whilst these businesses had to take some ‘brave pills’ to help them put their heads above the parapet – signing up to the Mark actually makes perfect business sense.

They sent a clear message that doing the right thing with tax not only pays for the vital services a business needs to flourish but plays well with customers, employees and the wider community. Sudip Hazra of investement analysts Kepler Cheuvreux added that its also becoming important to growing numbers of shareholders who are concerned about the risks associated with tax avoidance.

As Brendan Rennet said, a business paying its fair share is a question of first principles “its about our legitimacy in the society that allows us to exist…”.

The case for reform

The conference also addressed the wider need for reform of the rules governing taxation. James Bowler, Head of Tax at HM Treasury, outlined the progress the government has made in closing loopholes, making new rules such as GAAR and DOTAS and taking a lead on transparency. But he also stressed that tax avoidance is not a problem for the UK alone and that international processes, such as the OECD’s BEPS process are key to the solution.

What more needs to be done?

We heard from:

Each participant welcomed, to different degrees, the steps towards reform taken both by the UK government and the OECDs Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action Plan. However it was argued that they’re not going far enough to stop the devastating impact of tax avoidance on developing countries, nor were they living up to the initial promise of greater corporate transparency in the form of public country-by-country reporting.

Country by country reporting is a key measure that will allow citizens to hold both companies and tax authorities to account. This idea was even backed by Jane McCormick, Head of Tax at accountancy firm KPMG. In addition Jane acknowledged that big business was being forced to change its way because of civil society pressure.

However, new laws are no good without the means to implement them and Cathy Cross, National Campaigns Officer at PCS, the union that represents the majority of workers at HMRC, finished the session with a sobering reminder that HMRC has been cut from nearly 100,000 staff in 2005 to around 50,000 today. “Cutting HMRC jobs is the economics of the madhouse not the economics of recovery,” she said.

Workshop sessions

The afternoon saw workshops held on:

Final thoughts of the day were given by:

Fair tax pledge

The event also saw the launch of our new initiative, the Fair Tax Pledge. This is a chance for individuals to make a public declaration that they’ll do the right thing when it comes to tax. Have you signed yet? Why not challenge your MP or another public to sign too?

Looking to the future

All in all, the conference was proof that we have come a long way in less than a year and half. As more and more businesses join the Fair Tax Mark movement, the message will continue to get stronger. We look forward to an even bigger and better event next year.

If you want to find out more about business accreditation, click here.