Corporate taxation and cooperatives

The International Trade Union Confederation, together with several of the sectoral Global Union Federations and a host of national trade union organisations, issued a call yesterday for pension funds to fight against tax avoidance schemes by companies they invest in.  “The global scale and influence of pension funds creates an opportunity to further advance responsible tax policy and practices”, the unions say.

There’s a lot of activity in this area going on at the moment. Last month’s newsletter from the UK charity ShareAction (it used to be called Fair Pensions) suggests that institutional investors should ask all the companies they invest in a set of questions about these companies’ tax strategy, including the size of tax savings brought about by intra-group financial arrangements.

These are useful initiatives, but do they fall within my self-imposed restriction in this blog to cooperative matters?

I think they do, for two reasons.  Firstly, it’s been encouraging to see some UK cooperatives (most notably Midcounties and the Phone Coop) taking a lead in endorsing the ‘Fair Tax’ mark, itself an initiative of the (cooperative) Ethical Consumer group.

There’s another reason.  The world’s cooperative insurers and banks hold phenomenally large amounts of investment funds on behalf of their customers. The members of the international coop and mutual insurers’ federation ICMIF (some of whom have a commendable track record incidentally in promoting socially responsible investment) alone have over one and half trillion US dollars in assets.

The necessary work of campaigning against companies’ manipulation of  corporation taxation is an area, in other words, where cooperative businesses can take a lead.

(If cooperatives are to claim the ethical high ground,  change the verb in that last sentence of mine from ‘can’ to ‘must’.)


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