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Dec 10th, 2015

Big Northern Get Together – Tax Dodging Session Notes

By Kahra Wayland-Larty

Below are notes from the tax session where we came up with 3 ideas for campaigning against tax-dodging.

What’s our strategy?

  1. Get the government to tackle tax dodging
  2. Use our power as customers to force businesses to change their behaviour

Campaign idea 1: Fair Tax Mark

Why might it work?
Public support for businesses who pay their tax – especially local, small shops:
1) like the fairtrade mark, will slowly changing the status quo of what society expects from businesses
2) will increase pressure on politicians to recognise the label in a bunch of tax-dodging proposals

Local Group Objectives

  • Shift public and political perception of tax as something we’re proud to pay
  • people value paying tax as something which affects shopping in their area
    politicians feel pressure from grassroots level

What we might need to do this

  • toolkit to get started with the fair tax mark – how they get accredited
    looping in other 38 Degrees members to campaign moment, like if they’re lobbying the MEP

Ideas from the session

  • We weren’t convinced by this strategy – it’s a huge job to monitor such a mark and are we qualified to say what’s fair vs what’s legal, in terms of paying taxes?
  • Would need to be a nationwide project, even international
  • Would need some market research – would people actually be willing to change their shopping habits?
  • Might need support from local councillors or MP
  • What’s in it for the local economy?
  • Would need support from 38 Degrees office team – briefing document; IT support & help coordinating on a national level.

Campaign idea 2: Tax-dodge free councils

Why might it work?
Local councils have a lot of money and power over outsourcing contracts and work:

1) to enforce that tax dodging is unacceptable
2) to grow a groundswell of local councils rejecting tax dodgers to force government action AND council-heavy companies to sort themselves out

Local Group Objectives
Councils, who spend billions of taxpayers money, have huge leverage over businesses altogether:

  • get a motion tabled
  • get a motion voted on
  • amplify a victory to other local politicians OR think about how to expose a bad council

What we might need to do this

  • find out where your local council stands on contracts and outsourcing already
  • find out good and bad companies that are likely to have council contacts, and offer easy solutions for councils

Ideas from the session

  • Ways to contact councillors: letters, emails, petitions, cabinet meetings
    need a strong message: people in the area are losing out due to cuts because there isn’t enough money to go around – this is one way to make sure we are bringing in more!
  • Can use council website and local libraries to research where the council stand son this and who on the council might be receptive to this message and likely to support
  • Support could come from 38 Degrees local members and local groups such as Positive Money
  • Office could help by mass contacting 38 Degrees members in the area.
  • We would like a “hit list” of companies with lots of council contracts who are flouting the rules and some alternatives that we could recommend.

Campaign idea 3: Reach out to MPs

Why might it work?
MPs are let off the hook at the moment with tackling tax dodging:

1) They need to get held to account from constituents about what they’re doing to tackle tax dodging themselves – no fob offs
2) Spot opportunities for what your MP is interested in around this issue to focus on for more impact

Local Group Objectives
Together we start to dial up the heat on MPs:

  • They discuss it with their colleagues under pressure to tackle tax dodging
  • They are accountable to you about what they do

What we might need to do this

  • Contact with MPs to work out where they stand on tax dodging, and if they’ve got anything in particular they care about

Ideas from the session

  • We need a really clear message to get Mps to care about this – we thought along the lines of – Your constituents are suffering due to cuts – a direct result of tax dodging by big businesses – MPs have the power to bring this to the table in parliament and get laws changed that allow businesses to get away with this.
  • We would like a “hit list” of companies who are flouting the rules
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