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Fair Tax Mark could be made valuable, says Gauke

printer Mail

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas introduced the adjournment debate in Parliament on the Fair Tax Mark on 18 March. Responding, the exchequer secretary David Gauke said: ‘A key priority for the government is to ensure that the UK boasts a competitive and fair tax system so businesses can flourish, but we also want to stamp down on avoidance … We want to offer competitive tax rates to ensure that companies locate jobs, invest and expand in the UK, but we are also determined to deal with tax evasion and contrived tax avoidance schemes, so individuals or businesses are not able to gain an unfair advantage. It is sometimes argued that the objectives of ensuring competitiveness and dealing with avoidance and evasion are contradictory. I do not accept that. I believe it is possible to create a tax system that is attractive to businesses, ensures that tax law is not exploited in ways that Parliament does not want and is properly enforced.’

Gauke added that transparency was ‘vital’ and that the Fair Tax Mark ‘is a new initiative … If such an initiative is to work effectively, clear and objective criteria must be in place and must be applied fairly and objectively by informed and credible experts who are well respected by business and the wider public. There must also be a governance structure that addresses any concerns about conflicts of interest and ensures independence. If the fair tax mark can meet those tests, it will be a particularly valuable contribution to the debate.’

Lucas said that she felt there ‘is a gap between the strong words of welcome he gives to the idea of greater transparency and the actual actions he is prepared to see taken in order to follow them up’, and while she praised the government’s receptiveness to country by country reporting as ‘positive’, she expressed her concerns that the UK has reportedly not supported the EU Accounting Directive. She said: ‘The issue is simply one of transparency. [Gauke] says that the government is not in favour of it because it brings tax matters under a non-tax regulation, but it is about transparency, which is cross-cutting.’