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Unilever making steps - but we need leaps

By Alasdair Roxburgh | 18 November 2010

In recent weeks Christian Aid supporters who have lobbied our FTSE Four to support our Trace the Tax campaign have started receiving replies from Unilever's senior vice-president of global communications.

First of all, this is great news. Unilever is seriously engaging with us on the issues we are raising.

As the email sent to our supporters points out, ‘Unilever and Christian Aid largely share the same objectives’ – to tackle poverty and the issue of tax dodging in developing countries. What we don’t agree on yet is how best to tackle tax dodging.

At Christian Aid we believe that a new international accountancy standard that requires companies to report the taxes they pay and profits they make in every country they work (we call it country-by-country reporting) would help overcome a culture of financial secrecy which allows tax dodging to thrive.

It would allow governments around the world to clearly see if companies are dodging paying taxes.

However, Unilever does not quite see things the same way.

‘Unilever does not believe that country by country reporting on tax payments is the issue to address,’ its email says.

‘We believe that there are other and better ways to tackle poverty and corruption, for example by building the capacity of tax authorities in the countries concerned - something which we are actively engaged in doing.’

We agree that building the capacity of tax authorities is important, but it is hard to do this in countries with little income to invest in infrastructure.

Add a thick layer of financial secrecy, and it becomes nigh-on impossible for even established tax authorities to track the flow of money.

That’s why country-by-country reporting is so important. It would allow governments to easily see the profits made and taxes paid by companies operating in their country.

We need to persuade companies to see the benefit of country by country reporting.

If you haven’t already, please call on our FTSE Four to help us trace the tax.

Act now 

Email our FTSE4!

Get Vodafone, Unilever, Intercontinental Hotel Group and TUI Travel to back our tax campaign. 

Act now!

 About the author

Alasdair Roxburgh

Alasdair Roxburgh is our churches campaigns manager