Tax campaigners roll out Fair Tax Mark

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Robert Lovell
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Tax justice campaigners opened a new line of attack today with the launch of the world's first independent accreditation scheme to show an organisation has a responsible tax policy: the Fair Tax Mark.

The Fair Tax Mark officially launched today with representatives from the first "pioneer" businesses to adopt the mark: Midcounties Co-operative, Unity Trust Bank and The Phone Co-op. Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge was also there to show her support.

The mark was developed by a team of tax justice campaigners and tax experts and will be promoted and administered by a non-profit social enterprise. The new designation is designed to confirm that a company is making a genuine effort to be open and transparent about its tax affairs and pays the right amount of corporation tax at the right time and in the right place.

After three years of high profile tax avoidance headlines, the public remains deeply cynical about how much tax businesses pay. The accreditation also...

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20th Feb 2014 15:10

Lost for words!!!

A little bit of paranoia goes an awful long way, enough said!! 

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20th Feb 2014 17:05


The correct weblink is:

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21st Feb 2014 09:30

How about a "Fair Value Mark"

for government departments that use tax receipts in the most efficient manner possible?

If there is a moral obligation to pay tax then there is a moral obligation to use that tax as efficiently as possible which means politicians need to make decisions that are in the best interest of the country and not decisions that are aimed at ensuring the get re-elected.

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21st Feb 2014 14:10

Concerns already

I will take time to look at the proposal in more detail, but there are a couple of things that worry me already. First, this comment from Richard Murphy in the article.

Richard Murphy wrote:
“Around the world and here in the UK people are now aware that many big businesses routinely fail to pay the taxes they really owe. What they now want to do is spend their money with those companies who are doing the right thing by seeking to pay the fair tax that they owe in the right place at the right time.”
That is possibly the worst example of completely ignoring the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion I have ever seen. This is not the first time Richard Murphy has said such things. If one of the main people behind it is unable to comprehend a clear legal difference, then I worry about the criteria that will be used to judge this mark. This is further reinforced by the vague definition of "the right amount of tax" on the website. Who gets the say on what is legitimate reduction in tax due and what is "wrong".

Speaking of the criteria, how can this already be rolled out with this on the front page of the website?

Tax Mark website wrote:
Please note that the Criteria are subject to an ongoing process of development and are likely to change in subsequent years.
I haven't read the current criteria in full, so I am not making any comment on them. Regardless of what the criteria are now, it is hardly helpful to have them shifting. A kite mark is a clear statement of quality production. How is the Tax Mark going to be a statement of anything if what it meant last year may not be the same as what it meant this year? This is even before you consider the scoring. A company that scrapes by with 13 will get the same mark as a company that scores a perfect 20. Surely the latter company is better on tax, and thus allegedly more deserving of custom, but this Mark shows them as the same to the public.

The whole sales opportunity also strikes me as worrying, especially if accountants themselves can become assessors. A set-up more ripe for corruption I find it hard to imagine.

I am not surprised Margaret Hodge supports this. It makes it look like she is getting tough on big companies without actually having to do anything. I'm no happier than anyone about artificial schemes to avoid paying tax, though I do recognise the difference between those that use the law artificially and those that just break it. This is not the answer to that problem.

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22nd Feb 2014 08:47

Chris Moyles is another example.....
... of why I believe there is greater concern in considering whether a 3rd category is needed. Perhaps legal tax avoidace, criminal tax evasion and legal tax abuse.

This scheme is deception at best and is not considered by anyone I have spoken with to be right. As one person pointed out, if he had stolen that amount of money he would be facing a prision sentence, but as it was only tax that was stolen he is not.

I accept tax isn't this simple as shoplifting and theft is, but it looks to me like this scheme is centred around deception, dishonesty and fraud and criminal actions should be taken.

For me this is no different to some of the corporate tax avoidance schemes that I have read about, centred around deception,dishonesty and fraud.

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23rd Feb 2014 13:13

 "" a genuine effort to be

 "" a genuine effort to be open and transparent about its tax affairs and pays the right amount of corporation tax at the right time and in the right place."

Does anyone know what this means ? It looks like a variable answer according to the eye of the beholder. 

And as for accountants boasting that they belong to this scheme, I'll be interested to see the success of any business model which proclaims: " Come to us and pay more tax. " 

Face up to reality. The main reason why clients employ accountants is to reduce their tax liability. Otherwise, everyone would simply hand their affairs over the HMRC and let them decide. 

However, I do enjoy listening to Richard Murphy. Although he takes himself very seriously, I suppose we should be grateful that someone does. 

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24th Feb 2014 11:19

Dangerous Bolleaux

This really Is dangerous nonsense.

