Consumers more concerned with corporate tax avoidance than ethical issues

21 July 2014

When you are selecting a product, what criteria do you use to choose one product over another? Leaving personal preference aside, things like price and quality are front runners. But then what? After sustained campaigns by organisations such as Tax Research UK or Ethical Consumer, the importance of corporate tax avoidance on purchasing decisions may just surprise you.

New research by YouGov for KPMG’s newly launched Consumer Insights Panel suggests that corporate tax avoidance is more important to consumers in their buying decisions than other ethical considerations, like treatment of suppliers and staff.

The survey of 2,000 people found that although price (52%) and quality (39%) were top determining factors, one in four (25%) cited corporate tax avoidance activities as something they would take into consideration when selecting brands and products. This means that a company’s attitude towards paying tax therefore holds greater sway than treating suppliers (18%) and staff (17%) fairly, environmental impact (15%) and charitable giving (2%) in the eyes of consumers.

While this is bad news for tax avoidance offenders- the most high profile of whom, such as Starbucks and Amazon, have suffered boycotting campaigns, others like John Lewis have been using their tax-paying status as a marketing tool. And it seems to be working. However, consumers sometimes feel their right to choose is being impeded by their lack of knowledge. Half of respondents said they wanted greater transparency over which multinational company owned which brand names, to help them choose the most tax-ethical brands.

Liz Claydon, head of consumer markets at KPMG said “In the past, one of the reasons that companies haven’t been transparent about corporate branding is that the link can potentially be seen to be damaging.” However, she added that “most big multinational companies now absolutely want to link their products to their corporate brand.” Presumably, however, she means the ones who aren't avoiding all their UK corporation tax...


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