Britain's tax system 'not fit for purpose'
22 January 2014
Posted by: Author: Szu Ping Chan
Author: Szu Ping Chan (Telegraph)
Britain's tax system is not "fit for purpose” and must be overhauled if companies are to pay their "fair share” of tax, leading UK chief executives have warned.
Sparking the start of a fightback on tax by businesses, PwC’s Annual CEO Survey has revealed that 73pc of UK bosses believe the present tax system is unfit for the 21st century, and 72pc say efforts to reform it will be in vain.
Business leaders believe it is up to politicians to sort out the system but have little confidence that processes backed by Prime Minister David Cameron will bear fruit.
Globally, the PwC survey revealed that 75pc of CEOs questioned believe that paying a "fair share” of tax was important to their company.
"There’s been a lot of criticism around the tax arrangements they [companies] have put in place,” Ian Powell, UK chairman of PwC, told The Telegraph on the eve of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.
"But actually, it’s become a political question, because as long as countries are trying to use tax rates as a way to bring jobs into their own country, you are going to get tax arbitrage.
"What CEOs are asking for is: can we get some clarity on this, and can we get more consistency on tax arrangements, which would make it a lot easier for them to handle their affairs.”
More than two-thirds of UK chief executives said they believed current OECD attempts to reform the international tax system would be unsuccessful in the next few years, far higher than the average of 40pc across the globe.
Multi-national companies such as Amazon and Google have come under fire in recent years and have been criticised by MPs for how they handle their international tax affairs and for a lack of transparency.
However, the survey showed that 66pc of UK chief executives believed that companies with international divisions should be required to publish the revenues, profits and taxes paid for each territory in which they operate.
Google boss Eric Schmidt has made it clear that his company abides by all tax laws and that it is up to politicians to change the rules - an opinion backed by the survey.
Mr Cameron made tax reform the centrepiece of both his appearance at Davos last year and the most recent G8 summit in Northern Ireland, of which the UK was president.
Although the UK survey results were based on a small sample of 43 CEOs, it highlights that tax policies and competitiveness of tax regimes are becoming increasingly important issues and that CEOs want them to be urgently addressed.
"Virtually every business that operates on an international basis now operates through the internet,” said Mr Powell. "The tax arrangements that are in place at the moment make it virtually impossible to allow companies to know where they should be paying tax, not what tax they should be paying.”
This article first appeared on telegraph.co.uk.