LONDON, June 25 Britain's consumers, rather than
its politicians, are more likely to bring about change in the
country's taxation regime, the boss of its third-largest grocer
J Sainsbury said on Tuesday.
Several companies, including Google and coffee
chain Starbucks have faced criticism from UK tax
campaigners over the way they structure their tax affairs,
provoking consumer anger and pledges from political leaders to
Last week, leaders of the world's eight richest economies
said they would take a tougher stance on tax evasion but
promised little in the way of specific new action at the end of
a two-day summit in Northern Ireland.
"It's much more likely that consumer action will change
corporations' attitude than government action because it will be
so difficult to move the dial across international borders,"
Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury's, told delegates at
the British Retail Consortium's (BRC) Retail Symposium 2013.
He said if consumers changed where they shopped tomorrow,
corporations would quickly change their attitude to tax.
"The things that bring about most corporations' Damascene
conversions is realising that actually it's hurting them in
their core franchise," he said.
King said the tax debate in Britain had shifted to two
Firstly there was the "moral issue" of some companies
arranging their tax affairs so they do not pay their way but
still expect to benefit from what the tax system pays for, such
as education, health and roads.
Secondly there was the debate about the unfairness of tax
becoming part of the competitive dynamic, with internet players
having an advantage over traditional retailers.
"As our industry is changing away from a property-intensive
industry to one in which property plays a part but a much lesser
part than it has historically, our tax system, that raises local
taxes primarily on property, is exposed as an historical
anachronism," said King.
"It clearly has to change and is a legitmate debate for us
and the BRC to be driving."