For the UK’s second-largest energy supplier, tax is not just a cost; it has also become a marketing tool.
In SSE’s current advertising campaign, it trumpets that it pays the tax it owes “down to the last penny” – a claim backed by the Fair Tax Mark, an accreditation scheme for “responsible” taxpayers.
The report is reasonably balanced, but includes some criticisms. One is a comment from the CBI on country-by-country reporting, which is only partly an FTM issue, of which they say:
“rather than improving transparency, [country by country reporting on tax] risks reducing public understanding of the tax debate by swamping people in highly complex data with no context”.
It's yet more crass tax commentary from the CBI. The data is a profit and loss account. The context is a specific country. What's complex or hard to understand about that, unless of course you take a patronising attitude to all users of accounts that assumes them wholly unable to think for themselves.
The then there is Judith Freedman, a tax law professor at Oxford university, who says:
“I am not convinced it is giving us useful information. It could be misleading. I don’t see why [businesses] should sign up for it.”
If you look at the list of sponsors for the Oxford Centre for Business Taxation you might see why. And I know Judith will protest at me saying so, but I do think that matters, a lot, just as my own sponsorship by unions does.