Majority of Britains say tax avoidance 'morally wrong'

By agency reporter
18 Aug 2012

New research has revealed that 56 per cent of British adults believe that tax avoidance by multinational companies (MNCs), while a technically legal way of reducing what they owe the taxman, is morally wrong, and half of people think it should be made illegal. Only four per cent of those polled thought tax avoidance by MNCs was "morally justifiable" and only four per cent described such practices as "fair".

The survey of attitudes to tax avoidance commissioned by Christian Aid shows public support for Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s view that such practices are "morally repugnant". However many of the 2,026 people questioned in the survey by ComRes do not think these strong words are being matched with Government action.

Three quarters (74 per cent) felt that David Cameron should be demanding international action to tackle tax evasion and avoidance, yet just two in five respondents to the survey (38 per cent) believe the Government is genuine in their desire to combat tax avoidance. There was also a clear view that companies should be more transparent as 81 per cent of those polled believed MNCs accounts should be more transparent and publicly available. Some 79 per cent of people polled said it was too easy for MNCs in the UK to avoid paying tax.

The results show that the majority see this as a development, as well as domestic, issue for the Government. More than half those asked (55 per cent) believe that the British government should make helping developing countries combat tax avoidance a greater priority than it is at present.

The ComRes poll marks the launch of a Tax Justice bus tour of the UK and Ireland on 24 August at Greenbelt, organised by both Christian Aid and Church Action on Poverty, to highlight the damage that tax abuse causes in countries rich and poor alike.

Christian Aid research estimates tax dodging by some unscrupulous multinational companies costs developing countries at least $160 billion a year, far more than the total global aid budget – money which could go on health and education. Church Action on Poverty says tax dodging in the UK deprives the government of funds to support vital services.

The Tax Justice Bus will be making over 100 stops from Falmouth to Inverness and Dover to Belfast from 24 August through to 15 October. Politicians, church leaders and thousands of campaigners and members of the public will be invited to step aboard and show their support for an end to tax dodging.

The charities want people to ‘Tick for tax Justice’ by signing a petition that calls on the Prime Minister to push for measures that would require:

· Companies to report on the profits they make and taxes they pay in every country in which they operate.

· Tax havens to share automatically information about the money flowing through them with other countries.

A number of UK Churches have thrown their support behind the Tax Justice Bus.

Secretary for External Relationships for the Methodist Church, Chris Elliott, added:"‘Mission is about the manifestation of God’s love and justice in today’s world.

"Every Christian should be actively involved in the tax justice campaign, fully in the tradition of the abolition of slavery, the anti-apartheid movement and making poverty history. If we really want to make poverty history we need to take tax justice seriously."

The Bishop of Derby, Rt Rev Alastair Redfern, said: "I am very pleased to support the campaign for tax justice.

"Every year billions of pounds in tax revenue is diverted from the developing world by multinational companies - money which could be used to develop a modern infrastructure. The Tax Justice bus tour will ensure that this serious global issue is kept in the public domain."

Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain urged Christians to pray that tax dodging would be addressed. "I am very grateful for the way in which Christian Aid doesn’t shy away from tough messages", he said.

"The Tax Justice Bus is a brilliant way of getting across the hard-hitting message that tax dodging harms the lives of millions of the most vulnerable people in the world.

"I hope that this initiative will help to raise the profile of this important issue and I trust that everyone will pray that the campaign will succeed."

Helen Drewery from the Society of Friends said: "Quakers in Britain are deeply committed to working for justice and equality, seeing such work as an essential part of our faith. So we welcome the tax justice bus tour, as part of the wider campaign to close the gap between rich and poor."

Joseph Stead, Senior Economic Justice Advisor at Christian Aid, said: "This poll shows there is a huge public appetite for international action to tackle tax dodging both domestically and in developing countries. The public are clear that the government is not acting sufficiently, and that companies need to open their books more."

Of those opposed to tax avoidance, (those who think it is either immoral, should be illegal or is unfair) 67 per cent said one of their main concerns was that tax avoidance meant there was less money for governments to spend on public services, 33 per cent said that it meant governments had less money to tackle poverty, 28 per cent said that it damaged the reputation of all multinationals, and 25 per cent were concerned that it made developing countries more reliant on aid.

Some 75 per cent of people polled said MNCs enjoyed more lenient treatment from the tax man than individuals received, and two thirds (65 per cent) believed closing legal tax loopholes should be a greater international development priority for the British Government than funding infrastructure in developing countries.

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