Andrew Mitchell claims CSR being 'redefined' by tax issues

A former Secretary for International Development has claimed that changing attitudes to corporate tax has caused a 'radical redefinition' of CSR.

Paid up: Starbucks has paid £5m in corporation tax.
Paid up: Starbucks has paid £5m in corporation tax.

Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield and Secretary of State for International Development from 2010 to 2012, has argued that intense scrutiny of businesses’ international tax affairs has moved the definition of CSR away from its ‘fluffy’ roots.

Interviewed in the summer 2013 edition of TLQ, the quarterly digital magazine created by corporate reputation agency TLG, Mitchell said: ‘Tax havens are simply seen as unacceptable.

‘The argument that people should pay taxes in the places where that income is earned has now gained huge acceptance and strength.’

This, he said, has resulted in a significant redefinition of CSR, which used to be seen as conscience-salving charity and a form of global paternalism. He explained: ‘This business about making firms feel good, sucking up to the consumer by saying, "this is the social responsibility we are exercising" was fine, but it was becoming, for many companies, cosmetic.

‘This is about fair and proper proportionate taxation, where you pay the tax where it is earned.’

His comments follow recent outcries over the level of corporate tax paid in the UK by multinational firms including Starbucks, Vodafone, Google and Amazon.

This week, Starbucks made its first tax payment in the UK for five years, agreeing to pay more than £5m to HM Revenue and Customs.

In December, the firm hired RLM Finsbury to help navigate its tax issues – resulting in a pledge that it would increase corporation tax contributions in the UK.

Mitchell was in charge of international development until September 2012, before moving to become chief whip. But he resigned the whip a month later over a disputed altercation with a policeman at the gates to Downing Street.

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