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Millions of Britons are boycotting companies seen to be avoiding their fair share of taxes in the United Kingdom, according to new research from Christian Aid, a relief and development agency.
A ComRes survey about public perceptions around tax avoidance found a third (34 percent) of Britons say that they currently boycott the products or services of a company because it does not pay its fair share of taxes in the United Kingdom. Almost half (45 percent) say they are considering a boycott.

Public outrage appears to be growing following recent revelations about the remarkably small amount of U.K. taxes paid by some multinationals, the poll suggests.

Two out of three (66 percent) Britons now believe tax avoidance to be morally wrong, according to this latest survey – up 10 percent from when people were asked the same question in August 2012.

And a remarkable four out of five respondents (80 percent) say that multinationals’ tax avoidance makes them feel angry.

But there is also public concern that the U.K. government needs to do what it reasonably can about multinationals’ impact on the rest of the world, the survey found.

Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of people agreed the government has a responsibility to ensure that all U.K.-based companies pay the proper amount of taxes in every country in which they operate, and eight out of 10 people (84 percent) want to see multinationals’ accounts more transparent and publicly available.

“In the run up to the budget, which we hope the chancellor will use to require companies to reveal more information about their tax avoidance in developing countries, this is heartening news,” said Joseph Stead, senior economic justice adviser for Christian Aid.

“But what this survey also shows is that one in three people are actually prepared to change their buying habits and boycott some of the firms seen as not paying their fair share in the U.K. This surely must be a wakeup call to all businesses,” he said.

The new survey also suggests that Britons have a strong sense of injustice around taxes in the U.K. with 89 percent of those questioned saying it is unfair that they have to pay their taxes when multinationals can avoid doing so, and 85 percent saying that it is currently too easy for multinational companies to avoid taxes.

Government ministers’ recent condemnations of aggressive tax avoidance appear to have been noticed by the public, with the latest survey showing a rise in the proportion of people who agree that the government is showing a genuine desire to combat tax avoidance, up to 43 percent from 38 percent in August.

But the government still has some way to go convincing voters as almost as many people (39 percent) disagree.

But, as the U.K. readies itself to host the G8 Summit meeting in Northern Ireland in June, there is some comfort for the coalition.

Three quarters (77 percent) of those surveyed believe that David Cameron is right to make tackling tax evasion and avoidance a priority at the G8 meeting.

A total of 85 percent say global leaders need to stop multinationals from abusing the tax system while 63 percent think that strong action on tax avoidance and evasion at the G8 could help lift millions of people out of poverty around the world.

“People understand the importance of developing countries being able to collect tax that is owed to them by multinational corporations. Tax is a powerful weapon against poverty and three quarters of Britons agree that if developing countries could collect more tax then they would, in time, be less dependent on international aid, and therefore better able to provide for their own people,” Stead said.

Christian Aid estimates that at present, multinationals’ tax dodging costs poor countries $160 billon every year, far more than they receive in aid.

Christian Aid is part of the Enough Food For Everyone IF coalition, which is calling on governments to stop big companies dodging taxes in poor countries so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger.

The group of more than 100 charities and faith organizations wants the U.K. public to ask their Members of Parliament to lobby the chancellor ahead of the budget on March 20.

Enough Food For Everyone IF wants the chancellor to use this budget to require multinational companies to reveal the tax avoidance schemes they use in developing countries – and to commit the U.K. to sharing the resulting information with the countries concerned.

This would help their tax authorities to decide how best to use their very limited resources. People can sign up here.

A version of this article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain, and is used with permission.

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