How can business and civil society work together
to design and encourage a responsible tax system?
The Responsible Tax Lab
How can business and civil society can work together
to design and encourage a responsible tax system?
The Responsible Tax Lab

The Responsible Tax Lab is an exciting and ambitious programme focusing on how businesses and civil society can work together to design and encourage a responsible tax system. The Lab launched in December 2016, drawing on Common Vision’s previous experience of convening people and organisations who want to be proactive and aspirational in developing and providing the practical ideas, tools and resources that would make our future tax system fit-for-purpose.

Read a summary of our work in 2017


The work of the Responsible Tax Lab is underpinned by Common Vision’s three core values.

Analysing the issues

We bring together working groups to develop practical ideas and recommendations to taxpayers, government and tax authorities.

Encouraging understanding

We seek to provide a balance between the complexity of some issues with discussion that is engaging and accessible.

Building bridges

We value different perspectives and experiences and seek to build relationships between people who may not always agree.

Introducing the Responsible Tax Lab

"Common Vision are carving out a reputation in an important and often overlooked niche, displaying impressive attention to detail on tax."

The judges at the Prospect Think Tank Awards, November 2016

Featured workstream: Designing responsible tax policy in Brexit Britain

What are the conditions and criteria for the responsible design and implementation of tax policies, and how do these principles apply to Brexit Britain? Summary report published in Feb 2018.
Download the report


A number of possibilities lie in store for the UK’s tax system outside the EU. In the context of Brexit, a political climate in which rapid change is possible, a first-principles discussion of tax policy making is not only necessary, but ever more urgent.

This report argues that Brexit provides the opportunity for a ‘culture shift’ on tax policy. This means looking at what can be done differently to build the foundations of a more constructive dialogue, so that all citizens can have a shared understanding of what we are trying to achieve with our tax system, who is responsible for achieving it and who ultimately bears the cost.


“This is an issue that clearly unites a range of different stakeholders. Many heavily contest using tax as a “political football” to attract certain voting demographics at the expense of others in society. For businesses, a competitive regime is secondary to certainty and simplicity in relation to the tax system in order to make long-term decisions. Scrutiny of political decisions is key too – whilst welfare expenditure and benefits are heavily scrutinised by Parliament and the media, civil society groups and the public lack insight into the rationale for, and purpose of, the £100 billion that goes each year into tax reliefs.” – Caroline Macfarland, Common Vision

“The TUC has championed the need for an active industrial policy for many years. We believe it is vital to address the regional disparities and structural in equalities in our economy that prevent the UK from providing good jobs and a decent standard of living for everyone. We have argued in support of strong policies to boost science and innovation, and we have supported various government initiatives in the area of industrial strategy. We would like to explore the opportunities which Brexit brings for new approaches to a coherent active strategy, but it is equally important that this is underpinned by responsible approach to tax reliefs and incentives.” – Kate Bell, TUC

Key questions

• What specific challenges and opportunities are there to improve the tax policy making process in the context of Brexit and the government’s industrial strategy?

• What principles and objectives underpin tax policy making, and how are policymakers held accountable to these?

• What determines when a tax, tax rate or tax relief is the appropriate mechanism for pursuing an economic objective, or when other government policies and levers are used?

• How could tax policy decisions be measured, disclosed and communicated effectively to increase public scrutiny and understanding, and wider trust in tax authorities and government?


In 2017 Common Vision hosted three working group meetings, and undertook wider ongoing consultation with a range of stakeholders including businesses, trade unions, investors, academics, NGOs and civil servants. We have also drawn on national and international academic literature and government reviews.

This work did not set out to examine specific policies, such as higher or lower tax rates or specific incentives. Rather, its purpose was to outline a set of conditions or criteria which can be applied to scrutinise the legitimacy and effectiveness of policy making on tax.

Supported by the TUC

This workstream is supported and sponsored by the TUC. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is the voice of Britain at work. It represents nearly six million working people in 52 unions across the economy. It campaigns for more and better jobs and a better working life for everyone, and supports trade unions to grow and thrive.

Other workstreams

The Lab is a long-term programme comprising several workstreams, each focusing on a distinct topic, challenge or issue. Further workstreams to be announced in 2018.

Increasing and improving tax collection in developing countries

What are we doing?

With the aim of reforming the global tax system so that it “levels the playing field” for developed and developing countries, we have identified a series of areas to consider in order to build and improve the revenue collection in developing countries through tax. We will be exploring these issues in partnership with Wilton Park.

