Tax time is here again, so continuing with the series of how corporations destroy the planet and exploit their customers in order to make astronomical profits, let us turn our attention to how businesses further exploit submissive or corrupt governments to deprive billions of people around the world of public funds, by avoiding paying reasonable amounts of – or any – tax. Businesses always trot out the same tired old excuses: that taxes limit economic growth, that every company does it, or that they completely comply with all the relevant laws in the jurisdictions where they “should” pay tax, but such duplicity is a feeble attempt to obscure the fact that many companies make it their number one priority to not pay tax whenever and wherever possible, and go to considerable lengths to shirk their responsibilities to society. In a word, they refer to their significant attempts to not pay the tax that is due as “tax minimisation”, while it is more often called “tax avoidance”. However, if corporations were truly held to account under their corporate social responsibility obligations, and forced to give back to the countries who have enabled them to do business in the first place, then they would not be doing everything in their power to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and we would refer to their greed as what it should really be called: “tax evasion”.
Companies do not exist in some fairy-tale vacuum of economics, so they cannot generate profits out of thin air without using up any resources taken from the world in which they operate. Businesses exist solely because of the infrastructure, economies, environments, and people of the world that they do business in. Companies are not only provided with the business environments to conduct their commerce in, but also the incentives, finances, employees and, of course, customers and clients that enable companies to operate. Like the other (and arguably much more important) members of these societies, humans, companies are required to pay taxes to invest money back into the infrastructure, such as roads, water, electricity grids, as well as the community services that governments provide, like healthcare, welfare and so on, which enable these societies – and therefore also these companies – to continue functioning properly. Without the public funds that taxation creates, communities, cities, and whole countries are deprived of the resources they need to provide decent standards of living to the people who live in those societies, and do not have enough finances to address the many social and environmental problems that these businesses are contributing significantly to causing.
For companies to make profits by freeloading off society and not pay taxes on that is not just unethical, it is anti-social behaviour of the most despicable kind. It is accurate to say that corporate greed truly knows no bounds, but corporations are run and directed by people, as are the law firms and accounting firms that help facilitate this repugnant fleecing of public resources. So it is important to remember that these individuals should also be named, shamed and held personally responsible, and we should not limit our blame to the corporate logos that they hide behind.