'Ask your council to get tough with tax dodgers'
The international development charity has encouraged supporters to ask their local council to question companies about potential suppliers’ tax records - and to discriminate in favour of firms with better ones
Councils in England alone spend some £45 billion a year buying goods and services from companies, and that gives them a lot of influence over suppliers, noted Helen Collinson, Senior Public Advocacy Adviser at Christian Aid.
Local authorities already have legal powers to ask detailed questions of potential suppliers, about whether they have been found guilty of tax evasion or improperly avoiding tax in the UK or other countries.
Councils may use the powers but unlike central government departments, they do not have to.
Ms Collinson said, 'Our new campaign asks people to get their local councils to use their legal powers – and to discriminate in favour of firms with better tax records. We hope that this will help push companies which supply local authorities to pay their taxes around the world.
'When companies use accounting tricks to pay less tax, there is less funding for public services at local and national level, including for schools and health services.'
'The prospect of losing a multi-million pound contract is likely to concentrate some companies’ minds and make them think harder about whether to dodge tax, here or in a developing country,' she said.
Already, some are moving in the right direction, said the charity. In December, Oxford City Council voted unanimously to investigate whether and how the council can include rigorous questions about companies’ tax practices in council procurement procedures.
Detailed tax compliance questions have been adopted by Belfast and Lisburn and Castlereagh city councils in Northern Ireland and by the University of Oxford. Ards and North Down Council in Northern Ireland is also expected to debate the move.