UK public strongly supports responsible tax conduct in latest Fair Tax Week polling data (but there’s a little twist)

By June 11, 2022News

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Graham Drummond
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This week sees us excitedly kicking off Fair Tax Week 2022 in the UK, sponsored by Pennon Group and Leeds Building Society.

So many businesses are already aware of the vital contribution their corporation tax makes to the public services we all rely on, and will be stepping forward to say what they pay with pride as Fair Tax Week rolls on. But here’s something else to celebrate – fresh data shows the UK public overwhelmingly backs responsible tax conduct too.

A few days ago I had the pleasure of standing at the lectern at our Fair Tax Week conference in London, discussing this immensely positive polling data. Before I got to it, I began with some recent findings from the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE), where corporate tax avoidance was voted the most important ethical issue by the UK public for the ninth (NINTH!) consecutive year. With 47% of people rocketing the issue to the top of the table, it marks an all-time high. It’s crystal clear there’s huge public appetite to support those businesses paying the right amount of tax, in the right place and at the right time.

To the delight of the businesses listening keenly in the auditorium, our findings echoed this hunger. From our polling, carried out just last month, the vast majority would rather shop with (74%) or work for (75%) those businesses which can prove they’re paying their fair share of tax. Brilliant!

Three quarters of respondents also (74%) believe it’s important to celebrate those businesses who can demonstrate that they pay the right amount of tax and who overtly shun the artificial use of tax havens and contrived tax avoidance practices. As we embark upon a week of highlighting those companies championing a level playing field for business through responsible tax conduct, it’s absolutely fantastic to know the public rightfully recognise their effort.

Fair Tax Mark accredited companies attending our conference were also over the moon to hear that nearly three times as many people trusted the certification (38%) as a company’s auditors (14%) to provide accurate information on whether a company was paying the right amount of tax. That’s second only to HMRC, and shows the rapid progress the Fair Tax Mark has made in establishing itself over a short period of time.

The strong sentiments don’t stop there either! Our polling also found:

  • Four in five (80%) believe that all businesses benefiting from government bailouts should have to agree to a set of conditions that prohibit tax avoidance and enforce responsible tax conduct
  • Nearly four in five (77%) believe all companies, whatever their size, should have to publicly disclose the taxes that they do or don’t pay in the UK
  • Over two thirds (66%) believe the Government and local councils should at least consider a company’s ethics and how they pay their tax, as well as value for money and quality of service provided, when awarding contracts to companies

Within these responses though, is a recurring theme that raised eyebrows around the auditorium as I brought it up: young adults (18-24) seem to feel less strongly about responsible tax conduct compared to older respondents. While the majority of ALL age groups, including that demographic, strongly support responsible tax conduct, there was consistently a gap. Sometimes it reached a whopping 34 percentage points!  Here are a couple of examples:

  • While 80% overall wanted to see businesses benefiting from a government bailout agree to a set of conditions that enforce responsible tax conduct, only 63% of 18-24s concurred the same – compared to an incredible 94% of people aged 75+
  • As mentioned above, 77% of people believe all companies, whatever their size, should have to publicly disclose the taxes they do or don’t pay in the UK. This saw 58% of young people agreeing, compared to 92% of the 75+ demographic

At the Fair Tax Foundation we’re asking ourselves why there is this age gap. For example, is it because younger adults don’t use public services to the same degree at that point in their lives?

I’m so pleased that this public data further reinforces responsible tax conduct as something businesses cannot afford to overlook. Important for Fair Tax Week, but just as vital beyond.