The companies can answer on tax – by putting their tax under the glare of publicity

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The Observer noted yesterday that:

Behind the scenes, those companies that have been targeted, such as Topshop, Vodafone and Boots, are angry and frustrated that their staff and customers are being affected by protests.

One senior executive, who would only speak privately and anonymously, says: "This is the most difficult communications issue I have ever faced. Tax is a very complex issue but these protesters — egged on by some parts of the media — are reducing it all to a few black and white slogans using information which in some cases is entirely wrong."

Another executive is more blunt, insisting it is "disgraceful" that some of the UK's biggest brand names are being targeted for vilification and that so little is being done by politicians and press commentators to defend them.

I note they won’t be identified, poor little dears.

But the truth is that these companies could deal with this issue easily and effectively. They could:

1. Publish their accounts on a country-by-country reporting basis — a profit and loss account for every country (without exception) in which you trade and full details of tax paid by country;

2. Reconcile their tax charge in each country with the profit and the current tax bill — not the deferred tax bill, which tells us nothing;

3. Tell us when they expect their deferred tax to be paid, if ever, and where;

4. Reconcile their accounts to show how opening and closing tax liabilities reconcile so we can sure that everything due is being paid.

That way we’d know and their shareholders would know what you’re up to.

But right now we don’t — and press releases will never change that, even if everything undertaken is done entirely legally.

If these companies are so sure all they’re doing is acceptable do it in the glare of publicity. Then we’ll know. But right now they hide, behind their accounting rules, consolidated accounts and their use of tax havens — where nothing is put on public record. And that will not do.

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