December 10, 2013, by ICCSR

Tax is for Life, not just for Christmas?

In November 2013 the Institute of Business Ethics announced that in its latest survey of public opinion on corporate responsibility tax was now the number one issue of concern, having succeeded in knocking director remuneration off the top-spot which it had held for six years.

This was an extraordinary finding. Six years ago tax and corporate responsibility was an issue of concern to a small group of people – of whom I was one. A decade ago it was an issue for a mere handful of us who launched the Tax Justice Network in 2003. We have come a long way since then.

Google, Amazon and Starbucks – stories I was involved with – did, of course, help us along the way and so too did the economic crisis from 2008 onwards but what the IBE finding has confirmed is that this issue has moved off the news pages, which is where it was when UK Uncut sat in Vodafone stores, via the business pages and into the corporate boardroom.

For many companies this will present an enormous challenge. The long held belief, frequently stated by many Chief Financial Officers and tax directors, that a company has an absolute duty to its shareholders to do whatever it can to minimise the tax that it pays has been shattered, not least by the UK’s new General Anti-Abuse Rule, in the development of which I played a part. But that leaves a great many confused companies and advisers who are now wondering just what they should do to meet the demand for corporate tax responsibility.

I’m delighted to have been asked to the ICSSR to give their Christmas lecture this week. I will focus on this issue of tax and corporate responsibility but that means a lot of other issues will have to be touched upon including theories of tax, the economics of corporate taxation, how we account for tax and why tax is an issue of concern for the corporate responsibility agenda.

This is a new issue, on the boundaries of corporate responsibility. For that reason I hope to leave plenty of time for discussion. But what I hope to do is provoke that debate. Please join in.

Richard Murphy 
Director, Tax Research UK

Update 12/12/2013 – Richard’s lecture notes are now available on his blog

Posted in EVENTS at the ICCSR