Today we are pleased to launch Common Vision’s Responsible Tax Lab, a new programme of work which looks at how business and civil society can work together to build trust and take practical steps to encourage responsible tax behaviour.
Over the last two years at CoVi we’ve worked on a range of projects relating to the ambitious goal of “building a more responsible tax system”. Our 18-month project in collaboration with KPMG in the UK consulted a range of business, trade groups and other taxpayers to explore the underlying principles of tax and map out the key points of contention and where consensus exists or is possible. We’ve also worked with a range of NGOs to help share insights and take their calls for action to a wider audience. And just over a year ago we set up the APPG on Responsible Tax in Parliament to explore the role of Parliamentarians in shaping a tax system that inspires public confidence.
The fundamental values that apply to all of our work are particularly salient here. We have aimed to move these discussions beyond conventional “left wing” or “right wing” partisan debates or divisive sector-driven interests, using instead the lens of the “common good” as an intellectual principle. Tax is a social compact between businesses, civil society and government and we aim to build bridges between those who may not usually engage with each other, to achieve mutual understanding even if consensus is not possible.
In total across these projects, we’ve worked with over 20 organisations, and around 200 individual contributors, all sharing their insights and goals for a more responsible tax system. Over two years we’ve welcomed 10,000 further unique visitors to the conversation via the webpage www.responsibletax.org.uk. Around one third of our direct participants have been forward-thinking businesses keen to lead from the front on best practice, a quarter are NGOs and campaigners, and the remainder equally split across politicians and policy makers, trade groups, academics and media commentators.
It is clear that the debate around tax continues to burn bright, but this often means that companies spend a lot of time fighting fires over perceptions of what they have done wrong. In turn, campaigners can be preoccupied with holding up worst-case examples rather than advocating for the good examples which exist. On all sides of the debate, this leaves little time for thinking practically about the way forward to achieve long-term goals. And yet, the need to work together to take practical action on these long-term goals is something on which everyone agrees.
This is why we are launching the Responsible Tax Lab, which will draw on our experience and insights of the most effective and appropriate ways to convene conversations and broker new relationships between different parties on what are often emotionally-laden or overly-technical issues. We aim to consider what actions, beyond talking and advocating for policy change, can help create new norms and standards of best practice behaviour.
Through the “Lab” – an incubator and practical test-bed for new ideas – we will convene small groups of business and civil society stakeholders to look into specific issues and develop practical frameworks and recommendations. Rather than hosting a talking shop, we want to galvanise organisations by developing the tools and resources which they need to actualise the change they wish to see.
The Lab will encompass a number of workstreams, each focusing on a distinct topic, challenge or issue. We aim to combine rigorous independent analysis with the recognition that these are issues that can only be owned and shaped collectively with others. Part of this collective ownership also applies to wider public understanding, and so many of our activities will reach out beyond immediate participants to new audiences, to encourage a more responsible public debate on the tax system.
We look forward to announcing the initial topics of work in the coming weeks, and working with a range of organisations and individuals who share our goals for a responsible tax system that looks to the future and not the mistakes of the past. If you’d like to join us, email firstname.lastname@example.org