Christian Aid is stepping up its project to gauge what FTSE 100 companies think about how multinationals’ tax practices affect developing countries.
Last week, the UK-based international development agency emailed thousands of its British supporters, asking them to encourage leading firms such as Marks & Spencer, Rolls Royce, BT and Barclays to respond to a Christian Aid survey about tax and development.
"We have written to all the FTSE 100 companies, seeking their views on questions such as whether businesses have a social responsibility to pay tax in poor countries and whether they would support the introduction of a new, more transparent accounting standard," explained Judith Cavanagh, Christian Aid’s campaign manager for economic justice.
She added: "We are genuinely keen to know what these leading companies think and we are asking our supporters to get in touch with them and encourage them to respond to our survey. We have already heard from a few major firms but we would very much like more companies to give us their perspectives."
The Christian Aid survey asks companies what they think about the relationship between corporate tax payments and the development of poor countries. The survey also asks firms to give their views on the possible introduction of a new accounting standard called country-by-country reporting, which would require multinationals to publish information about the profits they make and the taxes they pay in every country where they operate. That way, tax anomalies could be more quickly spotted, says the NGO.
Christian Aid says it believes that this procedure would help developing countries to collect more of the tax revenue that they are owed and that this, in turn, would increase funding for public services such as schools, hospitals and sanitation.
Tax dodging by unscrupulous companies trading internationally costs developing countries some $160 bilion in lost tax revenue every year, according to Christian Aid.
The total sum is around one-and-a-half times the total amount of foreign aid that poor countries receive every year. If it were allocated according to current spending patterns, then it could save the lives of 350,000 children under five annually.
Christian Aid is also highlighting the desirability of poor countries’ governments being able to collect domestic taxes more effectively. It says this would increase their accountability to their own citizens.
For more information on Christian Aid’s tax campaign, go to www.christianaid.org.uk/tax