Murphy setting himself up as arbiter of what the "right" amount of tax is.  The LAW decides what the right amount of tax is but Murphy is self-appointing so that if HE decides that a company ought to be paying more because HE decides the economic substance of a transaction ought to be elsewhere than the law says it is he will (no doubt with pompous bluster) announce that he is withholding the 'Fair Tax Mark' from some company doing nothing wrong.





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24th Feb 2014 11:24

"Murphy... said there was a very obvious lack of understanding about the interface between accounting and tax."

One only has to read Murphy's blog to appreciate the truth of that statement.

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24th Feb 2014 12:28

I think this is a truly great idea

Really good idea.  I have already enquired on the website and would definitely want my companies to have this accreditation.  It is also a question we will start asking our suppliers.  I agree, I want to run companies that pay a 'fair' amount of tax and I would also like to do business with suppliers who do the same.

Frankly, I'm not in the least bit interested in the technicalities of 'avoidance' and 'evasion'. Evasion is not legal and we all know really where the line is between doing things in a tax efficient way and manipulating the books/our companies to avoid tax - albeit legally.


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24th Feb 2014 16:45

Very fuzzy line

Marlowe52 wrote:
Evasion is not legal and we all know really where the line is between doing things in a tax efficient way and manipulating the books/our companies to avoid tax - albeit legally.
Really, then please point out this oh-so-clear line to me.

Because I think you will find that, operating within the law, there is a broad spectrum of opinion on what is legitimate. Just review some discussions on these forums. Even relatively simple things such as wages to a spouse create wide variances. What is a legitimate rate for the work done? Is there a comparable standard wage to compare to anyway? Should a premium be allowed for ad hoc or unsociable hours? Should actual hours worked be kept, or will an estimate of the value suffice? Even on this comparatively simple subject the only clear line that people agreed on was that some work had to be done. If no work was done, but you still make a claim then that is evasion (illegal) and not avoidance (legal, but debatable).

At the extremes the differences are obvious, but there is no clear demarcation point in the middle.


Marlowe52 wrote:
I want to run companies that pay a 'fair' amount of tax and I would also like to do business with suppliers who do the same.

If a business is struggling to make enough for its proprietors to live on, are you really saying you will make life more difficult for them by insisting they shell out the fees for this (with no guarantee of getting the Mark anyway) before you will do business with them? If so, then yours is the sort of business I don't want to work with.

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24th Feb 2014 12:31

OK all you hypocrites

cancel your cross channel trips to buy cheap booze, support your local supplier :-)

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24th Feb 2014 13:26

SME Concerns

I have just checked on the website and SMEs will have to publish a full set of accounts, whereas  abbreviated are the only items on the public record at the moment.  Since full accounts contain a lot more information than just that related to tax, this will put a lot more information useful to competitors in the public domain.

It is for HMRC to assess from the full accounts and from the corporation tax return, whether the tax payable is correct.  HMRC have the full might of the law available to them if they want to challenge the tax computation.

I can understand the need for larger organisations with international businesses to demonstrate that their transfer pricing policies ensure that tax is paid in the right country, but I just don't get the need for SMEs to bother with this.  No doubt eventually contracts with government money involved won't be forthcoming where the Tax Mark is not in place, so I guess this could be used as a weapon to force SMEs trading in those areas to greater disclosure.

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24th Feb 2014 15:08

"Fair" is a Four Letter Word

The previous commentators seem to have got this right - this is totally subjective.

Taxation is political. Period.

The government of the day drafts the tax legislation according to what it believes is right and of course this view is clouded by its own political bias. That is the nature of government.

Over and above that, it is NOBODY ELSE'S BUSINESS to say what is “fair". The tribunals and the courts have jurisdiction to decide whether the law is properly applied, but “fair" just doesn't come into it.

If you don't like the law then you should lobby Parliament to have it changed.

If you think tax law isn't properly applied you should lobby the government ministers responsible for administering it.

Anything other than that just looks like whingeing.

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24th Feb 2014 15:38


TaxTeddy wrote:

If you don't like the law then you should lobby Parliament to have it changed.

Problem is that is probably exactly what this is.  Creating a slush fund for Richard Murphy and co to lobby government (oh, and silence dissent by withholding their ethical trademark).

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24th Feb 2014 17:07

Just another money making scam

Just another rouse to make money ... £200 - £4,000 to have the use of a logo! 

"Tax Campaigners" or just opportunists?


First Fair Trade  now fair tax ...what next???


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By seeroo
21st Apr 2014 11:21

Concerned about the fees
We are considering becoming an assessor as some of our clients are interested and don't like tax schemes. I have some reservations about the publication of full accounts for small and medium companies and the annual fees that the fair tax mark people are charging for use of the mark especially for smaller businesses.

I also think that some consultation between the people running the mark, the accounting institutes and HMRC about the criteria would be a good idea.

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