Could the new ‘FairTrade’ badge be a ‘FairTax’ one?
Tax avoidance is still rumbling around as a moral dilemma of our time, with big companies unrepentant of their actions, protesting that they are merely acting in the letter of the law. And from the companies’ perspective, surely if they didn’t try and minimise their tax bill, the directors would be negligent in their duty to provide their shareholders with as much profit as possible. That’s capitalism, folks.
Of course, particularly in Starbucks’ case, it is the sheer scale and audacity of the avoidance that has seemingly rubbed people up the wrong way, with gleeful reports of Starbucks’ approval rating dropping off a never-before witnessed cliff. However, it remains to be seen whether this fall in popularity actually translates into something Starbucks will care about- unless people feel strongly enough to stop buying their coffee and hit them where it hurts (in the profits), they couldn’t care less if you think they are a bit naughty.
Earlier this month, we reported how Lin Homer, Chair of HMRC, seemed to suggest that HMRC were powerless, or at least power-feeble, to prevent tax avoidance and that the most effective way of forcing companies to ‘do the right thing’ was to boycott their services. While an empty Starbucks next door to a rammed (UK taxpaying) Costa might pass on a message, it is more difficult to stage a visible boycott of online services, like Amazon.
Now Michael White, writing in The Guardian, is suggesting an alternative way – an anti-boycott if you like. Rather than targeting the ne’er-do-wells, why not highlight those companies, or individuals, who do pay a reasonable amount of tax. He likens it to the fair trade badging- if you can choose to buy a fair trade banana, why can’t customers also choose to shop at a FairTax retailer?
Sounds great in theory, but would it work? Last week a survey suggested that 88% of consumers held Amazon and Ebay responsible for the demise of Comet, with 64% believing these retailers could charge lower prices because they didn’t pay UK tax. However, 71% of respondents said they would continue to shop at Amazon and Ebay anyway.
So what do you think? Would badges for the Good Guys work, or are you purely driven by price efficiency? Have you actively boycotted a recently outed tax-avoider, or have you carried on carrying on as normal?