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Global attention has turned to tax, tax efficiency and tax evasion in recent months and predictably tax is also one of the main focuses of the upcoming G8 discussions in Northern Ireland. In a globalised world, countries compete against each other to attract big business and the tax environment is an important factor in this. It is a subject that has also come under the consumer spotlight – Amazon, Starbucks and Google are just a few examples of companies that have come under the public eye as a result of their tax planning. The backlash against companies who are perceived not to “pay their fair share” is likely to continue and many large companies are reviewing their tax planning as a result.
Damage to reputation threatens to be a particularly large blow at a time of pressure on the high street. Fairness is one of the key consumer trends to emerge from the recession and consumer concern over tax policies is part of a wider interest in honesty, transparency, authenticity and demands for ethical and moral behaviour of companies. Complicated tax efficiency schemes are seen to fly in the face of this.
The widespread use of social media means that companies that transgress do so at their peril. In the digital age it is no longer possible to control the flow of information about the company to end consumers and nor is it possible to entirely control image. Consumers can and do read and contribute to reviews and share experiences online. Paying lip-service to fairness and transparency will not work, it must extend to all aspects of the business – supply chain, labelling, pricing, corporate social responsibility and now tax planning.