Why are we doing it?

Developing countries rely on collection of corporate taxes, in many ways more than other countries. At the same time, attracting investment from abroad and helping domestic companies to grow are key priorities for many governments. However, much of the current debate around the global tax system does not take developing countries as the starting point. There is a need to explore what measures can be taken by tax authorities, businesses, investors and global civil society to assist in these aims to build tax collection in developing countries.

Key questions

• What sort of capacity building between companies, governments, investors and tax administrations will strengthen developing countries’ tax administrations?

• What skills and technologies are available to developing and emerging economies to build capacity in order to better manage tax revenues?

• What other factors beyond tax will help encourage investment and how does tax policy making contribute to these?

• How can companies help build a wider tax-paying culture in the countries in which they operate?


We will hold a two-day conference with a range of stakeholders including those working in tax authorities across the world. This will include a series of plenaries and workshops to explore specific issues in more detail.

The conference will be complemented by a series of working group sessions prior to the conference in order to help develop the programme. We will also produce blogs, videos and animations around the conference. Through these activities we will explore what developing countries themselves want from inward investment, and illustrate where best practice of corporates, tax administrations and governments can contribute to these.

Who are we working with?

Wilton Park is an international forum for strategic discussion, focusing on issues of international security, prosperity and justice. Wilton Park organises nearly 65 events a year in the UK and overseas, bringing together senior representatives from the worlds of politics, diplomacy, academia, business, civil society, the military and the media.

Quantifying the business case for responsible tax behaviour

What are we doing?

In partnership with Ipsos MORI, this workstream will identify and quantify the ways in which corporate tax behaviour leads to quantifiable business outcomes and added value.

Why are we doing it?

Whilst existing analysis to date has considered what the potential negative impacts or “risks” of irresponsible tax behaviour are, in general, responsible tax behaviour is viewed about as a “hygiene factor” rather than something which is integrated within wider corporate strategy.

We want to explore evidence around whether a positive perceptions of a company’s tax behaviour leads to quantifiable business benefits, as well as how companies may offset risks in their tax practices.

Furthermore, is it possible to quantify the “external benefits” of responsible tax behaviour on the communities, society, and the wider economy in which a business operates?

Key questions

• What are the business and market issues which stem from corporate tax behaviour and how does this relate to business strategy, corporate positioning and commercial goals?

• How do we define the different types of risk associated with corporate tax behaviour, such as reputational risks, direct costs, consumer attitudes and employee satisfaction?

• Can responsible tax behaviour produce added value for businesses? If so, how?


Working with Ipsos MORI we will produce primary research into the implications of corporate tax behaviour, including how responsibility links to tangible business outcomes. We will identify weak points in evidence and theory and draw on insights from public polling, neuroscience and behavioural analysis.

Who are we working with?

This workstream is supported by Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute, a leader in public sector and social research.


Members, sponsors and supporters of the Lab

Corporate membership

Join our community of experts who are leading from the front on a range of important issues around responsible tax behaviour, policy and practice.

Corporate members of the Lab benefit from:

  • Opportunities to contribute commentary and editorial insights online and in person
  • Invitations to feature in video interviews and act as a spokesperson for the Lab
  • Opportunities to co-host public discussions or private roundtables
  • First refusal to partner on or participate in future research and events
Contact to discuss membership and partnership opportunities.

Individual membership

For those with a personal interest in responsible tax issues, individual membership provides opportunities to participate in events and discussion.
Annual membership includes:
  • Updates on the latest research and expert commentary from the Lab
  • Regular invitations to a varied programme of events and conferences
  • Access to our videos, podcasts and online commentary and content
  • Opportunities to participate in crowdsourced research and insights
Your subscription will directly support our goals to develop and share practical ideas and resources that will make our future tax system fit-for-purpose.

Our contributors

Our previous work

Working with business

From 2014-2016, in partnership with KPMG in the UK, we hosted a consultation with a range of business, trade groups and other taxpayers to explore the underlying principles of tax and map out the key areas of contention and consensus.

Working with politicians

Following a recommendation in one of our reports, we established an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in 2015 and provided Secretariat support and policy expertise to the Chair and Officers of the group in its first year.

Working with NGOs

We’ve also collaborated with civil society organisations including the Fair Tax Mark, Christian Aid, Action Aid and IBIS to share national and international perspectives on responsible tax from campaigners, businesses and investors.