LONDON, June 13 British retailers have been
accused of not paying their way on tax, with just two of 25
well-known store groups awarded a "Fair Tax Mark", in a report
published on Thursday by the Fair Tax Campaign.
Several UK companies, including mobile telephone group
Vodafone, have faced criticism from tax campaigners over
the way they structure their tax affairs, provoking consumer
anger and pledges from political leaders to act. Now the
spotlight has been put on retailers.
The Fair Tax Campaign said that over the six year period
surveyed to prepare the Fair Tax Mark the profits of the
retailers covered increased by 47 percent, but the tax they paid
rose 22 percent.
The Fair Tax Campaign is affiliated to existing campaigners,
including Tax Research UK and the Tax Justice Network, and is
supported by the Public and Commercial Services union, which
says it represents more than 50,000 workers in HM Revenue and
"Companies have a duty to be open about where they operate,
what profits they make, what taxes they pay and what tax havens
they use," said Meesha Nehru, lead researcher of the Fair Tax
"It's shocking to find that so many companies - and well
known ones at that - don't give us this basic information."
The Fair Tax mark assesses companies on whether they publish
enough information so it is clear how much activity they have
and what profit they make in Britain and how much tax they pay
It also assesses if the companies pay an acceptable rate of
tax on their profit and if a fair part of it is declared in
Britain. Finally it assesses companies' use of tax havens.
Each of the three criteria is scored from zero to five and a
total score out of 15 created. Those getting 12 or more are
awarded a "Fair Tax Mark".
Only Greggs, Britain's biggest seller of
food-on-the-go, with a maximum score of 15 and wine retailer
Majestic Wine with 14 achieved the mark.
Two of the lowest scoring were Tesco, Britain's
biggest retailer, with three, and J Sainsbury, the
country's No. 3 grocer, with two.
Both companies defended their tax affairs.
"We entirely reject the allegation that we are not paying
our way. All our trading profit is UK generated and taxed in the
UK," said a Sainsbury's spokesman.
He noted that last year the firm paid 144 million pounds
($224.6 million) in corporation tax and more in other taxes.
A spokesman for Tesco said it was one of the largest payers
of tax in the UK, paying 1.5 billion pounds directly, including
387 million pounds in corporation tax, in the year to Feb. 2013.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents store
groups, was critical of the Fair Tax Campaign's methodology and
analysis, calling it "narrowly focused and oversimplified".
"By restricting the study to corporation tax the results
omit the lion's share of the tax burden for retailers and
therefore misrepresents what is actually a higher than average
tax rate with a growing overall burden," said BRC director
general Helen Dickinson.