Shining a light on companies and their taxes

MORE transparency on tax, that’s what exchequer secretary David Gauke called for yesterday in a speech.

What Gauke said was that it would be easier to conduct a debate about corporation tax if businesses were to open up their tax affairs to more scrutiny.

He said he wanted to challenge business to be “more transparent about the tax they pay…and explain the story behind the figures”.

He added: “I think it would be in your long-term interests to engage more forthrightly in this discussion.”

He said it would “address some of the myths and confusion that exist”.

There’s not much to disagree with there, except to wonder whether Gauke has any hope at all of companies actually doing what he wants.

And if he thinks its such a good idea – why doesn’t he do more than make a heartfelt plea.

Of course, there’s no indication in the speech that he will go further than make a polite request, which I am sure many will see as letting big business off the hook.

Today the Oxford Centre for Business Taxation reveals that something like 81% of all corporation tax comes from just one percent of companies. With the exchequer reliant upon such a small number of companies for tax revenue, perhaps there is a case for forcing them to be more transparent. Gauke, however, doesn’t sound like he’s anywhere near doing something about.

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