THE BLOG

One in Three Boycott Tax Avoiders

01/03/2013 13:04 GMT | Updated 01/05/2013 10:12 BST

We knew that people felt strongly about tax evasion and avoidance - but the results of our latest opinion poll still shocked us.

The survey, in which ComRes questioned 2,270 British adults, found that one in three people (34 per cent) say they are currently boycotting the products or services of a company which doesn't pay its fair share of UK tax. In London, this rises to 44 per cent.

We also found evidence that suggests revelations about the tiny UK tax bills of giants such as Amazon, Google and Starbucks may have increased the strength of public feeling against tax avoidance, since ComRes questioned people six months ago.

Just over half (56 per cent) of those polled in August 2012 said that tax avoidance by multinationals was 'morally wrong' but by February 2013, this had risen to two-thirds of people (66 per cent). Many more people also said they want combating tax avoidance to be a priority for governments - up from 47 per cent to 56 per cent.

No wonder then, that government ministers from David Cameron down - who no doubt do their own polling - are regularly condemning aggressive tax avoidance and promise to act against it, including by working with other countries.

We were pleased to see strong public support for this, too. More than three-quarters of people (77 per cent) said David Cameron is right to make tackling tax avoidance and evasion a priority at the G8 meeting which the UK is hosting in June. And more than four in five (85 per cent) agreed with the statement 'we need global leaders to stop multinationals from abusing the tax system'.

ComRes also found some support for the idea that the UK specifically should help developing countries collect the tax they're owed. Christian Aid's research suggests that at present, poor countries lose $160 billion every year to tax avoidance and evasion by multinationals, although the people polled were not told this.

A small majority (56 per cent) agreed that UK tax policy should be used to help developing countries to collect tax owed by multinationals - but only if it doesn't impose significant costs on the UK. (A remarkable 35 per cent said they favoured such use of UK tax policy regardless of the cost to the UK).

However, 65% agreed that 'Britain has enough problems collecting its own tax and so shouldn't be focusing on helping other countries at this time' - and 54% agreed that 'UK tax policy should only be about UK revenues, developing countries shouldn't be a consideration'.

Finally, we found some comfort for the UK government. The proportion of people who say they think it is 'showing a genuine desire to combat tax avoidance' has risen over the last six months, from 38 per cent to 43 per cent. That still leaves 39 per cent currently who say they don't think that their desire is genuine.

Their disbelief may or may not be linked to the widespread perception that multinationals are getting an easy ride from the UK taxman. Eighty per cent of people we polled agreed that multinationals receive more lenient treatment than individual taxpayers.

Only a quarter (25 per cent) agreed with the argument that multinationals tend to make when questioned about tax avoidance - that it is not morally wrong, because they have used legal methods to reduce their tax bills.

Christian Aid commissioned the latest poll as part of our work to persuade ministers to use the UK's budget, as well as the G8 meeting they are hosting in in June, to help poor countries catch up with tax dodgers.

Together with 150 others in the Enough Food for Everyone IF... coalition, we are calling for two reforms that will help to close the current gap between ministerial rhetoric and effective action against tax dodging.

The first is for George Osborne to use his budget on 20 March to require multinational companies to reveal the tax avoidance schemes they use in developing countries. In addition, he should commit the UK to sharing the resulting information with the countries concerned.

We're also calling on David Cameron to use the UK's power as chair of the G8 to push for a new international convention on tax transparency. G8 countries would be the first signatories. It would commit governments to creating public registries of who actually owns companies, trusts and foundations and make it far harder for tax evaders and other criminals to hide behind anonymous shell companies in tax havens.

Members of the public can help us, by asking their MPs to lobby the Chancellor George Osborne ahead of his budget. For more information, see: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/lobby

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