Tax Abuse Campaigners are the Strongest Pro-Business Campaigners There Are

February 23rd, 2012

It’s good to see the Guardian report this morning that:

The former boss of Greggs, who built the bakery business into one of the UK’s most successful high street chains, has become the first senior executive to break ranks with his peers and attack the level of boardroom pay in corporate Britain.

Sir Mike Darrington, who led Greggs for 25 years before his retirement in 2008, said: “The quantum of executive pay is excessive and must be reduced … if the current packages were halved, senior executives and bankers would still be overpaid.”

In particular Darrington, 69, is keen to scotch the myth that attacks on executive rewards are attacks on business. “It is a smokescreen and a lot of bollocks – it is the greed of the people [at the top] that is anti-business.” He has labelled his campaign “pro-business and anti-greed”.

Precisely so. That “pro-business and anti-greed” line is right.

Just as it’s right to say that demanding that all companies meet the regulatory demands imposed upon them is “pro-business and anti-free-riding”.

And demanding that HMRC chase the 700,000 companies a year who do not submit corporation tax returns is “pro-honest business and anti-fraud”.

And that demanding country-by-country reporting is all about being “pro-business and anti-ripping off developing companies via tax havens”.

Or that being in favour of automatic information exchange for tax purposes is about being “pro-business and anti-fraud”.

All of these are true because in every case the abuse harms business. If some free-ride the market then they undermine honest business. If some capture corporations to pay excessive sums to directors they have abused their monopoly power. If some do not comply with regulation they impose excessive risk on others and that undermines markets. If business refuse to disclose what they’[re doing then the data needed to protect shareholders form abuse is not available and the information needed to ensure resources are allocated optimally is denied to the market, so reducing rates of return on capital.

Perhaps soon we’ll have an appreciation that those of use who argue for tax compliance, against tax havens and for greater business transparency are the strongest pro-business campaigners there are.

Written by Richard Murphy

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